Sunday, April 20, 2014

Reflecting on Social Work in the 21st Century

I am Getting my MSW, but I Do Not Want to be a "Social Worker"

Richardson, J. (2014). Social Work Helper.

As I finish up my first year in graduate school, I am reflecting on the reasons I chose to enroll in a social work program. First, I want to change to world, and I want to help as many people as I can. I  know I cannot change everything, but I can motivate and empower other people to help to make a bigger impact. 

My passion for social justice drove me into the MSW program, and I was ready to set forth and learn how to save the world. Now during my whole time at school, I get ask the same questions over and over again about what I am studying social work and the reasons behind it. Once I tell people I am getting my MSW, they certainly jump to conclusions about my career path.

  • You are not going to make any money.
  • You are going to take kids away from bad parents.
  • Oh! I know a social worker at my school. She’s great!
  • Good for you; that job is so challenging.
  • Why are you learning about fundraising if you are going to be a social worker? They are so different.
  • What population do you want to work with?
  • What therapy method do you prefer?
  • Why do you want to help poor people?
  • You need to get licensed right away.
  • You should memorized the DSM
  • Take a course on CBT for sure
  • You need to focus to take as many advanced clinical courses as possible.

  • Sadly, I have heard all of these statements and more related ones too many times. The frustrating part about these comments is not the fact people are trying to help or learn more about my career, but they are judging my career choice before I get a chance to explain my reasoning. The worst part about this is that people who call themselves social workers are the most judgmental. They believe in their definition of social work, and what I want to do is not it.

    They in some ways diminish my motivation for social change and push more towards therapy. Even the educational requirements are steering away from social justice initiatives and focusing on therapy. Is that what social work is now? Cheap therapy? If you would like more information on the subject, there is a book called Unfaithful Angels: How Social Work has Abandoned its Mission by Harry Spect and Mark E. Courtney. The book is a great read for any social worker out there trying to evaluate their roles as a social worker in society.

    As many of you know, the definition of social work is vast and expanding. You can read about the great things about the various social work professions and opportunities in other posts on this website. It is not just counseling or adhering to the needs of individuals, but much more.  This can include anything related to helping individuals including but not limited to social policy analysis, program development, community assessment, advocacy, community organizing, development, organizational management, case management, research, social change and more, not just counseling.

    With this being said, it is said that many schools and professionals are telling students every day that their focus should be on therapy and clinical intervention. I do not discredit the wonderful work clinical social workers do, because it is necessary. I just want the opportunity for my fellow students and I to mold our own definitions of social work based on personal and communal factors. We should focus our education, internships, jobs based on what we like to do and what we feel is necessary. We certainly would not tell clients what to do based on our own perceived conceptions of their identity, then we should not do it for social work students.

    For clarification, I do plan on being a social worker, but I am going to be MY definition of a social worker. I plan to be a nonprofit executive leading human service agencies. I am getting my MSW to understand the perspective of oppressed individuals, and how my good friend says it, put the human back in human services.

    If a label is part of my identity, I will dictate what I believe the label means. In order for you to know, you need to ask me instead of judging based on your preconceived notions. Rather than tell me what to do, maybe you could offer your advice or assistance if I ask for it.  Our future is determined by our decisions, and we students need to learn that for ourselves. Honestly, you’d be surprised how much we know already, and you could learn more about us if you do not jump to conclusions. 

    Training: Love Workshop for Couples - Vancouver


    A weekend workshop for couples

    This 20 hour Imago workshop, based on the work of Harville Hendrix, helps couples to listen and to be heard, to become conscious of the dynamics that drive their relationship. Couples will learn practical skills to change self-defeating behaviours and learn to focus their energy on meeting their partner’s needs while honouring their own. Couples will leave the workshop more connected to each other, more able to replace conflict and animosity with compassion, respect and a deeper love for one another. Couples are encouraged to participate to their comfort level but are not required to speak in front of the group.
    We welcome all couples in all stages of relationship – newly in love, struggling with endless arguments, wanting to enrich their relationship, thinking about separation, and not wanting to repeat the mistakes from previous relationships. Couples with diverse backgrounds – sexual orientation, cultural, ethnic or spiritual affiliations – have all benefited from this workshop.
    NEW DATE: May 23-25, 2014
    Our weekend workshops tend to sell out! Register early to avoid disappointment.
    A note to therapists: Please know that we encourage couples to make an appointment back with their referring therapist after the workshop to continue their relationship work. All therapists who attend with their partners receive a significant discount. 
    See our website for registration and referral information. 
    Facilitators: Tamara Adilman, RCC, 604-732-7344 and Maureen McEvoy, RCC 604-873-3278 Certified Getting the Love You Want workshop presenters.

