As a social worker, having an awareness of how my philosophy may influence my decision-making in a professional setting is important for future practice. In order to give my clients the most beneficial advise. I must be aware of my responsibilities in following the value practices of social work. Know my position in the helping domain According to the Association of Australian Social Workers, social work practice should aim to help individuals achieve success in both personal and social endeavours in order to encourage wellbeing of the individual (aasw 2002,p 5). My self-evaluation will analyse how personal philosophy compliments or contradicts the value set out in social work practice. I will explore my values in relation to individual relationships and speak about my hopes for the future of the world I shall also explore the origins of my philosophies, the pillars that sustain them and the events in my life that have shaped my beliefs. I will then examine the steps I would take to prevent conflicts of interest between my client and me
Personal life Philosophy
Human beings irrespective of gender, race, or status govern their lives according to a series of rules that show the way to behave among family, friends, and the wider community. These are called values and are signals that give direction about right and wrong (Dolgoff et al, 2009, p20, Beckett & Maynard, 2005, p5). Values stem from a variety of areas, as children we are raised in communities that influence our behaviour Beckett and Maynard (2005) refer to these as value systems. The ideals we take from our societies can be static and others can change overtime. (Beckett & Maynard, 2005) Culture has a major impact on our value systems; it influences our professional lives, as well as our private lives. (Otima Doyle, Shari E. Miller, F. Y. Mirza, 2007). I also govern my actions according to values learned as a child and my philosophy has been shaped by a cross-cultural upbringing, I was raised in Papua New Guinea where I received a western education that encouraged individualism and in Uganda, I received a Catholic education where I learned the values of community. I experienced the liberal lifestyle in university. These diverse environments have contributed to how I view the world today. I value people above all other beings because of the way I was raised in Uganda with family members that supported each other economically I did not experience great hardship. However I knew that my parents did. This awareness taught me to respect hard work and value integrity, because my parents despite their struggles resisted the pressures of the government to sacrifice personal integrity for wealth. I value honesty and for me that includes being open about my abilities to take cases that may cause me great distress and I consider credibility in matters pertaining to worker client confidentiality valuable Compassion and charity are also important to me because I believe that in order to be an effective helper, a charitable nature goes along way towards understanding the needs of a client. I am aware however that emotional distance must be exercised. I need to be careful not become emotionally attached to the client In order to prevent my imposing my values upon my client.
I believe in being committed to all my relationships, and feel that in order to achieve success in either my personal or professional life I must be faithful in keeping private details in confidence. Finally I believe that in order for a relationship to grow there needs to be acceptance for differences in all aspects of life, from how someone behaves, to the opinions they hold. Therefore if I choose to interact with people regularly I should be able to accept them completely. I may not like their actions but I should acknowledge that my clients come from different backgrounds and as a social worker my duty lies in not judging them, but rather I am there to help them work through their problems.
Hope for the future and the world
The future is truly an unknown that holds a lot of uncertainty for me; at present I can not clearly picture what my hopes and dreams are. However there are some things I would like to see change in the next ten years: The first area of concern for me is the climate change debate, instead of the constant rhetoric from the major world leaders like the United States, Russia, Great Britain, and China. I would like to see concrete steps being taken to reduce greenhouse gas emission coming from industries around the world. Secondly I wish that in the next few years the millennium development goals (MDGs) are achieved before the dead line in 2015 so far very limited success has been reported according to the United Nations MDGS report of 2009 progress has been noted in only four goals of the ten goal program. The report outlines the progress made in reducing infant deaths, from its 1990 figure of 12.6million to 9 million in 2007; the report also cites progress in the areas of education, poverty and reduction of pollutants. They however admit that more progress is needed in order to meet the 2015 deadline. Finally I hope that more pharmaceutical companies will join the global initiative to find cheaper alternative solutions to the medical needs of the world. I hope the companies like Glaxo smith Kline and its many rivals dispense with the need to make money and consider saving lives as their priority
Origins of values and reinforcement
My philosophy comes from many experiences. As a child I grew up with cataracts that affected my vision. The condition over the course of my education has caused me great frustration. However, the love and strength of my mother ensured that I had the best possible start. She taught me never to give up; the support of my educators also showed me that despite the presence of obstacles, if I worked hard I would achieve my goals. The challenges due to my visual impediment have taught me to be compassionate towards all people who have challenges in their own lives, I have experienced the hardship of trying to live and work with people who have few physical limitations. Reading is a skill that I love but at times I dislike it because the fonts used in books are often too small and cause me to be slower these seemingly minor worries cause me some frustration. I however find great inspiration from men like the Australian born Nick Vujicic who was born with no limbs and with only a tiny foot lives life to the full. With a double degree in accounting and financial planning He speaks with strength about his journey “I found the purpose of my existence, and also the purpose of my circumstance.” (Nick Vujicic 2010). His ability to succeed in the way he has despite his obvious challenges, amazes and humbles me into the realisation that I can achieve any goal if I truly want it.
