Application: Remaining Compassionate and Professional As a social worker, you interact with individuals who are at various stages of change in their…

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Application: Remaining Compassionate and Professional

As a social worker, you interact with individuals who are at various stages of change in their lives. This may become frustrating for you when clients are struggling to achieve their goals. Thus, it is important for you to develop strategies to process your experiences so that you can maintain your compassion and professionalism. As you consider the strategies you have developed to address these issues, also consider how you might help other social workers to develop such strategies. Perhaps you consulted with your supervisors when you had difficulty processing your emotions in particular situations. As you consider assuming a supervisory role, think about how might you apply your learning from those experiences to helping those whom you supervise.


Review the Levy case in this week’s video. Consider how you, as a social worker, might address the challenge of remaining engaged with a client while not letting your emotions affect the interaction. Consider how you, as a supervisor, might discuss this topic with a social worker whom you supervise. What is a strategy that you, as the social work supervisor in the Levy case video, might use to debrief the social worker after the session described in the video.

Dialogue in video

CLIENTS SOCIAL WORKER: It was such an intense story. I just kept seeing things the way he did, you know. The weird green of his night-vision goggles, his sergeant screaming for Jake to kill him. I just keep seeing it all in my head.


SUPERVISOR: Why, do you think?


SUPERVISOR: Why do you think you keep thinking about this story, this particular case?

CLIENTS SOCIAL WORKER: I don’t know, maybe because it’s so vivid. You know, I went home last night, turned on the TV to try to get my mind off it. And a commercial for the Marines came on, and there was all over again– the explosion, the screams, the man dying. Such a nightmare to live with, and he’s got a baby on the way.

SUPERVISOR: Could that be it, the baby?

CLIENTS SOCIAL WORKER: Maybe. That’s interesting you say that. I mean, the other vets I work with are older, and they have grown kids. But Jake is different. I just keep picturing him with a newborn. And I guess it scares me. I wonder if he’ll be able to deal with it

Background Story

Jake Levy (31) and Sheri (28) are a married Caucasian couple who live with their sons, Myles (10) and Levi (8), in a two-bedroom condominium. Jake is an Iraq War veteran and employed as a human resources assistant for the military, and Sheri is a special education teacher in a local elementary school. Overall, Jake is physically fit, but an injury he sustained in combat sometimes limits his ability to use his left hand. Sheri is in good physical condition and has recently found out that she is pregnant with their third child. Jake attended the VA for services only because his wife had threatened to leave him if he did not get help. Sheri was particularly concerned about his drinking and lack of involvement in his sons’ lives. She told him his drinking had gotten out of control and was making him mean and distant. Jake had previously visited his primary care physician, Dr. Zoe, where he was given a prescription of Paxil to help reduce his symptoms of anxiety and depression. During the assessment, Jake said that since his return to civilian life 10 months ago he had experienced difficulty sleeping, heart palpitations, and moodiness. He described being proud to join the army and deployed and described himself as upbeat and happy prior to his deployments. He felt that he had to “change” to stay alive there. Jake continued that he and his wife had been fighting a lot and that he drank to take the edge off and to help him sleep, saying, “Nights are the hardest.”  Jake admitted to drinking heavily nearly every day. He reported that he was not engaged with his sons at all and he kept to himself when he was at home. He explained having a “hair-trigger temper” with his sons, especially if they surprised him inadvertently. Jake spent his evenings on the couch drinking beer and watching TV or playing video games. He shared that he often thinks about what happened “over there” but tries to push it out of his mind. The night is the worst time for Jake, as he has terrible recurring nightmares of one particular event. He said he wakes up shaking and sweating most nights. He then said drinking was the one thing that seemed to give him a little relief.

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