    Friday, April 18, 2014

    Celebrating Social Work: PEI Social Workers Recognized for Distinguished Service

    Two Island social workers receive national awards

    Journal Pioneer (2014). 

    Two Prince Edward Island social workers recently received Canadian Association of Social Workers Distinguished Service Awards.

    Margaret Kennedy and Phil Matusiewisz were selected from the membership of CASW partner organizations during National Social Work Month. The awards serve to honour the significant contributions made by the social work profession in support of building stronger families and a more equitable Canada.

    Kennedy is currently the provincial director of Community Mental Health and Addictions Services with responsibility for in-patient and out-patient programs and facilities across P.E.I. She is also the director responsible for the Mental Health Act of P.E.I. (a ministerial appointment). Kennedy is past president of P.E.I. Association of Social Workers and is an author and contributor to various social work related publications.
    Matusiewisz is currently the registrar of the P.E.I. Social Work Registration Board, and actively involved in the Canadian Council.
    Matusiewisz was involved in the implementation of the Best Start Program on P.E.I., an early intervention program for at-risk families with children under the age of three. He is the registrar of the P.E.I. Social Work Registration Board and actively involved in the Canadian Council of Social Work Regulators. He is currently employed as executive director of P.E.I.'s Family Violence Prevention Services.
    In receiving their awards, Kennedy and Matusiewisz were cited as having provided "exceptional service to the populations they serve as well as upholding and exemplifying the best of the profession."

    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    Celebrating Social Work: Statement to the Canadian Senate

    Statement by the Honourable Judith Seidman for National Social Work Month

    March 28, 2014

    Honourable senators, in the last few years,  experts from across the country have been questioning the use of the word  “system” to describe Canada’s health care sector, some calling it a “misnomer.”  In 2011, then CMA president Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull put it this way: The health care system is fractured to such a degree that it is, in some ways, a system in name only.

    Professional silos — as they are described by health experts — may be most visible in the transition between acute and community care. In 2007-08, outside of Quebec and Manitoba, more than 1.7 million hospital days were attributed to people waiting to be moved to more appropriate care settings. Often it is seniors who occupy these beds, no longer in need of acute care but unable to be discharged with no support.

    One study included in a 2012 CIHI report found that more than one in four people over the age of 75 had been in this position and that 35 per cent of them were in need of home care.

    Recently, the integration of care across sectors has become a mantra for  health system reform. Yet, it is important to consider what this means in practice. How do we ensure quality services across a broad continuum of care?

    Social workers are in a unique position to help. In a hospital setting, they  address the psychosocial needs of both patients and families. This includes caregiver support, grief and loss counselling, and community resource  information and referral. Social workers also provide discharge planning, a critical support during the transition from acute to community care.

    Honourable senators, in practice, social workers bridge gaps between sectors and bring us closer to the meaning of a “health care system.”

    As we shift focus away from the delivery of acute care in hospital settings and towards a holistic community approach, we must ensure that the points of  transition between sectors are seamless. Social workers are essential to the  success of this transition.

    Please join me in recognizing March as National Social Work Month.

    Thank you.

    Clinical Training: Marriage and Family Theory and Therapy

    Clinical Training Program in Marriage and Family Theory and Therapy

    Living Systems Counselling is accepting applications for their 2014-2015 Clinical Training Program.
    • This program is for clinicians and professionals. Supervisors of the program have extensive training and experience in the use of Bowen Theory in therapy. 
    • The training group meets once a week in North Vancouver for four hours from early October through mid June.

    For further information please contact Randy Frost, Training Director, 604 926 5496 ext. 304 or

    Visit the website: Living Systems Counselling

    Tuesday, April 8, 2014

    Training: Emotional Freedom Technique - Cortes Island

    Emotional Freedom Technique Level 1 & 2

    Date: Aug 1 - 6, 2014

    Presented by: Alina Frank
    • Personal Development
    • Professional Development
    Location: Hollyhock, Cortes Island

    About the workshop

    Learn EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques or “The Tapping Technique”) and join millions worldwide who have found the most sought after Energy Psychology approach on the planet. 
    EFT has gained rapid popularity because it has been demonstrated to quickly and effectively resolve dysfunctional feelings, thoughts, behaviors and beliefs which can lead to challenges in relationship, health, right livelihood and dis-ease.  Learn to implement this powerful mind-body approach which is supported by peer-reviewed research, drawing from the fields of interpersonal neurobiology, neuroplasticity models and the field of epigenetics.

