Last updated November 3, 2014 
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Self-Care in Social Work

A Guide for Practitioners, Supervisors, and Administrators

Our study of self-care in the helping professions has just begun. It started with a desire to support our undergraduate and graduate students in social work who lamented the lack of time for self-care and a limited understanding of what is really meant by the term. We had heard comments such as, “You guys are always telling us that self-care is important but you load us up with so much work that we have no time for it! What is self-care anyway?” Such questions and concerns sparked our interest in developing a thorough understanding of self-care and the ways in which it can be embedded in all that we do as social workers. We were of the opinion that it should not be an afterthought or an add-on to other more important responsibilities. To learn more, we went to the experts: workers in the human services field who have insight into not only the stress of social work, but also what constitutes effective workplace coping. We recruited over sixty of them to participate in workshops and focus groups to explore this issue in depth. In addition, we asked colleagues and students to send us stories that reflect their experiences with various workplace challenges and reviewed the literature across disciplines that address biological, psychological, social, cultural, spiritual, and organizational aspects of stress and coping.

Our work in this area continues. To further understanding of self-care, we invite reader participation. We ask that you reflect on the material presented here and share your reactions with us. We would appreciate hearing about your first-hand experiences with the various forms of trauma, distress, and difficulty discussed in the chapters to follow, as well as your approaches to self-care. We have constructed a Web site that offers a mechanism for sharing your story, anonymously if you prefer. Our hope is that the Web site will facilitate information sharing, support, and communication within the social work community as it concerns this important topic. Please visit http://www.