Evolving Social Work Stance, Ethics, and Practice Framework
CO-CONSTRUCTING A SOCIAL WORK IDENTITY
How is a professional identity created?
I believe that growing up in Poland under the oppressive power of a Communist regime, in a family that experienced poverty and addiction; refugee and emigrant experiences; experiences of marginalization as a new Canadian, together with my motherhood and postpartum mental illness, have all been vital elements in the construction of my social work identify. These experiences became my teachers in the matters of powerlessness, of not knowing, fear, confusion, loss of competence.
But I did not overcome these challenges and I did not learn from them on my own.
Through ongoing dialogue with people in my life, I constructed the compassion, wisdom, and hope I needed to re-envision my experiences, and to continually re-construct the self as a creative, smart and good person no matter my heritage; a valuable member of this society; a healthy, strong, capable mother, and a compassionate and caring presence.
These many people - mentors, therapists, colleagues, writers, teachers, and fellow students - co-construct my social work identity with every interaction, collaboration, and conversation.
I believe we co-create each other in so many ways as participants and speakers in a social world entirely imagined by us, through so many interactions and dialogues, day after day, moment by moment.
My current social work identity is informed by the intellectual knowledge I encountered in my MSW courses (the reading, reflecting, writing and discussion), the mentorship I received in my internship, the connections between theory, ideas, models of practice and the actual experience in the therapy room with actual people. All this is further shaped by the context of the Faculty of Social Work, the ideas and theoretical bases from which my professors teach; the context of the CFTC where I spent many hours interacting with clinicians and their perspectives, influences, and theories; and the theoretical world of Family Therapy which I studied in both contexts.
Payne (2005) discusses how social work is constructed in three different arenas: the political-social-ideological arena, the agency-professional arena, and the client-worker-agency arena. These contexts also all influence and inform each other.
How I practice social work is further affected by the reality that my ideas will invariably change over time, as the various contexts change and I continue to be altered by practice and life experiences, the development of further professional skills, and my involvement in the profession.
My identity as a social worker is not completely clear and static. From a theoretical point of view, this approach would fall in with the social constructionist approach to social work identity and practice.
Oko (2011) writes,
this approach is useful in helping us critically reflect about the ideas which inform and influence our interpretation of 'what is social work' and 'what is going on'. Social constructionism recognizes that there are different constructions, or meanings about 'what is going on' (...) social constructionism is a valuable tool in helping you think critically and reflectively about your practice and the ideas that inform your practice and the ideas that influence it. (p.18)
I believe that my ideas about how my identity and stance as a social worker are co-constructed and informed will help me navigate the broad range of social work contexts and ways I can contribute to the profession.