    If you are ready to transform your health, your relationships and your vision of who you truly are, then come join us. If your life is grounded in being of service to others, then EFT will quickly become your tool of choice. If you are curious about EFT for self-help or you are in the healing/helping professions, this training gives you confidence in the art of its delivery. From the professional working with clients to the laymen looking for self-application, everyone walks away having the skills to succeed with this extraordinary healing modality.
    Alina Frank is an internationally renowned and highly sought after Master EFT trainer, presenter and mentor.  She has been teaching and mentoring practitioners since 2005 and has been rated the #1 EFT coach since 2009. A certified trainer through both EFT Universe and Matrix Reimprinting, she has trained and mentored hundreds of practitioners around the
    TUITION: $565 CDN / 5 nights (meals & accommodation extra)
    Register here.

    Saturday, April 5, 2014

    Media: BC Social Worker Registration and Exemptions

    It’s time to get rid of act’s outdated exemption

    Bramham, D. (2014). Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from:

    Would you be okay if you knew the surgeon about to amputate your leg wasn’t really a doctor and had only taken a short course in how to use a saw?

    Would you be comfortable driving across the new Port Mann Bridge if the person who engineered the span had only completed a two-year course in drafting?

    Probably not.

    Yet one in three of the B.C. government’s so-called “social workers” don’t meet the minimum professional requirements set out in provincial legislation.

    These workers are making decisions that can be as life-changing for children and families as an amputation. And, when they make the wrong ones — as the representative for children and youth has pointed out on too many occasions — the decisions can have fatal consequences.

    But a third of them lack the specialized knowledge and training to assess and identify crisis situations and diagnose the remedies needed to keep children safe.

    They are not legally allowed to call themselves social workers even though that’s the work they do.

    What makes it worse for those working in child protection is the children’s ministry budget is now 24-per-cent less than it was in 2001, yet the complexity, workload and pressure that front line staff face is more acute than ever.

    The only reason the province gets away with this situation is because of an exemption written into the Social Work Act when it came into force in 1969.

    It exempted the federal government, school boards, municipalities, Indian bands, tribal councils and treaty First Nations from hiring the very social workers whose qualifications the act set out to define.

    The result is that when the most vulnerable British Columbians seek help, there is a good chance the social worker they are dealing with isn’t properly qualified and isn’t registered with the B.C. College of Social Workers.

    The Social Work Act was created in 1969 because until then, anyone could claim to be a social worker. With no regulation, it meant there was no recourse for anyone who complained that a self-proclaimed social worker had behaved badly.

    What the act did was bring the profession in line with others such as doctors, nurses, engineers and dentists.

    Because it was a big change, the exemptions may have made sense 45 years ago. At the time, it may have been difficult to find enough qualified people to fill jobs in rural areas and the north.

    But these days? British Columbia is home to 10 schools of social work. So supply shouldn’t be a problem.

    The Social Work Act was updated six years ago. The B.C. College of Social Workers was established with the power to investigate complaints against its member and discipline social workers who fail to meet the ethical standards and conduct outlined in the act.

    However, the hiring exemptions remained. So clearly, retaining the ability to not hire qualified people was a deliberate policy decision.

    What’s not clear is why the B.C. government and the other exempted ministries and agencies would want to hire people to do this work who only have diplomas or completely unrelated degrees.

    Justice Thomas Gove’s inquiry 20 years ago into the death of four-year-old Matthew Vaudreuil found that only a third of the social workers who dealt with the case were properly trained.

    In his recommendations, he said people providing direct services to children and their families should “at minimum, be required to have a bachelor of social work degree as a basic qualification. A master of social work should continue to be preferred.”

    He recommended the government provide incentives to its existing staff to upgrade their qualifications to bachelor’s and master’s degrees, including distance education for those in remote communities.

    While two-thirds of those doing child protection work for the government are qualified social workers, the overwhelming majority have only a bachelor’s degree — Gove’s and the legislation’s minimum requirement.

    John Mayr, registrar for the College of Social Work, emphasizes that upgraded qualifications and regulation alone won’t solve all the problems. But he says it is an important piece in a complex system.

    As Mayr points out, social workers — the same as teachers — have not been able to negotiate workloads in their union contracts, nor can workload issues be grieved or arbitrated.

    These are huge issues, as the Child and Youth Representative’s report on the suicide of a 14-year-old girl pointed out. The report made frequent references to front line workers being overwhelmed by the caseload they were required to handle and “not fully trained to meet the demands of child and family services.”

    The qualifications problem could be solved by the government abiding by its own act rather than continuing with its self-exemption.

    As for the caseload problems, Mayr says, registered social workers can use the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics to demand and drive improvements.

    March is National Social Work month, so here’s a thought: Rather than issuing a standard proclamation, the B.C. government could acknowledge the value of well-educated, well-trained professionals by ending the exemptions from hiring them.

    © Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun.


    Social Workers Profile - Welcome BC 

    Social Workers Occupational Profile - Work BC

    Young, T. (Aug. 2013). Have your say:  Social Work Standards. Winnipeg Free Press.