By S. Jolene Hui, MSW, LCSW
NASW-CA Director of Membership
I can’t believe we have been dealing with this pandemic since March. We are already heading, perhaps careening, toward a new year. Time has moved so oddly. At times it’s seemed to move like molasses, but other times it breezes by so quickly. We spent a large portion of 2020 locking ourselves away from our typical lives and our loved ones. We experienced isolation and disconnect amidst disease, civil unrest, national disasters, and upcoming elections.
When this began during the spring of 2020 I was very hopeful with my students that we would “probably” be back in the field in the fall. After finishing their foundation year virtually, they feared that their concentration year placements would also be spent virtual and they would be expected to graduate with having completed only one and a half semesters working in person at agencies with clients. They were afraid they wouldn’t gain the necessary skills to graduate and become professional social workers.
Fall rolled around and although some students are able to attend their field placements (either full-time of hybrid), many organizations, like schools, are not serving clients in person. Thus, interns are working from home.
While students this year have been energized, ready to work, and extremely flexible – the current theme of, “am I good enough?” has continued to surface. With many students isolated at home while doing remote fieldwork, there is nothing with which to compare their work. How can you learn effectively in isolation?
These feelings are not limited to students. Clinicians have also been questioning themselves during this time. Are we doing enough for our clients? Are we able to help our clients right now when we are having difficulties helping ourselves? Many clinicians have had to close down their physical practices and have transitioned entirely to telehealth without plans to transition back. Many are taking care of their families, managing virtual school, and trying to survive, while continuing to help clients who are often having the same experiences that we are having. We are collectively grieving.
This constant uncertainty has been a strain on clinicians and clients alike. We are all questioning ourselves, questioning our realities, and trying to keep up. Many clients aren’t able to do deeper work right now. They need help just surviving. And we are here to hold space for them. You don’t always need a set of advanced therapeutic skills in order to be there for your clients. Your ability to be there for them while they’re vulnerable is key.
While students often feel like they aren’t utilizing enough therapy skills – their empathy and ability to be there for their clients is key. Learning to be an active listener and to be there to support their clients during this time is of utmost importance.
So how do we do this for our clients? How can we be there for them when we ourselves feel so out of sorts? How can we practice self-care when we are living in chaos? How can we eliminate burnout when we are living in a scorched earth? I encourage you to connect with your student selves and reflect on why you came into this profession. Also, one of the most important things we can do is be kind – to ourselves and to our clients. When we are constantly questioning if we are good enough we need to tell ourselves that we are. Pour some kindness onto yourself. Give yourself grace. You are good enough.
S. Jolene Hui, LCSW, is NASW-CA’s Director of Membership and is also part-time adjunct faculty in the MSW program at California State University, Dominguez Hills where she is a foundation year field liaison. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To join NASW: https://www.socialworkers.org/nasw/join