I am currently supervising the field instruction of three MSW students this year. One student is in her final semester of her second year and is placed in a residential treatment facility for male veterans. The other two students are in their second semester of their first year and are both placed in a health home/ care management department of a community based organization. These students are charged with handing in a weekly one-page reflection paper with their process recording. The reflection paper is structured around the prompt that I send them. This past week the prompt — as seen below — was sent to them to reflect on. These reflections are my way of integrating theory and practice into our weekly supervision. I find that this tool helps the student look deeper at the work that they’re doing in the field and bridges the course work that they are learning about in the classroom.
Weekly Reflection Paper Topic: Systems Theory and Macro Practice
We as social workers are faced with some difficult political challenges that will change the landscape of how we work with clients. I want you to think broader and discuss the importance of Macro social work practice with your clients. What issues today may or may not affect your clients in the future? How does systems theory play a role in these challenges? Briefly discuss one of your cases using systems theory. How will you as a social worker navigate the changing political landscape for yourself and clients? What will you do to effect immediate and sustained changed as it relates to marco social issues?
My students have given me permission to share some of their responses to this prompt. (Minor edits were made for grammar and syntax clarity only.) Pay close attention to how they formulate their answers, what is important to them as people and agents of change, and how they see the future for themselves and their clients.
Student 1: “With the current change in the political climate and the proposed changes that may occur, macro social work is of great importance. Its increased importance is due to its focus on the broader federal and state policies that can affect our clients. Healthcare, immigration and women’s rights are topics that come to mind as our new president proposes policies that greatly affect those subjects.”
Student 2: “At a macro level, this involves the social construction of privilege and oppression from a historic perspective, thus the stereotypes associated with it. As social workers, the aim is to advocate for social changes that positively impact the lives of people on a national level. The impending political changes from the nation’s capital will affect everyone; therefore, it is imperative that proper planning be implemented to anticipate such changes. Keeping this in mind, social justice is one of the key values when working with a marginalized population.”
Student 3: “With a new president in office and with an agenda that does not support current systems, one of my roles is to educate myself on how changes of a new administration will impact my clients and subsequently, educate them [on those changes]. Moreover, educating myself on changes of the political climate will allow for me to advocate for my clients’ unique needs and also better prepare them in developing an independent approach to their mental health.”
I have found that this reflection on macro practice has given the students an opportunity to look beyond the micro perspective and begin to think about how the mezzo and macro systems impact a client in an individual way. I believe that this discussion has given them permission to really talk about how working on a macro level is just as important and needed for effective and sustained change.
Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work the students are enrolled in a year-long Practice Lab course that gives them a foundation of Macro Practice through various lenses of social justice, oppression and ethics. The following textbook, Burghardt, S. (2014). In Macro practice in social work for the 21stcentury Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, is used within the class to incite conversation and critical thinking around the use of macro practice. The text provides talking points and asks questions around how to practice at a macro level. If we look at the beginning of chapter two, it starts out with a scenario on community engagement and then it asks the reader reflective questions about the process within the scenario. I find this is easily digestible for students and helps them to break down the bigger idea into manageable pieces and apply it to their own field experience. This integrated approach helps the students to think on a larger scale when it comes to social work practice, which goes beyond the one-on-one therapeutic alliance and outwards, towards the greater community and the government.
As field instructors, teachers, community practitioners and agents of change, I urge you to consider integrating this into all levels of learning when working with the next generation of social work students. It important as supervisors and instructors to ask your students what they are learning in class and to bring it into the supervision session. This will not only keep you informed as a supervisor, but will help you assist your student to integrate what they are learning into their field placement.