May 28, 2009

Social Work Ethics

Today I was our riding my scooter in the sun and just letting my mind wander (as far as it can while driving, of course!). My thoughts led me to a session of "supervision" that I had with my practicum supervisor near the end of my placement.

My supervisor was trying to make sure that I had met all of the requirements of my learning goals and so he was questioning me on a bunch of different things. One of the questions was along the lines of "What do you think the difference is between what social workers do here and what everyone else does here?" I launched into a bit about how, at first glance, there is little difference and the difference was fairly indistinguishable between the different disciplines. He seemed okay with that answer, but talked about how he was also looking for something about the social worker's ethical guidelines that social workers in BC are required to follow.

At first, this bothered me (and not because he was testing me, which is a whole other story), but I accepted it and moved on.

On my ride today, I realized why it "bothered" me (that's not quite the right word, but I'm leaving it for now). I realized that I've never really had social work ethics on my mind a lot throughout my degree. When someone would mention it, I'd keep going with the conversation and not really have anything to add on it. When we had to write a paper about it, I was slightly unchallenged by the assignment. I never really thought about it because social work ethics align quite well with my PERSONAL ethics. My ethics are always present with me, so it's always in the background. During my BSW interview, I was asked about how my ethics related to social work ethics and had a problem answering the questions. I sucked it up and told the truth. That there was no discrepancy. I thought this might not be the "right" answer, but I went with it.

Here is some speculation, but I think it's possible that my supervisor's personal ethics are not exactly in line with social work ethics and that's why it was always so present with him. Looking back, I remember many other times that there was questions about things that simply seemed self evident, that they struggled with. It was just an "aha" moment for me, rather than anything else.

Let me be clear, I'm not putting myself on a pedestal and questioning others. If your personal ethics are NOT in line with social work ethics, and you do the work of a social worker, I have only kudos for you. I, however, most likely couldn't go into something if my ethics did not line up with what I was doing. I'm way too selfish for that. ;)


Still Dreaming said...

When we did practicum logs we had to answer a question every single week about how our work related to the CASW code of ethics or our provinces standards of practice. It got sooooo boring. I mean, how many times can you talk about service to humanity! Anyway though, ethics were a huge part of my degree.

flaneurMike said...

as a social worker of 30 years plus, ethics is an overriding issue in everyday practice. in addition, I have taught ethics for years to undergrads in NYC. i think that finding ethics boring or thinking one's personal ethics just fit misses the point. social work involves a commitment to the poor and oppressed. this can involve advocacy, for instance. There are a multiplicity of ways in which ethics relates to everyday practice. I didnt realize poverty and oppression are gone in Canada.. wow! Secondly, one can always get caught up in who one thinks one is. Riding a scooter may seem cool but as a mass transit advocate (havent been in a car this year), I couldnt imagine using resources for a scooter. Must be idyllic up in CA! using oneself as a helping tool is an ideal for social workers thus ethics is always coming into play.

antiSWer said...

@ Still Dreaming: I hear you...there were so many sections in those papers that could be so repetitive.

@ flaneurMike: I'm thinking I shouldn't have written so off the cuff. ANYWAYS...

I'm not trying to say that ethics are unimportant or unrelated to everyday practice or that I throw them out the window (or that there are no poor or oppressed people in Canada...dunno where that came from). I simply feel that my personal ethics are mostly in line with social work ethics (completely was the wrong word, apparently). Thank you for your comments...I will definitely think about them.

And I envy that you live in a place where mass transit is readily available. Some places are not made for that kind of transportation, but life must go on and the work still needs to be done.

Interesting comment about "get(ting) caught up in who one thinks one is"...

oregonamy1972 said...

Anti, I totally got where you were coming from with this post. And, as a person who lives on the West Coast of the continent, I think you were being quite frugal riding a scooter....coming from a person who lives in a land of giant SUV's.

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