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An introduction to social work
An introduction to social work

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Being self-aware in reflective practice

Being aware of yourself and conscious of your impact on others is a necessary element of reflective practice and is crucial to the relationships social workers build with the people they work with. Joyce Lishman described social work as:

Entering into the lives of people who are in distress, conflict or trouble. To do this requires not only technical competence but also qualities of integrity, genuineness and self-awareness.

(Lishman, 1994, quoted in Lishman, 2002, p. 95)

Qualities such as ‘integrity, genuineness and self-awareness’ are central to developing empathy and an understanding of social work values. However, although self-awareness is needed in terms of work with service users, it is also a necessary part of taking a professional responsibility for your own learning and development.

In both Scotland and Wales the Care Council’s codes require workers

…to be accountable for the quality of their work and take responsibility for maintaining and improving their knowledge and skills.

(Scottish Social Services Council, 2009; Gofal Cymdeithasol Cymru, 2017)

This supposes that students and workers are aware, not only of their own practices, but also of their professional development needs. It is perhaps natural to feel able to understand and comment on other people’s motivations, practices and attitudes more easily than our own. It is also often easier to articulate clearly the strengths and shortfalls of the organisation we work within than to see our role or contribution to its successes and weaknesses. Self-awareness is a form of reflection, in the sense that it encourages us to think about ourselves, what sort of people we are and want to be. The process never stops, of course, for the more self-awareness we acquire, the more we discover the need to develop it further. The complexities of human behaviour and life today also mean that we are constantly learning about both ourselves and other people.