Tuesday, April 20, 2010

my journey

as the semester comes to a close i decided to reflect on my efforts to continually assess and examine ways to better understand paradigms, namely social work paradigms and how they influence my professional and personal life. i thought one way to go about it would be through a Google search of "social work paradigms" and analyze what i found. i found a variety of links to various articles that assess the existence of social work paradigms today and the shifts in such paradigms. however, one article in particular really spoke to an issue i have been processing this year and therefore i will focus solely on that article.

please this link for reference
University of Iceland, The Emerging Paradigm Shift in Social Work.

the author Sigrún Júlíusdóttir presents that the influence of social sciences on social work and the push for empirically based research is a shift in the application of social work paradigms and one that has to be examined closely. i found it really interesting that the article talked about transforming old invisible loyalties into visibility and power. such loyalties are described in the following quote,

"The beginning of the discipline [social work] has both ideological, political and religious attachments to the moral ideals of philanthropy, social reform and human rights. For the modern academic discipline and profession, the conflicting and often hidden loyalties to these roots have probably created more obstacles than advantages. At the same time, the strength has doubtless been, and hopefully always will be, the emphasis on professional ethics and holistic approaches. The heart of social work, its mission and vision, and its empathetic qualities must therefore never be denied or erased... Students must be trained to respect the ideology behind the remarkable social contributions of the pioneers. Seeing them as role models in the perspective of the conditions of their times motivates us to keep the pride of the social work profession abreast" (Júlíusdóttir, 2006).

i have often felt this year that there are a number of persons in the program who have not grasped this aspect of social work. i have felt strongly that such persons need to embrace the ideology that set our profession in motion. while it is important to have persons of varying political ideologies for a well-rounded body of professionals, i cannot help but emphasize the importance of being able to put the professional values and ethics of social work above one's personal views. i know this is easier said than done and in fact is easy for me because social work values are in congruence with my own personal views.

i fear that many people do not understand the differences in social work and counseling/therapy. despite not being clinically-oriented, i greatly appreciate and value the work that is done through the medium of therapy, but cannot emphasize enough that therapy alone is NOT SOCIAL WORK. in a way, this too is a shift in paradigms of the social work profession. have we as a profession really lost sense of the focus of social and economic justice in our practice?

this sentiment was beautifully argued and presented in the article read last week, Building the Unsettling Force: Social Workers and the Struggle for Human Rights. i felt a very strong reaction to that article in its emphasis for a resurgence in community organizing in the social work profession. i think this adequately summarized my paradigm that upholds a belief in the ability and power of change, especially those made vulnerable by oppression... its time as social workers that we really DO something. something BIG. i refuse to allow the momentum of the Obama campaign to dissipate into history. i dream of our local community and our nation becoming again unified in efforts to promote CHANGE.

thanks to everyone who read my blog and shared their feedback. this has been a wonderful journey, one that has just begun.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

coping skills

the past few weeks have been challenging and have tested my coping skills. i started to consider if i have been utilize the same coping skills i suggested to my clients - am i practicing what i preach? ultimately, the answer is yes.

i decided to share some of the questions i asked myself as a basic examination of coping skills that might be beneficial in understanding myself as an individual and as a social worker. please note that i referred to the hepworth text from my practice course as a guide and are as follows:

am i sticking to rigid patterns that create other problems?

am i being avoidant?

do i become aggressive or submissive when faced with difficulty?

have i ever collapsed under unusually high levels of stress?

have i relied heavily on others to manage my difficulties?

i will admit that it was a pretty good feeling to realize that i have in fact been utilizing appropriate coping skills and had to give myself some credit. however, it would be a mistake to not give much of the credit to my support systems which include my wonderful husband, my family, my amazing friends (especially my social work divas), and talented faculty.

in retrospect, this realization is incredibly reassuring as i initially presented this blog as am attempt to address the stress, frustration, and anger i was experiencing when persons close to me or other professionals espoused views that were different from my own. i have found that tapping into my support systems, even when we disagree, has been a major source of not allowing negative emotions to overcome me in moments where i feel i am sometimes the only voice of the oppressed, vulnerable, and abused.

gotta' keep on keepin' on...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

self reflection

as part of my contact, i wanted to explore and share what i have learned about myself through the process of reflection and exploration of paradigms.

perhaps when i get right down to it, i cannot overlook that my belief, faith, and love in people is what leads me to pursue social justice. secondly, i am a firm believer in change. sometimes its so easy to get bogged down in all the muck on this earth and feel that nothing will get better. but then i come across persons or stories that prove just the opposite, even if its small change. in my direct practice experience, i often become frustrated when i worked with people who didn't want to change and yet complained about the same issues again and again. in reflecting over my reaction, i have to remind myself that if i don't believe in those people, who will?

