We often talk about the 'tools' of a particular trade- for example a tradesman might carry an physical tool box or a chef might use a trusted set of knives or carefully constructed recipe book. Social care is a different type of work and the tools that we draw on are often within ourselves, for example our professional knowledge, our skills, how we use what we know and how we are in our interactions with the people that we work with. This is what we mean when we talk about the use of self within the work.
One of the most important things that social care workers bring to their work with people is their 'self'. When we talk about the 'self' we refer to who you are as a person, your experiences, your personality, your attitudes, values, beliefs. In essence, who you are as a person in this world. From the worker perspective, the role of self cannot be underestimated and knowing who you are is fundamental to working effectively in social care.
We each bring to our work a wealth of knowledge and experience that has shaped who we are, and we continue to grow and develop across the lifespan. This is why reflective practice is very important to ensure that we are practicing in a considered and self-aware way. Here, the worker is positioned as a vehicle through which knowledge and skills are funnelled- you are the medium through which all of this rich knowledge and experience is applied. This considered use of self is important, because this is what helps you to connect with service users in a real and authentic way. When using this framework, we encourage you to think about your 'self' fits and how you as a person (your experiences, skills, strengths, weakness and triggers) interconnect with all elements of the framework.
In learning about the framework and working with people we encourage you to think about:
your own feelings, reactions, patterns of behaviour in your work with others
your own values and beliefs, your personality, your personal characteristics.
who you are and why you are who you are
In many ways this is a lifelong endeavour- a continual conversation with the self and a journey towards self knowledge and understanding- but one worth engaging in as we continually try to challenge, question and grow in the context of the work.
If you are interested in reading more about the self check out some of the resources here:
Lyons, D. (2013). Learn about your 'self' before you work with others. In K. Lalor & P. Share (Eds.), Applied Social Care (3rd ed, pp. 98-108). Gill & MacMillan
Trevithick, P. (2017). The 'self' and 'use of self' in social work: A contribution to the development of a coherent theoretical framework. British Journal of Social Work, 0, 1-19. Doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcx133
Ward. A. (2008). Beyond the instructional mode: Creating a holding environment for learning about the use of self. Journal of Social Work Practice, 22, pp. 67-83. Doi: 10.1080/02650530701872363