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Social Work Workshop on Caring for Self

| Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Saint Mary’s Department of Social Work and Department of Special Events sponsored a workshop titled “The Ethics of Self-Care: Social Workers, Heal by Self” yesterday afternoon in Rice Commons of the Student Center.

Director of Media Relations Gwen O’Brien said the event focused on social workers’ assessment of their own self-care and the development of their own self-care plan.

“Students explored what self-care is, how to determine their own self-care needs and how to develop a self-care plan,” she said. “They also learned why self-care is important in social work practice and why self-care is important in regard to the ethics of social work.”

The speaker for the event was Charlie Stoops, PhD, LCSW, dean and associate professor in the Graduate School of Social Work at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. As dean, Stoops collaborated to create various new programs including five-year BA/MSW tracks for undergraduate sociology and psychology majors, O’Brien said.

Stoops is considered an innovator in the classroom, utilizing community partners such as the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Heartland Alliance, Sarah’s Inn and the Illinois State’s Attorneys Office to provide students with hands-on experience in real world program development and political advocacy, O’Brien said.

O’Brien said Stoops explored the ethical responsibility of social workers to care for themselves while providing care for others. Participants learned how self-care is integral to maintaining an ethical social work practice and how taking care of self is interwoven throughout the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, she said.

O’Brien said the workshop’s participants examined three aspects of social workers’ selves that require care — physical, emotional and spiritual — and developed personal self-care plans to address each dimension.

Frances Kominkiewicz, director of the College’s Department of Social Work and Gerontology, said students were encouraged to explore social workers’ ethical responsibilities to their clients, colleagues, practice, the social work profession and society.

“Social workers are bound by the social workers’ code of ethics that requires that social workers act ethically within their practice with clients and communities,” Kominkiewicz said. “These ethics guide social workers in their all areas of social work practice, including clinical practice, community practice and policy development.”

Kominkiewicz said social workers receive excellent training and practicum experience in field settings and many become clinical social workers.

“They are educated to work as professionals in all areas, including all medical settings, such as hospitals, clinics, veterans’ hospitals and mental health centers, as well as schools and gerontological settings,” she said. “Social workers serve as forensic social workers, interviewing children who have been physically and sexually abused, and also serve in corporations and organizations as occupational social workers, assessing and counseling employees in various areas, including marriage and family counseling as well as substance abuse counseling.”

Senior social work major Meredith Mersits said Stoops’ spotlight on self-care and its pertinence to social workers’ code of ethics made her realize the importance of taking time for herself.

“This was extremely helpful because I am a social work student in a field placement this year,” Mersits said. “If I’m not performing well, my clients won’t either.”

Senior social work major Krista Mathews said she appreciated that Stoops engaged his audience by asking questions about their own situations.

“As a social worker I thought the workshop on self-care was so important and should be applied to all professions,” Mathews said. “It is true that the better a social worker takes care of him or herself, the better he or she can help their clients.”

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