when i have faced others who i perceive have failed to recognize this truth, people who do not want to believe in the goodness of people i have to apply the same sentiment. if i don't approach them with the belief that they too could change, who will?

food for thought. :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

the debate over reform

throughout the day today, there has been on-going hype and fever as the health care reform bill is before the house of representatives for vote tonight. passed by the senate on december 23rd, today is a monumental day as i await the vote from the house. in watching the news today and examining the varying news outlets, i cannot help but see the strong and opposing views held by both democrats and republicans magnified under this pressure. perhaps the most pertinent examples of the differing views can be best exemplified in the following excerpts which I have inserted as transcript below:

representative devin nunes(r)california:

"this debate is not about the uninsured, its about socialized medicine. today we are turning back the clock. for most of the 20th century people have fled the ghosts of communist dictators and now you are bringing the ghost back. with passage of this bill they will haunt americans for generations. your multi-trillion dollar healthcare bill continues the soviet's failed socialist government. it gives the government absolute control over health care in america. my friends, that is what this debate is really about. today democrats in this house will finally lay the cornerstone of their socialist utopia on the backs of the american people. say no to socialism, so no to utilitarianism, so no to this bill!"

representative john lewis (d)georgia:
"we have a moral obligation today,tonight to make heath care a right and not a privilege. there are those who have told us to start over, there are those who have told us to wait. They have told us to be patient, we cannot wait! we cannot be patient! the american people need health care and they need it now!"

republican strategist on CNN kevin madden:
"republicans always run the risk, i think, when we start to talk about our dislike of government institutions, and creeping government into our lives. i think the congressman from california has a point, but it was in-artfully framed. one of the most important things we can do out there is talk to the american people's anxiety about the size and scope of this bill and how radically it will change 1/6 of our economy. and you can do that without these labels that seem to be like nails on a chalkboard. every single republican on capital hill believes in healthcare reform. the difference is in fundamentals. republicans believe that we can incentivize the states to start pilot programs, they are the laboratories of democracy, to help get unique healthcare populations the healthcare that they need. they access and to help lower the cost. democrats believe that we ought to have a one-size fits all federalized mandate from washington that says we know better than the states. that is a fundamental difference. its not getting into socialism or totalitarianism, but instead that is a fundamental difference."

representative lynn woolsey (d) california
"the whole nation desperately needs healthcare reform, but no group of american's needs this more than women who face discrimination and insult at the hand of the broken status quo every single day. we all know that the current system allows insurance companies to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions, but i wonder how many of my colleagues realize that essentially being a woman is a preexisting condition? pregnancy for example, or c-sections, can be deemed preexisting conditions. and most unbelievable of all insurance companies can legally turn their backs on women who have suffered injuries due to domestic violence, because that too can be defined as preexisting condition. we should be all be ashamed of a system that puts healthy insurance company profits ahead of healthy american women. this weekend, today, tonight, we will make history by passing a healthcare bill that will correct these injustices and no longer will female be considered a preexisting condition."

i thought that the strategist's response to rep. nunes speech on the floor speaks to much of what we have been discussing in my policy course as what is ideology (or as he refers to it, fundamentals) and how such can allow for ensuing dichotomized views. obviously, some of the views i am discussing here represent extremes regardless of their ideology. i do believe it is imperative that i not overlook the potential extreme nature of these views as extremism can be marginalizing and dangerous.

the words of both rep. woosley and rep. lewis spoke strongly to my heart and are in tune with my paradigms and ideologies. the words of rep. nunes shocked and angered me, but i also couldn't help but think how foolish he appeared. lastly, the words of strategist kevin madden got my attention and i listened rather than tuned out.

though i am partial to liberal views on many issues, i am strongly in support of liberal views as pertains to health care as a right. i realize i am far more open to actively listening to someone's opposing views. however, persons who throw out near blasphemies and engage in ruthless name calling just get my blood boiling. i can't even ignore them! but again... as i have been emphasizing in this blog, i have to be able to listen and i will continue to test myself in my abilities to do so.

i am left asking myself, how are we to meet the needs of all the american people as we are such a huge nation and with such differing views? how can we meet the needs of many, but know that we cannot meet the needs of all? while the debate over health care reform goes on into the night, i too find myself experiencing my own debate.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

what is and what can be discovered

this week has been quite a week. just one week ago today, the attorney general offered his mere "opinion and advice" to Virginia public universities that sexual orientation be removed from the non-discrimination clause which protects students, employees, and faculty. i definitely experienced a strong reaction to this and was angry that such bigotry could come out of the mouth of an elected (keyword ELECTED) official. AG cuccinelli has only been in office for two months and his agenda has never been more clear. i have been contemplating a great deal about what paradigm he might be operating from in order to attempt to understand his views and ideology better, but i have to be honest. i am still just plain disgusted.

