By Jean Rizer
March is National Social Work month, the time to celebrate the work we do to help our clients help themselves. In pondering what this means, one phrase comes to mind: trust the process. I have supervised social workers since 1997, and in that time frame many things have changed. I have seen modalities and systems grow, change, and delete. Interventions I used in the 1990’s with no labels now have studies behind them and names such as Trauma-Informed Care, narrative therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis, and strength-based practice. Although I have provided supervision throughout these decades, some things remain the same. Social workers feel responsible for making changes, social workers feel like imposters at times because we have to face things for which we were never trained, and social workers are often blamed for not having resources to help, where resources are not available. These three concepts can make it hard to supervise and encourage as we teach, train, and support our coworkers.
Those of us who have been in field long enough will guarantee the process works. Every contact you have with a client is part of the process. Every time you advocate, broker a service, counsel, console, teach, communicate, and connect with your client and families is an action of change. Humans want to know we are making a difference through tangible results. When you surrender and accept that you are making a difference even when you don’t receive feedback, this career is one of the most rewarding ones you can choose. As some of you know, sometimes it just chooses you.
Evidence-based practices and oversight, with positive feedback and tangible results, keeps us moving forward. All of that has its place. On the days that are going well and the clients are succeeding, research shows that what we are doing is worth the effort. But on the difficult days, when clients are faltering or regressing, you feel like you are failing or can’t do more, and hopelessness and helplessness occurs (because you are absolutely going to have them in this career), I offer you a safety blanket. Some days it’s okay to feel like nothing is going right because it’s not. You have to trust and have faith that’s it just part of the process. In most cases, the future results will never be what you are projecting in the moment. It will be an improved or completely unexpected outcome that you could not have predicted for both you and your clients. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who has been in the human services field long enough to share stories.
Trust the process has a place in our field. It is often understated or overlooked. Allow it to give you the quiet and resilient strength needed to continue to be hopeful, infuse much needed energy into yourself, clients and coworkers, and the ability to persevere and enjoy what you do every day. Do your best to stay in the moment and remember you chose this field to have the ability to be part of the positive actions in difficult situations. On behalf of those you work with and for, thank you for making that choice!