The Profession Must Prioritize Self-Care
Social Workers Owe it to Themselves
and Clients to Value a Healthy Lifestyle
"It was not the clients themselves who were causing the major portion
of the stress."
By Maran Dale, special to NASW News
|Illustration: John Michael Yanson
help are social workers to their clients if they are stressed, sick or tired
and haven't made time for self-care? Obviously the professional value they have
to offer may be compromised, but social workers in particular - professionals
who are often trained to focus on the needs of others - often neglect their own
well-being. As a result, they may suffer not only in their professional lives,
but in their personal lives as well.
Social workers and stress. In 2004, NASW conducted a benchmark
national study that provided a wide range of information regarding social
workers' roles and work environments. The findings pointed to an impending
shortage of licensed social workers, but there was no clear indication as to
why this would occur.
effort to better understand what was happening, the NASW Center for Workforce
Studies conducted an anonymous online survey in 2007 to which 3,653 NASW
members responded. One report from the survey, "Stress at Work: How Do
Social Workers Cope?" revealed some important insights.
learned that it was not the clients themselves who were causing the major
portion of the stress, but the work environment itself," said Tracy
Whitaker, director of the Center. "The primary stress social workers face
is that they don't have enough time to do their jobs, and related to that, have
too heavy a workload. This was true across practice areas."
percent of respondents said they didn't have enough time to do their jobs; 25
percent acknowledged that a heavy workload was a primary contributor to their
stress; comparatively, just 16 percent cited their clients as a significant
source of their stress.
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From November 2008 NASW News. © 2008 National
Association of Social Workers. All Rights Reserved. NASW News
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