The emotional resilience of a social worker

I’ve had this article title written down to write for about 6 months now. So, after a particularly emotionally challenging week last week I thought it was about time I finally said this.

Within our training and development as a social worker we often hear about the resilient families we work with and how they manage day to day. These are things we often reflect on and think about how they are? what daily struggles they have? and how they can carry on?

Well for today I want us to move away from that just for a short while.

What is an emotionally resilient social worker?

A social worker who is able to adapt in stressful of crisis situations. It’s where they are able to face the challenges that are thrown at them.  If they are knocked down, they will find away to get back out there and carry on. They are able to manage with pressure and stresses and have an understanding of why they are feeling the way they do.

 Let’s think about our colleagues around us who continue in our profession as strong individuals who no matter what their next challenge is they are still fighting for better outcomes for the people we work with. But most importantly, think about yourself and what you have achieved.  How, no matter what you are faced with you don’t give up and you carry on going.

Today in social work we are facing many more pressures for a number of different reasons whether it’s; budget cuts, lack of experienced workers, team changes, poor management, the new management’s new initiative and so on. But yet, we still continue and manage somehow to take all of this in our stride.

We are constantly weighing up;

  • Whether we should spend additional time with the people that we work with or whether we should be in the office writing it up as we know the team stats are due the following day?
  • Should we get to work early or stay late just to get that case note written up or should I go home and spend time with my family?
  • Should I support that other worker or should I put my head down and get my work done first?

And the list goes on.

Questions I ask myself

  • Am I a good enough social worker?
    This is a hard one and I often hear people asking this. Remember, we can only achieve so much in a single working week. We never know what the next day is going to bring or what we are going to have to prioritise next. We are always going to be under pressure and we need to make sure we are looking after ourselves too. That does not mean we aren’t good social workers.
  • When should I stop being a social worker?
    I keep telling myself this will be when I can no longer manage a realistic work life balance and when social work is impacting on my home life too much. I’ve often heard that there are social worker who become emotionally numb to cases and if I ever felt I was going that way that would be my time to leave.There is so much negativity out there about our professions whether we are child snatchers, home wreckers or bullies. But interestingly I can handle those names but the one that hurts the most is when I’ve been called heartless.

Little do these people know;

  • When I had no choice but to remove your child when I drove home I had tears in my eyes. I tried my best to support you and I’m disappointed I couldn’t have done more.
  • After a number of years supporting you when I had to say goodbye I felt loss too.
  • When I saw you getting arrested again and you have to leave your child because of your actions. I’m sad for your child’s loss.

How this impacts on me

  • Some days I go home and I barely speak to my family. I’m exhausted not just physically but emotionally too. On my most difficult days, I’ve got straight into bed when I’ve got home.
  • That court statement that needs urgently filing Monday morning. I will spend my whole weekend writing this. I miss valuable time with my family. But trust me, that report will be written on time.
  • You say you never see me. But you’ll never know that I’ve missed yet another lunch break to make sure I’m there for you.


Please remember, we went into social work because we care about people and we want to help and that’s all we’re ever trying to do.

I think it’s so sad that we face all of these challenges and yet we get very little praise or acknowledgement for what we actually do. I wonder how many of the people we know who aren’t working in a social care setting can actually can say they understand what a social worker really does and how we feel?

Our job is emotionally challenging and I feel like I’m on a constant roller coaster sometimes. It’s easy for me to say one day I’ll get off, I’m done, but I know that I won’t, I’ll keep going.

I’ve always said that it takes a particular person to be a good social worker and the best ones I’ve known have been emotionally very resilient but actually they aren’t afraid of showing their emotions too. Never think there is something wrong with this, we are human too.



  • Think about the changes you are helping to make
  • Praise yourself and those around you
  • Don’t just think about what you haven’t done think about what you have done.
  • Look after yourself, take care of yourself
  • And, most importantly be proud of what you do!


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