Social Study & Social Work Practice: Getting There
The Canadian Association of Social Workers defines the practical domain of social workers as activities that improve social well-being structures and enhance individual, family and community social functioning at local, national and transnational levels. With so many realms requiring attention and so much theory informing anti oppressive practice and each focus area, to garner, new Social Workers do not have opportunities in their studies to gain the work experience they need while completing their foundational education. Traditionally split in the two streams of either clinical social work practice or social development/policy, it has been my experience that students are also faced with having to choose between one or the other and most social work programs tend to focus on the latter of the two.
Although I had gained valuable experience working with individuals, families, and communities in my school practicum placements, I completed my education without a fluency in practice from an Anti Oppressive framework, which I had hoped for. I found myself working within systems that were not in line with my personal values and my values as a social worker. As such, I sought opportunity to practice in a manner that was more respectful to clients, their circumstances, and their experiences. I knew that I would not be happy or content until I found a method of practice and practice delivery that felt right.
What Brought Me Here
I was fortunate to hear about ProChoices Clinic through my older sister, who had also recently finished her Master of Social Work degree. Like myself, my sister was searching for a post-graduate opportunity in Vancouver that offered a collective learning environment, supervision, and an organization that followed an Anti Oppressive approach to practice. I was pleased to discover that ProChoices Clinic not only ticked all of these boxes, but the clinic sat perfectly with my personal and professional social work values. ProChoices is a Narrative Therapy clinic that is informed by the principles and values of Feminism, participatory democracy, community development, and social justice. Having been interested in Narrative Therapy for some time, because of its non-pathologizing and collaborative approach, I was ecstatic to learn and practice a model that fit sat well with my values and felt right.
Walking the Talk of Anti-Oppressive Practice and the Personal is Political
What really stood out to me about ProChoices was the clinic’s mission to provide quality affordable therapy services to individuals experiencing financial barriers. Having been raised in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside myself, the experience of poverty is not unknown to me. Consequently, I have a deep appreciation for organizations that provide services to individuals who may otherwise not have access to them. With ProChoices, I feel I have had the opportunity to give back to the community and to help individuals who may be experiencing similar hardships to my own.
Experiencing Feminist stewardship, my immersion learning at ProChoices has provided me with opportunities to practice reflexivity from a place that acknowledges gender disparities and the politics that are at play in people’s lives. This learning holds great interest for me. During my studies, I have experienced a neglect of Feminist perspectives in practice and a lack of critique on the effect of male privilege. Although I am aware that men benefit the most from the patriarchal society that we live in, all genders and non-gender identified people are also affected by toxic masculinity, which translates and influences all the problems we work with in intersecting ways. As a man of colour that was raised in poor socioeconomic conditions, I was curious to examine what Feminism meant to me. In addition, with my changing privilege as a now educated and working class individual, I am curious to explore how I can apply Feminist values in other aspects of my life in order to combat the negative repercussions of living in a society that is so dominantly patriarchal. These are topics that I look forward to exploring in future posts.
Written by Alberto with collective editing support from the ProChoices team
Alberto joined ProChoices as a learning therapist in September of 2017. Alberto was born in Vancouver and comes to the Feminist-Narrative practice learning, with over a decade of experience working in communities throughout the city. Drawn to ProChoices by the clinic’s mission and guiding principles, Alberto is ProChoices’ first identified male therapist. With this blog series, Alberto hopes to share his experiences and learnings as a new therapist, as well as insights into the Feminist-Narrative model that he is excited to use at ProChoices Community Clinic.