As social workers, I feel we serve a unique role as agents of change from micro to macro levels. We serve as a bridge, gardener and first responder, among many other roles. In these capacities, we support individuals, families and communities, collectively working to make a lasting difference in society. Being a social worker not only has great rewards for the children and families we serve as our clients, but it can also be rewarding for the social worker. Serving as social workers helps us learn from our own lived experiences or traumas, and helps us heal as individuals along with our clients.
As a bridge, social workers are able to meet clients where they are at, be present and hold space with those we serve. We bridge the gap between where clients are and where they want to be. We are able to establish rapport, assist clients in processing and verbalizing their needs, normalize their feelings and encourage clients along their path to heal and grow. We empower clients to sustain the skills needed for change. Serving clients as a bridge can vary from day-to-day. Progress for individuals is not always linear, especially when considering trauma, mental illnesses and the current state of society. There are times in which a client can be making tremendous progress, but there may come a “suddenly moment,” or an unforeseen event or revelation, in which the client may regress or stop moving forward emotionally abruptly. Through their progress, regression or even crisis, we have to be present with the client as best we can because that positioning can change every day we see the client.
As a gardener, social workers plant seeds of hope, healing, compassion and growth. We meet our clients where they are at and help them weed through experiences both good and bad while processing them. After processing the experiences, we help clients heal from those experiences and restore them with the new seeds planted. These seeds help clients feel whole and hopeful for the future.
Social workers serve as first responders. Social workers sometimes meet with clients who are in crisis mode. While in crisis mode, social work intervention can mean the difference between life and death. Social workers can intervene in emergency situations and help transform our clients’ lives and positively change their trajectory. As social workers, we cannot always predict when a crisis may arise, but we can do our best to communicate with all involved and keep the client’s wellbeing at the forefront of our work. As first responders at the macro level, social workers provide input on legislation, policies and procedures that help make a difference in the lives of clients both known and unknown. Policies that we affect have the ability to dismantle systemic institutions that have adverse effects on marginalized communities.
An added level of uniqueness for serving as social workers is that the day-to-day role can vary so vastly, even while working with the same client, in the same community and in the same society. We can start our day off with a detailed and organized list that includes breaks and time for self-care, but as I mentioned earlier, we may encounter a “suddenly moment” that changes our plans and allows us to practice flexibility. This “suddenly moment” may be something with a client, who may be experiencing a crisis. We may have received a subpoena from the court regarding another client. Or, we may be informed of administrative changes within the organization. The “suddenly moment” can result in us restructuring our entire day. This role doesn’t always offer consistency, so we have to be able to remain fluid and readily able to adapt to a steadily changing landscape. Some days, we will accomplish every task on our list for the day. Other days will be completely derailed, and we may only achieve one task on our list. As social workers, we to have to remember the value of our work is not always completed in a linear form; however, we must stay committed to providing our best.
The day-to-day can not only change with our client or society, but also can change within us as clinicians. As social workers, we cannot discount where we are as people. We must be mindful and check-in with where we are because that affects the quality of service we provide. We naturally humanize and empathize with our clients, but we have to show ourselves that same compassion so that we can continue to serve our clients in a healthy and effective manner.
Social workers have the ability to not only reshape the lives of people, but also change the trajectory of society by creating lasting change. As social workers, we work collaboratively with individuals, communities and society as a whole. Our day-to-day is not always what we plan; however, we are fluid but intentional with every aspect of our role. My advice to other social workers is to take care of yourself and stay connected to where you are. The better you are the greater quality of service you have to give. Together we can make this world a better place in more ways than one. That’s why I’m proud to be a social worker.
Jordan D. Le Blanc, ACSW, a Clinical Therapist in The Guidance Center’s Compton Program, where he helps guide children and families struggling with mental health conditions or abuse toward positive and productive futures. He is passionate about creating spaces of intergenerational growth and healing in underserved communities. Before joining The Guidance Center team in December, 2018, Le Blanc worked with Low-income families, foster youth and incarcerated youth as a Community Youth Organizer. Le Blanc earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work at California State University, Long Beach.