Helping social workers to be emotionally resilient

‘Resilience is not an innate characteristic or personality trait that you either have or you don’t. It arises from successful adaptation to everyday events rather than unusual ones, and emerges from ordinary human capabilities, relationships and other internal and external resources.'

Grant and Kinman ( 2012 p4/5)

It is generally agreed that resilience is particularly important for “helping” professionals who face highly challenging and complex situations.

This section focuses on how you can support social workers in your team to be emotionally resilient.

Knowledge Briefing – Promoting emotional resilience

This knowledge briefing is written specifically for practice supervisors. It includes key messages from research and practice evidence about:

  • Why emotional resilience is important in child and family social work.
  • How you can help social workers to be emotionally resilient practitioners and develop a culture of emotional resilience in your team.
  • How you can work effectively in supervision to promote and model emotional resilience.

Challenge questions and reflective prompts are included to help you consider how you might use these ideas in your role as practice supervisor.

Audio icon Exploring emotions in supervision

Anna Glinski, Deputy Director, Knowledge and Practice Development at the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse talks about the importance of exploring difficult and painful emotions arising from practice with social workers in supervision.

How well do you promote emotional resilience in your team?

A number of research studies have highlighted the importance of developing strategies to promote emotional resilience to help social workers deal with the challenges they face in child and family social work (for example: repeatedly encountering the impact of loss and trauma). This tool helps you reflect on how well you promote emotional resilience in your team and identify areas you want to work on to do this more effectively.

What motivates your team to keep going?

Ikigai (pronounced Ick-ee-guy) is a Japanese concept which helps us consider what we value in life and why. When used in a work context it can help you learn more about why people stay in their jobs, what they value about their work and what motivates them to stay in an organisation despite the challenges. This visual tool can be used as a prompt for one to one discussion with staff you supervise or with your team as a whole.

Using visual metaphors to respond to stress and trauma

This visual tool can be used to initiate discussion about how members of your team behave when feeling stressed, what signs to look out for and how your team and the wider organisation can offer support.

The Professional Wellbeing Self-assessment Tool

This tool is designed to help supervisees assess their own wellbeing and encourages them to consider ways in which they can seek support to address any challenges to their wellbeing before this becomes detrimental. You can ask supervisees to use this individually and then reflect on this together during supervision discussions.

Containing difficult emotions in supervision

Managing (or containing) the emotional pressures of social work is essential in delivering quality services. Equally being emotionally available and responsive to staff in supervision builds their abilities to process, respond to and manage emotionally difficult work. This tool helps you consider why containment is important in reflective supervision and how you can work more effectively in this area.

Team as secure base model

The team as secure base model is based on attachment theory and focuses attention on the need to provide social workers with a safe and secure base to help them thrive in their work. This tool helps you consider how you can promote a team culture based on the principles of this model.

Having reflective discussions in supervision

Reflective discussions help social workers to consider their personal and professional responses to practice. This tool provides suggestions for a range of reflective questions which encourage practitioners to share their experience of a situation, reflect on it both personally and professionally, critically analyse learning from this and then take this learning into practice.

The ideas in this tool are developed further in the ‘Questions around the Supervision cycle’ learning tool in the ‘Having reflective discussions in supervision’ section of the website.