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Essay: Social work internship – reflection

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An interest in the social work profession is more than likely to be interpreted as an interest in a helping profession. When people go into social work, often it is because they have some sort of innate desire to assist other humans on their journey through this thing called life. While I cannot speak for everyone, it is most certainly why I chose this field. Currently, I am an undergrad student pursuing a Bachelors of Social Work (BSW) while simultaneously gaining further experience in the “field” of social work through an internship. At its core, the “field” of social work for a student, is a paideia intended to acclimate the student to the actuality of what it is like to perform human services while also probing a student’s mind in a way that both enhances, prepares, and propels students in their future social work related endeavors under a generalist social work practice model. In order to assist students in these newfound experiences, a thorough understanding of a generalist practice is needed, albeit defining what a generalist practice is is difficult due to the nature of the work. To that effect, a theoretical approach is an assumed premise by which many social workers and social work educators endeavor to promote social change. (Ashton & Hull, 2015)

As it stands, I am an intern for a grant-funded program called GCSTOP (Guilford County’s Solution to the Opioid Problem). GCSTOP seeks to reduce the stigma and harm those in active drug addiction might endure by providing resources, in an attempt to decrease opioid related deaths in Guilford County. Beyond the sphere of academia, I have acquired knowledge in the field from my previous experiences working in different diverse communities, recovery houses, and with individuals with intellectual and developmental differences (IDD/DD) or physical and developmental disabilities.

With the understanding that one of the basic functions of social work practice is to consider the relationship of the person and their environment, the culmination of my involvements has indeed informed and shaped my views and perspectives a social worker. It is no surprise that generalist practice skills are integrally linked and build upon each other with respect to and incorporation of core values and practice informed work.

Theoretical Frameworks/Practice Models

As aforementioned, a theoretical approach is assumed in generalist practice when working with all types of entities such as: individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social Systems Theory, stems from the desire to explain the interrelated factors of the moving parts in a system that create, maintain, and or impact its whole. (Ashton & Hull, 2015) Systems theory is perceived as an open theory that treats people not as isolated individuals but as parts of a broader network such as populations, society’s, institutions, communities, or otherwise “system”. Within this context, a possible limitation to the theory itself might be that it has a tendency to overemphasize the “bigger picture” and underemphasize specific details. Theorists trust that social systems are open systems that provide multiple targets of intervention when attempting to facilitate changes within a system. In that, the belief is that if the system is open, the system is receptive to and influenced by outside stimulus. Consideration of external factors can help to support change within those systems. Systems may be informal, like family or friends, formal, such as clubs and support groups, or public, which might include structures like schools and hospitals. While systems are complex and can exaggerate the bigger picture one cannot understand the individual without looking at the bigger picture. Difficulties may arise if there is an imbalance between the person and the systems they operate within. Systems, then, can be employed to support the service user to achieve change. (Teeter & Kondrat 2010) Systems of social change theories interest me because systems are inextricably linked to the overarching idea of supporting the person-in-environment and is demonstrative of how large structural forces can be barriers as well as social supports when seeking change.

GCSTOP, where I am currently placed for field, functions as a system within other larger systems. To that effect, there is a tendency for networks to overlap. For example, GCSTOP’s mission both corresponds with and supports a population of people; those who suffer from opioid related addiction and substance abuse disorder. Because GCSTOP, provides service to participants primarily in Guilford County, GCSTOP impacts a certain demographic of people who are a part of a larger community. The health care services provided to individuals in this program could be indicative of an even larger international public health crisis.

Psychosocial Development Theory is a theory created by Erik Erikson that is a derivative of Freud’s earlier, and apparently, more “controversial,” psychosexual theory. Erikson’s theory highlights 8 specific stages of the human development cycle. Each stage explores a corresponding conflicting idea that can help to interpret human internal conflict caused by the interaction of compounding internal and external one factors. For example, in the infantile stage (birth until around one to two years of age), humans naturally seek to trust the interaction that they have with their caregivers but often struggle to do so. (Trust vs. Mistrust) According to Erikson, this stage quite literally gives birth to a hopeful mindset. During the early childhood years (at around two or three years of age) humans develop a sense of self and autonomy. American culture recognizes this stage as particularly difficult, and terms like “Terrible twos” are widely used to speak to its effect. Psychosocial theory maintains that human development occurs in qualitatively different stages that are sequential and may be universal.

