Summer Institute Week 2: Head and Heart

8th August 2014

It’s been another busy week at the Summer Institute. In addition to our core academic programme, guest speakers Sir Martin Narey and David Akinsanya have delivered engaging evening sessions based on their experiences.

In this week’s blog, Principal Lecturer Louise Grant picks out ‘emotion in social work practice’ as a key area of academic learning…

A recurrent theme during the first two weeks of the Summer Institute has been to emphasise the importance of recognising emotions in social work practice for both individual well-being and accurate assessment and decision making.

Some critics of ‘fast-track’ social work courses have suggested that they may fail to emphasise the importance of developing self-awareness, reflective ability, empathy and an understanding of emotions in social work producing technicians who fail to engage emotionally with people they work with and for. In my opinion good social work education needs to emphasise the importance of developing sound cognitive and analytical skills (or ‘matters of the head’) – and also for developing emotional literacy (‘matters of the heart’). As part of the Frontline academic team I am working to ensure that the importance of connecting with our own emotions and the lived experience of service users is a crucial part of the education we provide.  

What I have found so far is that the Summer Institute has provided opportunities for discussion about the importance of emotions in social work and to develop some of the building blocks for emotional resilience. For example, listening to young people talking about the importance of social workers who were in touch with their own feelings was an important early message and we have now begun to consider how this can be threatened thorough bureaucracy, stereotyping and discrimination.

Participants have been thinking about the importance of reflective supervision, openness, curiosity and their significance in building effective relationships. They have heard from social workers about some of the challenges this may present in practice, and have in turn commented that they have found hearing about the realities of social work practice really beneficial.

Continuing to emphasise the importance of emotions in social work will be a theme throughout the programme with the aim of enabling the development of practitioners who can think but also feel and use the emotions generated by practice as a way of building compassionate relationships.

Click here to read Alison Domakin’s blog from Week 1.

Louise Grant
Principal Lecturer, Frontline Academy