yesterday, i attended the rally on campus to actively demonstrate my petition that vcu maintain its commitment to protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation for students, faculty, and employees. it was powerful to be together with many like-minded individuals who shared my world view on equality as well as pursuit of academic integrity. there was such diversity amongst the crowd. it really was inspiring and reminded me yet again why i love vcu.

later in the evening, i was amazed at the quickness of response from governor mcdonnell. it seemed he heard our voices were loud and clear as his response was his first executive directive. citing the constitution as a basis, he stated that protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation is embedded in the framework of the constitution. the irony however, is that he continues to assert that he has no authority to change the virginia human rights act and therefore will not execute an executive order to enforce this protection as law.

this quickly grounded me and reminded me that the battle is far from over. there is much work to be done. i have much personal exploration to continue in order to work within the policy arena in an effective manner. i feel very frustrated by the governor's non-committal stand on this issue and will not rest on my laurels anytime soon. right now SB 66 remains tabled and likely will not pass this year despite outpouring of support and lobbying of many dedicated to social justice.

i'd like to end with this:
dear governor mcdonnell and attorney general cuccinelli,
we're still out there. we'll never stop fighting for equality. your administration better be ready...

photo credit: PJ Sykes
link to: www.pjsykes.com

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

so i'll be the first to admit that i am addicted to the show "criminal minds." i recently watched an episode which chronicles the fbi's bau (behavioral analysis unit) in their attempt to catch an "occult" serial killer. this is pretty much the usual premise of the show, but what was different about this episode for me was that the killer unconsciously blamed the devil as a means to rationalize the horrific acts he is compelled to commit. now, i normally stay away from this type of stuff because let's be honset... i was raised catholic (though no longer practicing) and get scared to death about this stuff. but the obvious theme of good vs. evil hooked me bait, line, and sinker!

specifically, what kept me from changing the channel was that at an early point in the episode, agent derek morgan expresses that he doesn't believe in the existence of an evil entity or force that has power to control human life and that evil acts are a result of choice. interestingly enough, this is my thinking as well. agent morgan is notably defensive and expresses doubt that the God espoused by the Catholic Church is much help either and in turn is hostile toward the Priest from the community in which these murders are taking place. Hmmm....

in reply, my beloved dr. reid simply states, "well, you can't believe in one without the other."

to be quite honest, this bugged me and caused me to put up a huge defense (a defense to a tv show?! i know...) the show spoke quite clearly to some of my religious/faith/spirituality beliefs and directly challenged them! who knew that tv still has some redeemable qualities! so this has REALLY had me thinking... as this blog has been a means to explore why i think the way i do and how those thoughts affect my personal and professional relationships, i thought this was appropriately fitting as i have been discussing whether social workers tend to think people are inherently good, evil, or both!

so how do we even begin to explain this? as social workers, how do we emphathize with people who do horrific things? how do we view the nature of their "crimes"? what about child abusers, especially those who have committed sexual abuse? how do we work collaboratively with organizations and lawmakers (em, em Del. Marshall anyone?) who blatantly discriminate against people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity? how can and do we put ourselfs in their shoes so that we might better understand their paradigms/values/beliefs? and lastly, how can we do this successfully without feeling we have compromised ourselves?


Monday, February 22, 2010

my identify as a social worker

in creating my customized contract to reflect this new topic, i have been debating as to which competency is most fitting. i ended up selecting "identify as a professional social worker and conduct oneself accordingly" as the associated practice behavior of "practice personal reflection and self-correction to assure continual professional development" seems in-line with the goal of this blog.

it's interesting that initially i was dissuaded by this competency. i have already viewed myself as a professional social worker considering that i have my BSW and practiced in the field for 3+ years. in reflection, however, i think my assumption further echoes why i need this process of self-reflection to become more of a focus in my life so that i can engage in self-correction in order to continually develop professionalism, which in essence, is effectiveness in addressing social justice issues.

why i think its ok to become defensive and angry with a family member when we disagree about a sensitive topic, but know that professionally this is unacceptable is a peculiar contradiction. and one that i hope to resolve. it is my expectation that continuing to seek an understanding of my paradigms, as a social worker and as an individual, will allow me to at least understand my reaction. perhaps what is most important here is that in viewing my personal identity as a social worker, i also must carry those ethics and values in my personal interactions.

a challenge indeed :)