My life philosophies are sustained by my belief in God to whom I turn to for guidance; guidance I find in the writings of the Old and New Testament of the Bible. In the Old Testament writings, especially in the book of Deuteronomy, I find the moral values by which I govern my life. Set out in The Ten Commandments (NIV Bible, Duet; 5:1-32) that guide me on how to live my life in accordance to Gods wishes.
Other values that have contributed to who I am come from other books I have read. Books by Charles Dickens such as Oliver Twist and Hard Times have painted harsh pictures of poverty in industrial England during the 19th and early 20th century these stories sparked an interest in perusing solutions to human suffering. Before coming to Australia I had completed a degree in International relations with the hope of leading my nation towards finding solutions to our domestic problems in the International arena these aspirations however have not been achieved so far
Personal values in relation to Social work
After reading the Australian association of social workers code of ethics I have found parallels to my own philosophy of life. The association has five core values that provide social work professionals with guidelines that inform their practice. These values are:
Human dignity and worth
Service to humanity
(AASW, 2002, 1999, p 8)
At this stage in my live I can appreciate and accept that these values are essential for every day life. However, I must express some reservations in saying that I would adhere to these values completely. The major problem that I can foresee is that I am an individual with mixed ideals in some situations for instance where the question of life is posed I am fairly mixed I do not believe in the death penalty, yet I cannot fully disagree about the abortion questions. I can cite a specific time in my life when I was 22 and a friend told me she was dating a married man and had become pregnant. She wanted to have an abortion and I tried to talk her out f it however she went ahead and had the abortion, my first instinct when I got the news was to be critical of her and I see now that my distaste regarding infidelity and abortion prevented me from being more considerate, as a social worker I must learn to suppress my own views in order to be more receptive to my clients
In situations where my values may conflict with those of a client Ralph Dolgoff etal says clashes occur in many client worker dynamics (Dolgoff etal 2009, p112) mainly because social workers tend to give greater value to social harmony, equality, free choice and social justice. These values differ from culture to culture and may change over time. An example is the question of a woman’s right to choose between an abortion and not having one in the early 20th century women in Europe and North America could not get safe access to abortion services and as a result many died in back alley clinics in the attempt. However as laws around the world have changed so have values and in many societies having an abortion is now just another alternative to a woman who may have no choice but to seek such services.
These differences according to Dolgoff etal may cause problems for the social worker and the client In the initial stages of therapy, however in order to ensure that my point of view does not conflict with my clients values, Dolgoff suggests that social workers need to peruse knowledge relevant to the cultural requirements of clients, this information can be compiled through interviews of clients (Dolgoff etal 2009). As social workers we need to be knowledgeable about the various issues pertaining to cultural or religious beliefs (Dolgoff, etal, 2009, 113).Although I may need to have a better understanding of where my client position on certain values comes from, it is vital that I maintain a clear impartial reserve Dolgoff emphasises the dangers inherent in identifying too closely with the clients he points out that bias will most likely result and affect the success of an intervention. However having a similar background to my client can enable a better rapport to develop between my client and myself.
Further gaps that may arise and cause me problems as a social worker deal with the matter of power; in the social work profession I have assumed power over the client. And because of this assumed power, the client is likely to feel unequal to me by virtue of my knowledge, and the client’s position of service user. This power dynamic can be detrimental to the success of a social worker in trying to gather helpful insight into a clients problem, if not channelled correctly In the text Ethical decisions for social work practice Ralph Dolgoff etal suggest a number of ways in which I can ensure that my client feels comfortable enough to let go of the fear that may hamper the helping exercise. They suggest that as a social worker I need to find out what the clients values are and decide whether conflict of interests exists, and if there is conflict I must next approach the client in a way that does not mention the value in order to understand the nature of my client’s problem.
In order to maintain a professional standard I must remember the reasons I chose to join the helping profession, according Lesley Chenoweth and Donna McAuliffe (2005, p 6) the reasons some people enter the social work profession stem from experiences had ether in child hood or early adulthood. These experiences can sometimes provide a person with a passion to join the social work field because they were helped by a social worker and wanted to inspire others, as they were inspired. For some the experience with social services could have been negative and fostered a desire to bring change to the profession. No matter how we joined the profession it is important that we do not lose sight of the reasons why we chose social work these reasons will sustain me and keep me motivated to continue to work with clients even those who are difficult and hard to help.
Acknowledging personal bias before hand can often reduce the chances of having value conflicts with clients. Chenoweth and McAuliffe regard this as “effective use of self” By letting my supervisors know where I stand on certain issue can ensure that I am less likely to be assigned a case that I cannot properly deal with. Maintaining a value neutral stance is another way to avoid creating value conflicts (Weick as cited by Dolgoff etal) suggests that in order to properly understand the client the social worker needs to listen carefully to what the client truly wants and should suspend all judgement, values, and personal principles in order to provide effective help to the client (Dolgoff, 2009,p, 114).
In order for my future social work practice to be effect I must cultivate and continually strengthen my knowledge base and seek networks to keep me motivated. Self-awareness is key to understanding my role, as a professional helper, and critical reflections about my self in relation to my values is valuable. As the American author Daniel Coleman said,
“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”(Coleman, 2010).