Manual The Emotionally Intelligent Social Worker

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These issues are very pertinent when one considers the messages in the Munro Report Munro, relating to professional autonomy and highlighting the need for an infrastructure that facilitates and supports social workers to achieve this. The preceding discussion makes a strong argument for social workers engaging in a significant degree of reflection about their practice and that this process could and should encompass emotions and feelings.

This is coupled with the case that has been made to incorporate emotional intelligence in social work practice and decision making and the need to allow space and permissions to explore the unconscious emotional drivers and responses within practice. There are a range of forums where the emotional content of social work could be expressed. These include reports, assessments, contracts, interactions with service users and multidisciplinary networks.

The ability of workers to express the emotional content of their work in these forums will be dependent on workers feeling that it is valid and desirable to do so. A key support for social workers is the process of supervision. This provides workers with a forum to discuss their practice with another practitioner usually a senior colleague and explore the functional aspects of their practice but also potentially to critically reflect upon the content of the practice. Fook and Gardner made explicit reference to the emotional aspects of critical reflection and suggested that this can have a therapeutic aspect to it while also directly feeding into ongoing practice and decision making.

The importance of supervision is noted by England who suggested that social workers must be engaged in deep analysis of their practice and be clear about their own perceptions and those of others. This clearly has links to emotional intelligence and locates it within the supervisory relationship. The important role that supervision may play in promoting safe and positive social work practice was a key recommendation by NSPCC in their evidence submitted as part of Lord Laming's review of child protection.

It has been reported by NSPCC that in the face of such challenging work that supervision was often of low quality.


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It was argued that this was in part due to there being a lack of legitimacy in discussing practice in terms of feelings. Hawkins and Shohet , p. They go on to note the importance of allowing social workers to stand back from their practice so that they do not internalise all their emotional responses. Fineman S noted the relationship between lack of supervision and stress among workers. There is an acknowledgement that supervision operates within a wider context and there are other factors which may impact on the nature and focus of the supervisory relationship.

Hawkins and Shohet recognised that there is a potential tension between manager and educator roles that a supervisor may inhabit. They suggested that both partners in the supervisory relationship should construct a contract that acknowledges and clarifies the parameters of supervision. Hughes and Pengelly emphasised the need for clarity about confidentiality when constructing supervisory contracts. Hawkins and Shohet also noted that the procedural focus that is evident in many social work supervisory relationships is often driven by resources and the need to cover the practical elements of a caseload.

This also needs to be considered and included within the contract. Collins goes on to note that positive emotions are often overlooked in the literature around emotions in social work.

This is an important point in that supervision should allow for the exploration of feelings such as joy and contentment with particular cases. This can act as an emotional buffer to cope with negative emotions as well as allowing for reflection on why positive emotions are being elicited.

Emotional Intelligence and Social Workers

Cadman and Brewer considered the need for role models in nursing who demonstrate emotionally intelligent approaches to practice. This was echoed by Cole et al. Tsang suggested that a social work educator supervisor should swing between an emphasis on cognition and emotion to allow social workers to consider the often contradictory demands on them.

The emotionally intelligent social worker - Social Care Online

For example, the tension between potential controlling aspects of the social work role and therapeutic roles requires consideration of the emotional impact of this tension, not just a cognitive awareness of it. Tsang talks vividly about the need for supervision to have a nourishing and replenishing function. This links helpfully with the aforementioned emphasis that Collins gives to exploration of the positive aspects of practice. Barlow and Hall studied the views of social work students on practice learning placements. The conclusion was a call for supervision to provide a forum for discussing emotional responses in practice.

The role of supervision is not just a therapeutic and supportive one.

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It could be argued that this style of supervision would also promote informed and reflective practice. The preceding discussion about the important role that supervision can play in relation to the exploration, management and use of the emotional elements of practice presents social work with an organisational challenge. The model proposed here intends to place the supervisory relationship itself at the heart of the realisation of the aforementioned challenge.

Jindal-Snape and Ingram developed a model of supervision for international doctoral students that sought to encourage and facilitate a partnership approach to supervision which allowed both parties to clarify the balance and nature of the expected supervision relationship and, in turn, adjust and modify it accordingly.


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I wish to take this model as a starting point and develop it further within the context of social work supervision, and give particular focus to the place that the articulation of emotions has within it. Figure 2 is a visual illustration of where the balance of supervision can be negotiated and also as a tool for co-constructing and reviewing the balance and content of supervision. This dual function of the model is crucial in terms of its application, as it acknowledges the dynamic and fluid nature of supervisory relationships.

It should also be noted at this point that the model is adaptable across a range of supervisory debates. One can plot the degree to which a facet of supervision is relevant at any point on both axes. This allows for both parties to plot their own expectations and aspirations in terms of supervision.

