March is National Social Work Month, and we want to pay special attention to some of the most critical workers on our team. Our clinical team has many Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LISCW) and folks who do social work without that particular licensure. With or without those specific credentials, our whole clinical team deserves to be celebrated this month—and every month.
Today, we’re celebrating our social workers by asking them to share their wisdom on an important and frequent topic in their work, and probably in yours too: Resilience.
About That Resilience
Mental Health Counselor, Andrew Gilhart, shared with us that resilience “takes hard work, determination, belief in the recovery process and faith in the client…It’s a great buzzword to throw on a values list but much harder to achieve, especially for those having challenges with mental illness.”
If we want resilience to be more than a buzzword in our work and lives, it’s essential to recognize that it does not require us to “always be strong and always doing well,” as Guild Program Manager and LISCW Lily Anderson put it. She went on to say that her definition of resilience is “being able to weather through tough times and know that things will get better…You may have terrible days where everything goes wrong, and maybe you don’t get out of bed, but you are resilient if you know that these times will pass and you keep trying.”
What Keeps Us Trying?
Social workers have challenging jobs. They wake up every day and face the world’s suffering through their clients. They see injustice, pain, and struggle. They also see solutions, progress, and hope.
Andrew gave us a list of things that keep him coming back to work in the morning:
- Seeing clients succeed
- Knowing I am making a difference in the lives of others
- Helping clients grow and accomplish their goals
- Helping staff grow and learn within the field
- Seeing the joy on client’s faces when they successfully discharge
- Helping clients through the difficult and challenging parts of their recovery
- Being the best counselor I can possibly be
- Improving the program in any way possible
- Raising awareness and knowledge about mental illness and addiction and de-stigmatizing attending treatment, and asking for help
- Laughing and enjoying work with my teammates
Though we’re not all social workers, helping folks as directly as Andrew, this list is a reminder to focus on progress, how we’re making a difference in the world, and to find some joy in our jobs. These things are a path towards facing the challenges that make us want to give up.
As much as we’d like to avoid it, burnout does happen, and it’s something that social workers need to try to prevent. Lily said variety is helpful, “The days are never the same and this keeps me from getting bored and burnt out.” She also enjoys “seeing the changes and growth in people as they get housed and can actually focus more than just survival. Seeing this shift in people is truly amazing.”
Andrew provided another helpful list—one we could ALL use—with ways he keeps ticking and avoids the collapse of burnout:
- Get enough sleep
- Take vacation days
- Use a to-do list to stay organized
- Enjoying nature and all it has to offer
- Using creative expression and games to bring out my inner child
- Attending bi-weekly therapy
- Saying no and yes when appropriate
- Going for walks throughout the day
- Using quotes, mantras, and positive self-talk when I am struggling and when I am doing well
- Connecting with family and friends regularly
Clients Model Resilience Too
While Andrew’s list models an expert-level of burnout prevention and resilience skills, clients focused on meeting basic needs also demonstrate tremendous resiliency.
Even when times are at their most challenging, like the last few years, Lily said she sees the resilience of her clients, “Much of my work focuses on supporting people who have experienced homelessness, and in my opinion, they are some of the most resilient and resourceful people out there. They are dealing with the daily challenge of figuring out how to meet the most basic of needs such as food, water, shelter, and safety, but they manage to do it every day while keeping up their hope.”
May we all demonstrate the resilience and hope of social workers and their clients.