It has to feel right: How social workers use emotionality to navigate in difficult cases in social work practice with children

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftKonferenceabstrakt til konferenceForskningpeer review

Abstract

In this paper I will discuss the changes and paradoxes in ways of understanding social work practice. It is a discussion of the dichotomy of rationality and emotionality in social work discourse and how social workers lack a professional language to address emotionality. The paper is relating to the theme of Social Work history, identity and practice in changing times and across varied contexts.
In recent years, Danish social work practice have been accused of lacking objectivity and social work discourse has shifted with legislative changes and the introduction of social work methodology such as Integrated Children’s Systems and Signs of Safety.
In my research, I have been studying social work practices, focusing (as a psychologist) on which discourses and psychological paradigms are used in constructions of children and how social workers navigate in difficult cases of child neglect and abuse. I have conducted a qualitative study of social work in Denmark, observing team meetings in three different teams in a Danish municipality. The team meeting being the arena of finding out what to do in difficult cases.
Overall, I have found that social workers talk about the children and families in ways that do not follow the structure and logics of their methodologies. Instead social workers navigate difficult cases through narratives, anecdotes and their emotionality. I have found that emotionality is important in four different ways:
1. As moments of silence. When social workers realized something in the stories of the families was important it, was often followed by moments of silence.
2. Experiences of affect that was, named as an emotion. The social workers explained their emotionality – “I feel so sad”.
3. Symbolic bodily utterances. This was a common way of saying ‘this doesn’t feel right’ – by saying ”my stomach hurts” or ”this gives me a headache”
4. Use of humor – The social workers dealt with emotionality by the use of humorous remarks.

However these important elements of navigating in cases are not exalted in a professional language by the social workers, so emotionality happens and is used in finding a way, but is not talked about as such. The social workers talked about methods and structure, but their professional language lacks words for the processes of feeling uneasy and having gut feelings. Bottom line seems to be, that when the social workers decide on how to help the children and families - it has to feel right for them, and instead of denouncing these processes we need a professional language of understanding and naming these processes in practice.
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Detaljer

Bidragets oversatte titelDet skal føles rigtigt : Hvordan socialrådgivere anvender emotionalitet til at navigerer i de vanskelige sager i socialt myndighedsarbejde
In this paper I will discuss the changes and paradoxes in ways of understanding social work practice. It is a discussion of the dichotomy of rationality and emotionality in social work discourse and how social workers lack a professional language to address emotionality. The paper is relating to the theme of Social Work history, identity and practice in changing times and across varied contexts.
In recent years, Danish social work practice have been accused of lacking objectivity and social work discourse has shifted with legislative changes and the introduction of social work methodology such as Integrated Children’s Systems and Signs of Safety.
In my research, I have been studying social work practices, focusing (as a psychologist) on which discourses and psychological paradigms are used in constructions of children and how social workers navigate in difficult cases of child neglect and abuse. I have conducted a qualitative study of social work in Denmark, observing team meetings in three different teams in a Danish municipality. The team meeting being the arena of finding out what to do in difficult cases.
Overall, I have found that social workers talk about the children and families in ways that do not follow the structure and logics of their methodologies. Instead social workers navigate difficult cases through narratives, anecdotes and their emotionality. I have found that emotionality is important in four different ways:
1. As moments of silence. When social workers realized something in the stories of the families was important it, was often followed by moments of silence.
2. Experiences of affect that was, named as an emotion. The social workers explained their emotionality – “I feel so sad”.
3. Symbolic bodily utterances. This was a common way of saying ‘this doesn’t feel right’ – by saying ”my stomach hurts” or ”this gives me a headache”
4. Use of humor – The social workers dealt with emotionality by the use of humorous remarks.

However these important elements of navigating in cases are not exalted in a professional language by the social workers, so emotionality happens and is used in finding a way, but is not talked about as such. The social workers talked about methods and structure, but their professional language lacks words for the processes of feeling uneasy and having gut feelings. Bottom line seems to be, that when the social workers decide on how to help the children and families - it has to feel right for them, and instead of denouncing these processes we need a professional language of understanding and naming these processes in practice.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
Publikationsdato2018
StatusUdgivet - 2018
PublikationsartForskning
Peer reviewJa

Bibliografisk note

Oral presentation på ESWRA 2018 i Edinburgh

ID: 273320031