Emotions, Social Work Practice and Supervision: An Uneasy Alliance?

There are four key aspects to this model:. The use of this model would allow for each party to plot where they would hope the balance of supervision would lie. Having plotted the aspirational balance, any divergence in view can be explored and discussed. The model can then be used to reach an agreed balance, which can be linked to organisational and national perspectives.

The model can be revisited at any stage to consider whether the agreement is still valid or requires adjustment. In Figure 2 , we can see that quadrant A depicts a supervisory relationship that focuses on the emotional aspects of practice but with less of a focus on practical casework. Quadrant B represents a balance between the emotional and practical elements of casework and would reflect a supervisory relationship where both elements are seen as valid and appropriate.

Quadrant C depicts a supervisory relationship where the practical elements of casework take centre stage, as reflected in much of the discussion above. Finally, quadrant D shows a supervisory relationship which does not focus on the practical nor on the emotional aspects of practice. It is difficult to envisage such a supervisory approach, although this would reflect a lack of supervisory support. Figure 3 clarifies the potential use of this model further by illustrating where a supervisor and a supervisee may differ in their expectations.

It is clear from Figure 3 that the supervisee seeks an integration of the emotional and practical elements of the caseload, while the supervisor favours a practical focus. What is also useful about this model is the flexibility allowed in terms of plotting at any point on an axis to indicate the intensity anticipated.

In the case of the supervisor, their lack of willingness to engage in the emotional aspects of practice is less than their enthusiasm for the practical elements. This lends further information to any ensuing discussion. The model requires the participants in the supervisory relationship to be explicit rather than passive about the content and focus supervision. This places the uneasy balance in a wider context rather than being left to the subjectivities of the participants and is intended to reduce the apparent disjuncture between the procedural and emotional aspects of practice.

If we return to our previous practice example of the social worker who used his emotional response of anger as the starting point to engage in useful reflection and, in turn, as a key information stream that linked to subsequent actions, it is clear to see how this model could be utilised.

The worker involved in the example highlighted the importance of supervision in the process. If this had not been available, then the use of this model would allow for an active discussion about where the balance of supervision lay and, in turn, allow the worker to seek the quality of supervision to enable them to engage in positively and emotionally informed practice.

It is important to note that this model encourages a co-created approach to supervision, and it provides the supervisor with a means to explore emotionally repressed practice and reflection and provide a basis for countering the potential for negative projection of anxieties within the supervision relationship that arise from anxieties relating to practice Ruch, In this paper I have considered the complex position of emotions within social work practice and supervision. If we consider emotions through the lens of relationship-based social work and recognise that emotions are inextricably linked to social work decision making, then we can establish a conception of the social work profession that must embrace the emotional elements of practice.

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It is recognised that relationship-based conceptions of practice sit within a wider context of processes, statutory responsibilities, professional knowledge and power. I would argue that the perceived tension between technicist approaches and relationship-based approaches to practice can be ameliorated by establishing a cultural shift in terms of the role of supervision.

The proposed model allows for transparency and partnership in the construction of the essential supervisory relationship which seeks to place the emotional elements of practice at the core of practice rather than leaving them potentially marginalised. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U.

Journal of Social Work Practice. J Soc Work Pract.

The Emotionally Intelligent Social Worker 1st ed. 2008

Published online Nov Richard Ingram. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Abstract This paper examines the place of emotions within social work practice. Keywords: emotions, social work, supervision, relationships. Introduction The role of emotions within social work practice may at first glance appear to be intuitively obvious and incontestable.

The place of emotions — setting the scene This paper intends to view the emotional elements of social work practice as being something which has a significant impact on the content, direction and experience of practice. Emotions and decision making: exploring their relationship The role of emotions and the impact that they may have on practice is a contentious one.

Open in a separate window. Head — ability to draw on knowledge motivational interviewing and policy holistic practice to contextualise his feelings and to consider issues of power Heart — a willingness to manage his emotions and establish a relationship that values the views and perspectives of the service user Hands — the use of motivational interviewing and role modelling in his practice Feet — using the recognition of his professional value base as a motivation to persevere and treat his service user with respect.

Professionalism, proceduralism and accountability The uneasy relationship between the recognition of emotions and the pursuit of rational decision making is further played out when we consider the emergence of the professionalisation of social work. Supervision and the exploration of emotions The preceding discussion makes a strong argument for social workers engaging in a significant degree of reflection about their practice and that this process could and should encompass emotions and feelings. A partnership model and tool for supervision The preceding discussion about the important role that supervision can play in relation to the exploration, management and use of the emotional elements of practice presents social work with an organisational challenge.

There are four key aspects to this model: Aspiration. Supervision remit compatibility SuReCom model for supervision.

Example of a mismatch in expectations between a supervisor and a supervisee.