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EMERGING SOCIAL WORK STANCE

Who am I in relation to social work practice?

My current stance in relation to social work practice is constructed by integrating the information and perspectives I studied in the course work, ideas I put into practice in the internship, and other life experience.

I am most influenced by postmodern approaches to social work, social constructionism, the lens of narrative and family therapy, social justice and anti-oppressive perspectives in social work. 


I see postmodern thinking as creating space for diversity and dignity. I am novice in grasping connections between social constructionism, its meaning for social work, and important principles such as social justice and anti-oppressive practices. But I am committed to deepening that understanding so I can practice social work with awareness and from a place of critical reflection of my practice.


At the end of my MSW program, I understand myself as being under constant co-construction, through my professional standards and practices, through the contexts in which I practice, through my ethical stance, and ongoing critical reflection.

I see myself as a student, or apprentice of sorts, of theories, models of practice and different approaches. I am dedicated to pondering what I am hearing/seeing, and to paying close attention to the perspectives and constructs that are guiding and affecting my hearing/vision.

I'm committed to suspending the pressure to be the expert in situations where I simply cannot be an expert, and instead engaging in continual analysis of larger social discourses that might be playing a part in interpretation of the idea/problem/situation. 

I am grounded in postmodern and social constructionist understanding of the world and of social work practice, though tentatively and willing to move and shift in that "groundedness" as necessary.​

The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) states:

Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledges, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing. (IFSW, 2014, retrieved from www.ifsw.org)

I believe that a postmodern philosophical stance supports an engagement with greatly diverse people and social structures, by facilitating change through openness to the plurality and complexity of the human experience, without coercive pressure to adhere to static ideas treated as objectively true.

Fook (2016) writes,

Postmodernism in its simplest sense, involved a critique of totalizing theories and the structures, boundaries and hierarchies which maintain and enact them. (...) Our meaning (and therefore our reality) is constructed out of the language of our (multiple) discourses about it. In this way there is no one universal truth or reality, but instead 'reality' is constructed out of a multiplicity of diverse and fragmented stories. (Fook, 2016,  p.12-13)

If we construct meaning out of language, we can deconstruct that language and shift reality through changing narratives.


That is a tremendous gift and it is also deeply unsettling. It is all the more reason for having an intention such as engaging in co-constructing hope. I utilize the ideas to access, and co-create, stories that lead to hope.

​I believe that the fluidity of ideas and stories that people construct through language and narratives, require an equally fluid response of creative solutions and reconceptualization.

I also believe,

the therapist is a fellow traveler, dedicated to listening as carefully as possible to the stories people tell about their lives.  Commitment to a side-by-side, not a hierarchical therapeutic relationship, means that the therapist has to find ways to honour clients' abilities to locate fresh directions and solutions out of their own experience (Roth & Weingarten, 1995), and to make her own experiences with clients and others available to the people with whom she works. (Weingarten, 1998, p.4)

To me this means that I am a collaborator with the people I work with, and that I continually reflect on the effects of the power vested in me by the profession and the construct of the social worker-client dichotomy, on this collaboration.​

 

Fluidity of ideas and availability of movement represent very important elements of postmodern therapy. Being free to move, from story to story, idea to idea, from one conceptualization to another, is a crucial point of intersection in the work of White, Anderson, and Andersen. Tapio Malinen writes that “Michael, Tom, and Harlene don’t want to obscure people’s minds with universal and complex theories, or as Tom expresses it, ‘to use frozen words to describe something very dynamic and always moving’” (Malinen et al., 2012, p. 2).


In postmodern approaches to therapy there is an understanding that, as people, therapists, clients, or students, “we are constantly revising our stories and (…) we modify the meaning of events and relationships. Our personal narratives are fluid and they take place in the context of our interpersonal relationships and our linguistic exchanges with other people” (Tarragona, 2008, p. 171). When we look at experiences and understandings through the lens of narrative or text analogy, we begin to continually develop new and different stories, through engaging in reflective conversations, processes, in praxis, and through collaboration. In just the same way new understandings continually develop and unfold in the lives of people who come to therapy. The therapist and the client learn to review, revise, re-invent ideas and metaphors as we speak and relate.


Malinen (2012) writes,

(...) one thing that is common for these three ‘collaborationists’ is that they have no unified theories of human behaviours, personality, normative individual development, health and disease, or the causes of psychological problems. Instead, their theories can be considered a philosophical stance on the nature of knowledge, the social construction of reality, and the creative potential of language. (Malinen et al., 2012, p. 2)


This open approach to therapeutic work creates immense space for the reality of human changeability. I find this spaciousness extremely moving: emotionally moving as I experience its beauty, physically moving as I experience changes more easily in my physical being and location in the world (i.e. endings and changes in community and relationships), and psychologically moving as I experience the freedom to shift the sticky ideas and discourses in my perspective (i.e. self-concepts/images as new therapist, discourses on expertise and social work professionalism).


Movement and uncertainty are necessary to truly know and hear ourselves and each other. As Anderson and Goolishian (1988) write, “one’s theories of psychotherapy and social science are, fortunately, always changing as the language describing one’s social interaction and the conduct of one’s life changes through time” (p. 372).


Given this changeability, it is very difficult and maybe impossible to anticipate what we humans will do next, which in turn makes being agile and fluid ever more important.


When we treat “our therapies, as well as our practices of therapy (…) as temporary lenses rather than as representations that conform to a social reality, (we can) energize the search for more useful ways of thinking about, describing, and working with” (Anderson & Goolishian, 1988, p. 372). 

Wolska, 2017d, p. 4-5