Don’t Forget About You: The Importance of Self-Care for Social Workers

The University of Southern California offers one of the best MSW graduate programs to obtain the essential academic knowledge, skills and clinical training necessary to become a great social worker. As you go through the process of learning how to help others, I encourage you not to forget the importance of self-care to manage your own stress and needs.

Self-care is the necessary actions an individual must take on a consistent basis to address one’s health and well-being. Examples of self-care include exercising, eating properly, taking medications as prescribed, getting sufficient sleep, engaging in a hobby, being organized, maintaining good hygiene and grooming, and doing something healthy that makes you feel relaxed.

Why Self-Care?

Being an MSW@USC student requires you to make certain sacrifices to meet your academic and field placement obligations. It can be stressful to meet all the demands placed upon you, resulting in a negative effect on your physical and mental well-being. Thus, self-care is necessary to maintain a healthy physical and mental balance. Such balance increases your capacity to handle your personal life and heightens your ability to succeed in this MSW program. Failing to maintain proper self-care can hinder your capacity to achieve academic success, sustain healthy relationships and reach professional competency.

Why Now?

The National Association of Social Workers identifies several reasons in the issue statement of its policy regarding why professional self-care is vital to the profession of social work. The policy states: “Professional self-care is an essential component in competent, compassionate and ethical social work practice, requiring time, energy and commitment.” As an MSW@USC student, you are in prime position to practice the things that will help you become a well-rounded and skilled social worker. Just as you will encourage your clients to maintain self-care, you will know first-hand the effectiveness of doing so, thereby increasing your confidence in guiding them.

Embrace For What Lies Ahead

Once you graduate from the USC School of Social Work, you may likely feel a huge sense of relief, because you will no longer have the pressure of meeting the rigorous demands of the curriculum. But brace yourself for adjustments and demands that will be placed upon you as a professional social worker! While many people presume social workers do not experience mental and emotional challenges because they are the “experts” in helping solve problems, this misconception could not be further from the truth.

Being a social worker does not exempt you from having your own life experiences that can cause mental and emotional stress. While helping your clients succeed, help yourself by maintaining the habit of self-care to meet your needs and maintain quality of life.

Jennifer Perry, MSW, graduated from the USC School of Social Work in 2003. She has been a Children’s Social Worker for the Los Angeles County Department of Children Services for over twelve years. She is in the process of starting a consulting business to promote self-care among students who are pursuing a career in the helping field and professionals who are currently in the helping field.

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