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Improving emotional resilience in social work

Photo: Gareth Williams

On Tuesday 28 November, the North East team will hold a free regional learning event in Gateshead, introducing systemic practice to children’s social workers (register to attend here). Read about their previous event to get a flavour of what to expect.

This summer, Frontline’s North East team hosted 70 social workers from across their region at a workshop on emotional resilience. Throughout the day, they explored tools and techniques that they could use to identify, enhance and reflect upon their wellbeing.

Louise Grant, Frontline’s Head of Academic Studies, took the floor first. She began by asking what makes some people better able to withstand the high stress of social work, whilst keeping hold of their values. She explored what resilience means, and what the characteristics of a resilient person are, but also emphasised that resilience is an organisational responsibility, not just an individual one. She led the social workers in some solution-focussed peer coaching, before finishing with some top tips for how to reduce stress as individuals.

Next, Craig Thompson, an expert in cognitive behavioural therapy, explained the impact negative thought patterns can have on our behaviour. He outlined various techniques which can be used to identify and combat these unhelpful patterns. Finally, he spoke about the importance of finding the correct balance in supervision between management of outcomes, worker support, and learning and development.

Last to speak was our Head of Region in the North East, Allan Brownrigg. After providing an overview of systemic thinking in social work, Allan led the room in an exercise that illustrated how people in a system can have an influence upon each other. In particular, the exercise demonstrated that the skill and effectiveness of a social worker are enhanced by paying due diligence to the competing voices, values and opinions across a system.

The social workers ended the day by writing down one action they will implement as a result of the workshop. They then shared and discussed these actions together until they agreed on two key aims for the entire group, which were: 1) to remember that they are valuable resources and self-care should be a priority; and 2) they should demand reflective supervision.

Louise’s top tips for reducing stress and improving resilience:

  1. Build a community of support
  2. Manage your time effectively
  3. Set realistic goals and work towards them
  4. Practice emotional awareness (e.g. keep a diary about your experiences, thoughts and feelings)
  5. Prepare for supervision
  6. Keep a healthy balance between work and personal life
  7. Build in time to relax and be mindful
  8. Remain hopeful and optimistic
  9. Learn from experience