MyNASW: Members Engaging in Honest Dialogue on Difficult Issues
As a dedicated social worker, you’re committed to supporting individuals through their most challenging times. Have you ever found yourself in a situation with a client who is a fervent advocate for an ideology that directly opposes your own, and challenges principles of social justice and equity that exist at the core of our profession?
As you engage with this client, you grapple with a profound ethical dilemma. How can you best enhance your clients’ capacity to change and to address their own needs, while upholding the core values of social work that prioritize inclusivity, equity, and respect?
One of the best ways to navigate complex challenges like these is to engage with fellow social workers to understand their perspectives—and a great way to interact with professionals is through NASW's MyNASW all-member online community.
The very situation described above was a recent topic members engaged in via MyNASW. The member who posted also cited that this problem seemed to be getting worse, as the nation becomes increasingly polarized on a number of issues.
Respondents gave differing perspectives on how they viewed the topic as well as strategies for effectively working with clients who hold different beliefs than your own. One said they would move forward, striving to remain curious, and seeking to understand their client’s beliefs and actions in order to cultivate compassion and uncover the underlying reasons behind their perspectives.
Other members communicated the gap between the social worker and client sometimes proves insurmountable. In those cases, some agreed, it is important to recognize the limits of our role and refer clients to professionals who may be better equipped to support them.
A point was made that discriminatory or negative comments focused on any specific group should never be tolerated. At the same time, instances of prejudice can be opportunities for exploration and confrontation, leading clients to deepen their capacity for growth, understanding, and change.
When it comes to group settings, one member shared that it helps to establish clear ground rules. This fosters an environment of mutual respect and allows participants to share the responsibility of abiding by the rules collectively.
Ongoing discussions on the efficacy and consequences of the ASWB licensing exam also ignite passionate exchanges on MyNASW. Here, a recent discussion highlighted concerns about the exam, including biases and potential harm, and ideas about effective ways to measure social work competence.
A member initiated the conversation by expressing disappointment that the exams are defended by some social workers, despite evidence of inequities and harm. Respondents shared diverse viewpoints ranging from “100% agreement” to another member questioning whether claims about the impact of potential bias are being exaggerated.
One respondent recognized the need for competency assessment and the challenge of relying solely on subjective measures. Another member acknowledged the exam’s limitations in measuring counseling abilities and pondered what could be potential solutions. A different member believed that supervised hours during degree programs should be the final measure of competency, while someone else pointed out the variability in program quality. Another individual expressed that a written test does not accurately measure the ability of a person to provide mental health counseling services but wondered how to reimagine a solution.
One person's proposed solution involved a major overhaul of the exams, in order to make them more culturally sensitive, with tailored questions and examples based on the test taker's background or lived experience.
Did members on MyNASW come to a final, definitive solution? No. Did exposure to different perspectives allow some to grow and gain insights? Definitely yes.
Another recent conversation revolved around critical race theory. A participant posted a brief request, asking if others knew of good CRT classes available online.
Respondents offered helpful information about courses. As the conversation grew, new perspectives were introduced to the forefront. One member shared that CRT is a legal theoretical framework taught in law schools and there are no secondary schools that teach it. In response, others stated a desire for this to become part of social work curricula.
Another participant asked others to provide clarity around the proposed curriculum changes in the public elementary schools. They expressed concern about whether legislators want to teach young children about systemic racism or to teach young White children that they are inherently "oppressors" due to their privilege. An interesting dialogue continued about what critical race theory really is, and what is helpful and appropriate to teach at a child’s age of development and understanding.
Journey with Your Peers
Tapping into the collective wisdom of your peers can lead you on an enlightening and transformative journey. MyNASW discussions expose you to different viewpoints, expand your understanding, and enable you to confront challenges with a more holistic perspective.
We invite you to visit (or revisit) MyNASW today to search for topics that interest you and add to the discussions.