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Working within Your Competence Vs Avoiding Challenges

As new social workers, many of us may be very afraid of new challenges. We may see it as working outside of our competence. That may be true, so I have seen how important it is to speak to our supervisors.

However, supervisors will typically not assign us a case we cannot handle. So, do not lie about your experience, but when they present you a challenge, try your best.

In my relatively short time as a social worker, I have had a fair share of challenges. While they may scare me sometimes, I do not want to be afraid of them.

This is not to say that you should ignore the NASW Code of Ethics and work outside of your scope of competence. As social workers, we need to put our clients first, and we cannot claim to be something we are not (ie the person who can fix everything).

How to Work Within Our Competence

Remembering that there will always be a first. A first high-risk client, a first child abuse case, a first suicide assessment, a first client who you identify closely with. If I’ve learned anything, it’s this: Speak to your supervisor and be honest. Consult, consult, consult.

Not claiming to be able to use an evidence-based practice (like EMDR or TF-CBT) when you are NOT trained and being supervised.

Advocating for appropriate supervision and asking about supervision and training when you apply for jobs and internships.

Being honest about your capabilities when applying to new jobs. Further, ask for clear details about what the job entails. Some jobs are more high-stress than others. Know yourself.

Seeking out education, like reading books or taking a training. Caveat: We often need to be mindful of where our information is coming from and of the fact that not everything will work for every client. Again, I go back to: Consult, consult, consult.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, this website is not about giving advice. I am simply writing about my experiences and resources I find.

So, I am NOT the one to tell anyone if they are working outside of their competence or possibly just afraid of a challenge. All I can say is what I have learned and stated repeatedly in this article: CONSULT SUPERVISORS.

My job as a social worker is important. The way I see it: a little fear of getting it wrong is healthy because it helps us try to get it right... but too much fear is debilitating.

Please let me know what kind of articles you’d like to see in the future!

Check me out on Instagram @eagersocialworker for post updates!

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