Social Work students reflect on their remote placements at the MHLC
Despite ongoing COVID restrictions, social work field education placements have continued for many social work students in semester 2, 2020, albeit from home. The Mental Health Legal Centre (MHLC) is fortunate to have two Field Education 2 final year Master of Social Work students currently on placement. The students, Madeleine Grigg and Irene Dao, are completing a project-based placement researching integrated practice, with a particular focus on social work support in community legal settings.
By Madeleine Grigg
What an interesting and strange time it has been, completing a remote placement. I have always thought of social work as being a hands on profession, so I have to admit that before starting my remote placement at the Mental Health Legal Centre, I didn’t know what to expect. Placement is an anxiety provoking time, especially at the beginning, and the fact that it was remote definitely made it more challenging. Going into stage four lock down during our placement and having harsher restrictions, certainly made it more isolating. However, in saying that, placement from home has had its perks. Not having to commute to work, and having the flexibility to start a little earlier or later some days, has been an advantage.
After the three months that I have been doing my remote placement, I have become used to working from home, and feel much more comfortable in my role. I was able to do client work over the phone, and build relationships with staff members, even though we havecij never met in person. Furthermore, my placement partner and I were able to support each other, which is crucial at a time like this. Group supervision was invaluable and provided us with a space to critically reflect on our practice.
Completing a remote placement has highlighted the importance of self-care, especially when working from home. Some of the self-care practices that I have found helpful include exercising, yoga, and walking. I have realised the importance of going for a short walk during the work day, taking a break when you have been sitting down for too long, and not being too strict on yourself, as there is a tendency for people to be stricter on themselves when working from home.
Whilst doing my placement at MHLC, I observed how the organization had been able to transition from being in the office to working remotely, and how quickly all the staff members adapted to this new setting, and continued to do their work remotely. This made me become aware of the potential for social work to be practiced in ways that had not been thought of previously.
Ultimately, I am glad that I was able to complete my placement this year, and that I have been provided with learning opportunities, despite completing it remotely. Doing a remote placement has made me more resilient, and given me the skills to adapt to new and challenging circumstances. I am grateful to the staff from MHLC for their support, insight and humour during this time.
By Irene Dao
Completing placement remotely has been a rollercoaster of emotions – it had its ups and downs. It was wild going into placement remotely, let alone into Stage 4 restrictions in the same week! It has definitely challenged me to become more pro-active and drive my own learning and development.
The research project I did helped me gain a better understanding of the versatility of social work theories, and how they can be incorporated in not only client work, but towards ourselves as reflective practitioners and when we work with others. This is especially crucial when it comes to the circumstances of working remotely. I feel that the knowledge that I have gained from doing extensive research has helped and will continue to prepare me for direct practice in the future.
During challenging times such as now, it is important as social workers to reflect upon and consider those who are disadvantaged and most vulnerable groups. I was able to gain insight of the oppressive circumstances these groups are experiencing through listening in on the respective meetings of each other MHLC’s programs; Bolton Clarke, Ravenhall and DFPC. This made me realise the significance of knowing what’s current and going on in the world as social work is always changing.
Working from home has placed such an emphasis on the importance of self-care. It was important that I established effective self-care strategies in order to prevent burnout and recognize my own triggers. I was fortunate to have supports put in place for me to debrief about the challenges I was facing, as well as my personal feelings and thoughts, such as peer support supervision.
I initially went into this with mostly a pessimistic outlook on things – it was difficult to stay positive when the world is going through such a chaotic time. But with self-reflection, I recognized that there were silver linings that came out of this, such as flexible start times, being able to snack at the desk and the comfort of being close to my bed!
Overall, this experience has been a huge learning curve for me and has strengthened my ability to adapt to change and navigating my way around these circumstances to still be able to provide efficient support as well as adhere to AASW’s Code of Ethics and Practice Guidelines. I am immensely thankful for the kindness, patience and guidance that the staff at MHLC have shown.