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November 5, 2018MSW Competency PaperMaureen Feaver
Competency 1: Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior
My informed understanding of what the core competency means to the social work profession is that I have purposely advanced past a personal level of ethics and behaviors, in order to pursue a professional level of social work within NASW guidelines. Through social work-based studies and education that helps me exercise my judgement in the face of complex situations and ideas, I use this ethically & professionally informed judgement to help guide me when instances arise where ethical obligations conflict with outside sources. When these instances arise—and generally, too—I reflect on my education and my NASW Code to make a responsible effort to resolve the conflict. If I cannot, I reach out to social work peers, research-based materials and the NASW guidelines, for ethical and professional input—along with my own—to help in my decision process for resolution of the conflict in question. It is my ethical and professional duty to uphold my obligation to clients, the social work profession, ethics and professional duties, and the NASW. My actions and decisions in this profession should not bring doubt to light in honouring my allegiance to the NASW and all it encompasses. This core competency means that the NASW has entrusted me to fulfill my dedication to the social work profession through my demonstration of all that is ethical and professional, as a social worker, when I identify all that I do based through their NASW Code.

Moments from my MSW internship experience that promoted my learning around this competency have me reflecting on two instances. The first occurred during a lunch break, while in program delivery. One conversation took an unexpected ‘turn’. The woman began a narrative directed at my attention. I was surprised she selected me to share a journey back to age seven, when her father stabbed her mother. She said they didn’t know that she was in the other room watching. She remembered running from the house to escape. She remembered that her mother talked to her father from jail like nothing ‘ever’ happened. She shared this part of her life she had carried for over 40 years. She shared the pain that alcohol gave a temporary escape from. I offered my empathy and resources to help her, if she wished.
A second example was when I worked with the Pastor who is part of the support staff. I was honoured to attend as a representative of my student role and social work profession. I value everyone as entitled to the same resources—especially the inmates—legally and personally. Today is for sharing with the Pastor, song, readings, personal stories and group support. Afterwards, we can talk…One inmate approached me and asked me to help with a personal question. I encouraged her to locate this information but asked that she inform me, if she is unable to find it.
This competency already affects my current practice in that I work consciously to ensure my ethical and professional social work practices are consciously integrated into all that I do. I take the trust given to me by the NASW as a serious responsibility and one that I have no desire to lose. This competency will affect my future practice in an ongoing fashion, as it already affects my current practice. My adherence to an ethical and professional practice will continue to be delivered in the similar ways I already find to be well-accepted by clients and others—my non-verbal and approachable body language, my belief in others’ abilities to change and/or help themselves through my efforts or such, my efforts to help others but understanding that it is truly their choice, and my flexibility to practice all that I have learned while remaining open to change and further learning that will continue to adjust accordingly in this profession.

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Competencies 6-9: Engage, Assess, Intervene, and Evaluate with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations and Communities
My informed understanding of what these core competencies mean to the social work profession is that, interactively, they encompass an overall process involving stages of ongoing development. This includes the initiation with engagement, where I as the social worker represent myself and my profession with all that encompasses—education, resources, knowledge, experience, strategies and specialties unique to my role and my profession. With this, I offer my potential client the initiation of a therapeutic alliance between myself and them. This alliance relies a lot on my professional efforts to nurture it but also depends on client, their needs, issues, efforts—and especially our work together. With the development of a professional therapeutic alliance, this gives me the opportunity to apply my various professional skills, tools that help in making my client’s diagnosis and the sharing with them the most beneficial intervention(s) for treatment and desired results, in my professional view. And in sharing this with them, we can agree or adjust details accordingly—so they are satisfied with the tentative outcome. This treatment application is ongoing but open to adjustment and change, depending on results during the therapeutic alliance. I monitor the results which lets me evaluate each time the desired outcome against what I am seeing. It is important that my client has participated in this mutual effort called the therapeutic alliance because it is of utmost importance that they are satisfied with the final outcome of this process—personally for my client and professionally for me that I have fulfilled my ethical and professional obligations to them, to my role and to my NASW requirements.

One example from my internship comes from our regularly run programs. Each program encompasses all of these competencies. Initially, we engage through e-mails, posters and information sessions when a program is coming up. This allows potential participants to understand what it is we are about and can offer them—so they can make an informed decision that either benefits their needs or is not applicable for them. Those who are interested inform us and we set up assessment appointments to complete interviews and forms. We need to create that therapeutic alliance and both sides have the chance to talk. If this is a ‘good match’ then the participant is given details and attends the classroom where we will be presenting that week-long program. Intervention is the actual delivery of this program and the ongoing evaluation that our teaching is being understood by the participant or if we need to adjust to become more effective in delivery—or if the participant needs to adjust to learn more effectively. It is a mutual effort and mutually beneficial, as both have goal outcomes in mind. Final outcome is a follow up evaluation that parallels, in many ways, the intake form (questions). We want the participant to gain new, strengths-based and cognitive skills and we want their feedback, so we can adjust future offerings, etc. All information is recorded for the provincial justice department.

For future practice, the clarity of each stage in our programming can be paralleled with each applicable competency and provides me with a much improved understanding of it for professional use. I can easily parallel the program delivery process here and apply it to any other professional setting. I can also adjust it and apply it to ‘fine tune’ my work with not only individuals and groups but with organizations and communities due to my new skillset in program operation within a large, provincial facility. I have studied the programs enough to be able to design my own, based on such concrete application within the courses we use here in the programming department. Further to this, even using similarly designed programs could provide me, professionally, the ability to work one-on-one with clients needing vocational or related ‘tutoring’ or skill building.

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