Psychosocial analysis is helpful for understanding individual growth across the life cycle because it is a general assessment of developmental functioning that can be compared with chronological age of the client. This type of theory can be helpful when seeking to understand clients of certain demographics. Because GCSTOP is grant funded, it is also incredibly data driven. In order to prove there is a reduction in any harm, or to demonstrate different elements of change, social scientist rely on evidence. In fact, it is one of the challenges I occasionally face while at GCSTOP. I’ve come to understand that I would much prefer to go out on RRT visits or work with syringe exchange initiatives doing outreach in communities to provide resources than to sit in the office and record the data of the population receiving the services. (L. David, 2014)

I naturally align with the idea that human internal and external conflicts play a significant role in human maturation. The questions that linger in my mind are: What do humans collectively value in general, how do they identify, what do they believe, what are their routines? Are we willing to face ourselves when we don’t mirror the images we project? How do we approach self-care? How does experience inform our future self? Can we look at inadequacies as areas of growth and not try to run the other way when we have disturbing feelings arise?

Feminist theory seeks to explain the differences between men and women, particularly as they progress throughout the lifespan. Feminist practice seeks to implement approaches that are tailored to address these differences. The majority of social workers are women and are often are the ones who receive support or are otherwise the ones who are most intricately connected to the support of social services. (Teeter & Kondrat, 2014) With feminism there are certain tenets that align with NASW code of ethics such as respecting the human dignity and worth of a person, integrity, competence and social justice at the mezzo level but in the next section I would like to explicate how those things affect me personally.

I am a young, black, gender-maneuvering, artist and activist who believes in the power of art and culture to empower through radical community based knowledge sharing. Art is who and what I am. It is how I navigate the realm of social justice and movement work. I am passionate about people and creative expression for social change. Art is the vehicle that keeps the movement moving. Yet and still, there is a lot of erasure when it comes to artist of color in regards to activism and identity. My job, often times looks like highlighting people of color in the city/community. Replacing missing narratives in this history of the city, as a multicultural, working-class, hustling community. My goal as an artist is not simply to profit from my own creations, but to make space for marginalized voices. Activism looks different for everybody. Queers of color and other intersectional approaches are often missing from dominant accounts of the city yet they are essential in understanding who pays for and who benefits from urban development. Which is to say another large role of my artistry is to enlighten community about issues of equity and anti-oppression through artivism. We have to take institutional power and bring it back to the community by re-resourcing or allocating funds without tokenizing the people and getting them paid. Throughout history people have tried to divide arts from politics but often times you have to win the arts of the mind of the people to get them to move, and you do that with art. My organizing experience is mostly that of a lived experience as a “disabled” Black Queer Feminist Artist. Through this lens I approach/see everything. I have for many years, worked toward disability and mental health awareness as a student and person who has endured the ramifications of human struggle. It caused me to find alternative methods to navigate systems of oppression. Through art, I began to really understand the value of community. Having it allows me to define who my community is what the needs of that community are. I have learned how to be absolutely intentional around prioritizing space for people who cannot for instance call the police. It is an artform to create a culture of community. I have dedicated my life to finding a way to create funds to create lasting space for marginalized artist.

Professional Use of Self

According to an article produced by The New Social Worker, a professional use of self in social work practice is the “combining of knowledge, values, and skills gained in social work education with aspects of one’s personal self, including personality traits, belief systems, life experiences, and cultural heritage.” (Walters, 2014)

The knowledge that I have gained from social work has aided immensely in my practice in ways known and unknown. I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to become and to continue learning. Daily, I am becoming more of my best self and more aware of the ways in which who I am as a person, impacts myself and others. CBT causes me to look at myself critically and do things like rearrange negative self-talk into more empowering, enabling statements This acute consciousness is focused around my personality, patterns and behaviors in relationships, belief systems, personal association with anxiety and use of self-disclosure.

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