Critical mindfulness in social work: Exploring the potential of reflexive self-care in the journey from student to social worker

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Abstract

This article reports on one aspect of a study investigating mindfulness in social work education and practice. Specifically, it explores its potential as a reflexive form of self-care in the journey from student to newly qualified social worker. Comprising a participatory action research approach, longitudinal qualitative design and bespoke mindfulness programme that included compassion-based and non-violent communication practices, the study tracked six participants who completed the programme from the end of the first year of their MSc in Social Work to six months into post-qualifying practice. The experiences of three other participants who were unable to complete were also considered. Data were gathered using interviews, discussions groups, questionnaires and the researchers’ reflections and analysed using thematic and framework analysis, and transformative learning theory. The findings suggest that a critical framing of mindfulness encouraged reflexive forms of self-care in three key ways: validating the importance of self-care and developing awareness of internalised oppression; supporting reflexive engagement with service users; and better mitigating work-related stress and role conflict. Further study of these emergent findings is recommended, focusing on the synergies between critical mindfulness and reflexivity and the profession’s social justice aims.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberbcaa246
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Early online date11 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • critical mindfulness
  • reflexivity
  • self-care
  • social work education and practice
  • stress

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