Please see recent book review by Steve Hunter, Independent practice educator with Learning Network West of the recently published, How To Survive In Social Work by Neil Thompson and John McGowan.
‘How to Survive in Social Work’ by Neil Thompson and John McGowan is a thoroughly stimulating and uplifting publication for social workers. It succeeds in identifying the challenges faced by social workers today, presentinga well-balanced appraisal of how social workers can endure thesepressures to thrive ultimately in their practice.
From the outset, the authors see the main challenge facing social work in the context of the workplace as its “business’ culture of managerialism and efficiency savings (i.e. the macro level) in the face of growing demand at a time of austerity budgets. As they put it succinctly, we are faced with “infinite demand and finite supply”.
All social workers realise the profession can be extremely challenging on both a macro and a micro level as they tryto deal with complex and distressing life-changing events. In this book, the authors strongly argue that it is by adhering to understoodkey values, particularly the commitment to compassion and addressing inequality, that enables practitioners to mitigate challenges.
The authors further argue that it is by developing a‘self-management’ skill set (i.e. being well-organised, focused and self- motivated) that sustains social workers through difficult times. This is a valid comment because ultimately it is the practitioner’s responsibility to adhere to professional standards and values.
Thompson & McGowan further encourage social workers to be realistic about what can and cannot be achieved. When working with clients, it is not possible to remove their pain and suffering but it is possible to recognise that these experiences can be part of the healing process. This is very insightful and supportive to help students and new practitioners.
‘How to Survive in Social work’ is highly recommended to students and practice educators seeking guidance through such a complex and important profession. The authors powerfully argue that in order to both survive and thrive, social workers need to make the most of their professional commitments, teamwork and values. A focus on taking care of themselves and supporting colleagues: by managing stress; having a valid work-life balance and well thought out career path should enable them to provide better care for clients. On a wider level, they recommend that crucial support can be found through membership of BASW and the Social Work Union. An engaging, clear & concise book that sheds light on an often-misconceived occupation. This should be any social work professional’s first port of call to equip them with the relevant skills required.
Stephen Hunter, Independent Practice Teacher, November 2020