February 24, 2009

Balance in the Practicum

One of the things that is stressed very often in social work education is balance. We are taught the "wellness wheel", asked to reflect, to create self care plans and a whole other assortment of things that will keep us in balance. In my practicum, this is ignored and the results are seen everywhere. However, this post is about ME, not THEM, so maybe I'll save that for a future posting.

Back to ME! In my last practicum, I took on way too much. I was involved in a number of groups, attempted things that, looking back, were over my skill set, and basically got to a point where I overwhelmed myself and got angry at the process. I didn't do enough to keep the balance between learning and practice. And the fact is that this practicum is NOT about gaining job experience, it is about learning how to do the job of social worker, and how to apply the knowledge that you've gained in that area. There is a difference. A difference that some people simply can not see.

When I got into this practicum, I kept an eye on balance. However, the smorgasbord of opportunities stared me in the face and DARED me to reject them. Add into that the expectations that my supervisors had about what they wanted me to do, and here I am again, in that place where I have to reevaluate what I'm doing and why.

I have decided that I am cutting back on my workload and responsibilities. I want to take time to reflect on my experiences, go to resources and look at them closer, and seek feedback on what I'm doing. At this point, I don't need to see if I can handle a full caseload. That's not the point of this. Someone out there will give me the opportunity to do that...I'm sure of that. Right now I need to take the time to do the things that will not only nurture my future practice, but to nurture myself.

Sigh...reading all that just makes me thing "Oh my god, I'm SUCH a social worker..."


cb said...

I can't help wanting to give advice, I think it's hard-wired into me but you know, any that I'd deem to give wouldn't be as good as the advice that you take yourself! Cutting back to give time for reflection is beyond crucial - I have seen well-meaning and potentially excellent practitioners ruined by trying to overreach and getting overwhelmed with stuff.

antiSWer said...

Advice is desired. Please know that. I'm going to do what I want, but it's wonderful to have other perspectives.

Here's my issue. When I am trying to cut back, I'm getting "Well, if it's too much work for you", implying that I COULDN'T do the work, if I were employed. That's not the point. You throw a paycheck in my account every two weeks, and I'm all over this stuff. But that's not what a practicum is. I have the luxury of stepping back. My supervisors are not in favor of that, but they're expressing it in a very passive aggressive way, rather than just out and saying it.

Ok, I'm done for now. I'll see how today goes...

And thank you for the comment. It was definitely affirming.

Anonymous said...

What a great post! So many times I feel overextended and when you are in that place you can't grow (or give the best possible services). Good for you for stepping back, reassessing....so important. You have to take care of yourself first! Knowing when it is too much and taking action is a huge skill! Good for you.

cb said...

antiSWer - you can completely right. I am not sure how the practicums are there but I think it sounds like they are similar to how they are here. People try to dump stuff on students because the settings are just so busy but honestly, if that's what the supervisor or colleagues are saying or inferring (that you wouldn't be able to do more) then frankly they are doing you a massive disservice. Training is not meant to be the same as 'working for'. There's a reason you aren't taking the pay check.. but you know this :)

Reas Kroicowl said...

Do you have a liason between the school and your practicum? Sounds like it's time to get that person involved.

antiSWer said...

Yes, I do have a liason and they're involved. They have been very supportive in making sure this works for me as well as doing it in a way that is...confidential.

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