World Social Work Day - Relationships March 2019

Today is World Social Work Day and the theme for this year is Relationships.  There is nothing more important in our lives than the relationships we have with others.

Whether we are talking about our relationships with partners, family members or friends and colleagues, these connections can be the source of support and joy or conflict and pain.

As an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, I know that the quality of the relationship I seek to establish with my clients is fundamental to the outcome of the therapy.  The client needs to know that they can trust me, that I will treat them with respect and that I have their wellbeing at the centre of the work we do.  It is a collaborative relationship where I do not seek to be seen as an expert on their life and their needs, but as an ally who is supportive and encouraging and sees them as a person - not as a set of symptoms.  My role is to view the client in a holistic way, taking into account their strengths, personal resources, background, experiences and help them identify what they wish to change in their life and offer suggestions and strategies for how this may occur.

Social Workers take a perspective which focuses on the client in their environment, including their socio-economic situation, their culture, gender and their physical, psychological and social functioning.  The client is viewed not as someone who is sick, damaged or flawed and needs to be treated, but as a person who needs to be listened to and understood in the context of their life experience and their desires for the future.

In my private practice, I see many clients who struggle with their personal relationships, but for the purpose of this blog, I want to focus on couples.  Sadly,  many couples delay coming to counselling until they have been unhappy for many years.  Often one partner (usually the woman) will come along complaining about the lack of connection between her and her partner and tell a familiar story about how they have grown apart and don't seem to have much in common any more.  This is more likely to occur when the children are at a stage where they are becoming more independent and the focus swings back to the couple.  During the busy years of childrearing, many couples are in a sort of survival mode, with the attention on establishing a secure, stable environment for the family and attending to the practical and educational needs of the children.  They are often too busy to make time for themselves as a couple and their priorities are on their children.

It is no surprise that once the parental responsibilities start to reduce, couples hve the time and space to consider the future.  This is a time when these relationships can either founder or flourish.  Unless couples make a serious, honest effort to review what they want for themselves and the relationship, they can stay stuck in an unsatisfying routine, not knowing how to change it or questioning whether they wish to continue a future together.

Any relationship of value needs to be nurtured.  I always like to view relationships as similar to a garden.  In order to flourish a garden needs water, feeding and weeding.  Relationships too need to be fed, refreshed and kept free of harmful interference with their growth and development.

In recent months I have been heartened to see an increasing number of clients coming to me for help with their relationships at an earlier phase when they first sense that things are not what they could or should be.  This may be couples who are expecting their first child or have young children and are wanting to ensure that they do not lose their



© Dawn Vincent