Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Skills of Helping Professionals

by Victoria Brewster, MSW

How were you educated at school whether undergraduate or graduate? Was it a ‘just the facts’ orientation or an empathic, client-centered model?

Is there room for both? Sometimes we have to be stoic, impassive helping professionals, but I would like to think most of the time we are empathic, compassionate and ‘in the moment’ with our clients.

We must adapt to the situation, to the client and be ‘in the moment’ for a particular situation. If we are not adaptive, what kind of helping professional are we? Adaption, attention, being attuned to both the client and ourselves is so important.

Even more important is being tuned into ourselves, our own internal dialogue, our feelings BEFORE meeting with a client and while meeting with a client. The ability to adapt and change, to make sure our own internal dialogue or feelings are kept in check is important.

There are times when we will have to ‘wear our feelings on our sleeves’ as the expression goes, otherwise we come across as inaccessible, flat, unapproachable and uncaring helping professionals.

It is important to evaluate yourself and improve in areas that are noted as needing improvement. That is what a performance evaluation is for. Also, if one facilitates groups to ask for feedback from the members both on content and your presentation. This is where we realize perhaps we speak to fast, too low, our facial expressions, tone of voice or body language do not match.

Being open to this feedback, a willingness to improve our skills and learn new techniques is so important.

Enjoy the professional journey and while doing so, relax and take a nice vacation to really give your professional journey the thought it deserves!

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