The National Social Workers’ Alliance recently updated its Code of Ethics to reflect some of our collectively experienced changes over the last few years. The challenges faced by social workers and those working on the frontlines of care are tougher and more prevalent than ever.
At Share Collaborative, we align our work to support those in the social work and social outreach sectors. There’s always a need to increase our skill and acumen to create safer spaces, engage, connect, and empathize wherever human interactions are happening.
To that end, we wanted to explore the many ways Share Collaborative aligns with the NASW Code of Ethics, including the new amendments.
The NASW Code of Ethics Focuses on Wellness
The additions to the NASW Code of Ethics focus on two essential areas where Share aligns: wellness + self-care and cultural competence (the journey of Cultural Humility to Cultural Reverence).
Anyone in the human services field, whether it’s social work, education, healthcare, or another aspect of human services, is acutely aware of the continued and now heightened need for support. Providing trauma-informed care isn’t only about listening and empathizing. Trauma-informed care requires practitioners to extend themselves in many vulnerable ways, leading to compassion fatigue, burnout, and vicarious traumatization.
As colleagues working in human services, we can affirm and support each other on our journey toward greater wellness, self-compassion, and self-care. In Share Collaborative’s healing-focused care model, we integrate wellness with the concepts of Motivational Interviewing, Cultural Humility to Cultural Reverence (CH2CR), and trauma-informed care.
These deliberate and intentional practices are reflective, requiring us to connect with and explore ourselves, leading us to create a healthier environment where we have the capacity to hold space for others. In that space, we prize and express compassion, empathy, and partnership, not only to those we serve but to our colleagues and peers as well as ourselves!
The concepts we work with at Share Collaborative are immediately applicable across all fields of communication and many different connections and relationships. It’s not unusual for people to return after working with us and share that they’ve seen improvements in many different aspects of their lives—personal and professional–family relationships, friendships, those they serve at work, and those they work alongside.
At Share Collaborative, we establish a contextual and experiential learning environment where people can apply the new concepts right away in a way that makes sense and aligns with their lives and their careers.
Cultural Humility to Cultural Reverence in Social Work
The NASW Code of Ethics highlights the importance of cultural humility. In the NASW Code of Ethics, they refer to cultural competence. At Share Collaborative, we believe that the path from cultural humility to cultural reverence is a lifelong journey that requires us to constantly engage in self-reflection and lifelong learning (the first principle of Cultural Humility).
In all of our trainings, we touch on how each of the components of our Healing-Focused Care model align and intersect. This results in avoiding “flavor of the day” approaches and establishes our capacity to be trauma-informed and culturally reverent when working with served persons and colleagues. For example, a significant component of the spirit of Motivational Interviewing (MI) is acceptance. Acceptance means, in part, treating everyone with dignity and respect, especially for their self-described identity—their genuine and authentic self—who they really are at the core. When we treat those we serve and our colleagues with great respect (reverence), especially in regard to their identity (for example honoring their preferred pronouns), we are expressing the intersection between MI and CH2CR.
The journey requires us to recognize the autonomy of others and their choices. When we extend ourselves in service, we’re cognizant not to retrigger people’s trauma by reducing their power. Trauma is a moment of powerlessness. When I recognize that it’s a person’s choice how they want to roll, then I’m holding space for them, giving them power over their own identity and not retriggering their trauma—implicitly or explicitly.
Acceptance of others means honoring their autonomy and identity. On the journey of CH2CR, we recognize the served person or served group as the expert. We shift into a mode of partnering with the served person rather than leading, guiding, or teaching.
One of the tenants of CH2CR is to address implicit power imbalances. When we enter a situation as a social worker, parole officer, guidance counselor, or another position of authority, there is an inherent power imbalance. The served person has something they want from us, and we can give or withhold. On the other hand, the dynamic of power shifts when we take the necessary steps to establish that we want to work with the person as a partner rather than “telling” them what they must do. Partnering and autonomy play very nice together in these instances.
Understanding Ourselves on the Journey
One crucial part of understanding and providing trauma-informed care and being culturally reverent is understanding our own history of experiencing trauma. While it can be difficult to explore at first, it’s this understanding that helps us connect, affirm, and support those we serve as well as our colleagues. When we engage in wellness practices, we are doing just that—we are doing our own work so that we may avoid burnout, compassion fatigue, and vicarious traumatization. When we get “triggered,” we fall into judgment of those we serve and do not partner, express autonomy, and on. We’ve all been there.
Wellness is a crucial part of our journey as service providers. Just as we’re holding space for others and prioritizing their care, we can also apply the lessons to ourselves. When we’re accepting of others, are we also accepting ourselves? When we’re holding space for others, recognizing their autonomy and personhood, are we also honoring our own dignity and protecting ourselves from retriggering our traumas?
For those who work in helping professions, wellness often feels selfish or at least self-indulgent. When we see that many people need our help, it can be challenging to set the proper boundaries without feeling guilty or worrying that we’re not doing enough. As Noor often says, it is important to be self-full. Engaging in wellness practices is doing just that—being self-full.
We’ve all heard the importance of “putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” When we take a trip on a plane, it’s repeated over and over. Most people in the helping profession have heard this analogous to self-care in social work. While it might seem like a cliché (because it is), there is a lot of truth behind the idea. We must nurture ourselves, explore our hearts and minds, and protect our dignity, so we have enough capacity to extend to others. In addition, a focus on wellness reduces turnover and burnout in social work.
The NASW Code of Ethics does a good job of recognizing these crucial realizations in social work. When we’re prizing a person’s value, we’re prizing their identity. When we’re valuing and caring for ourselves, we can more fully and openly offer care to others.
At Share Collaborative, we offer many resources to encourage and support those who serve others. To being or continue your journey of Wellness, here is a brief guided meditation from Noor. If you would like to learn more about prioritizing wellness on your journey, please reach out. Let’s explore how we can assist and empower your organization.