Skip to main content

Building Relationships at Christmas

Toyin Odenugba shares her reflections on the importance of building relationships with the people you work with as a social worker working in adult services

I have always been a practitioner that depends on the relationship that I am able to develop with those that I support and this was before I even got the paper qualification as a social worker. Relationships in practice either as a social care professional or as a social worker are the foundational basis for my practice, I believe they are important and they go a long way to inform my practice. This has become even more significant throughout the covid-19 pandemic and into the festive period, as restrictive measures remain in place. 

According to Ingram and Smith 2018, relationships are integral to successful outcomes and although complex, they require an awareness of ‘self’ and the negotiation of interpersonal boundaries. In simple words as per my understanding, relationships require me to be aware of who I am as a practitioner, Christian, mother, daughter, Nigerian/Irish practitioner in adult social work practice in Scotland, a migrant, and all the other relationships that define 'me'. I also have to be able to negotiate the various inter-personal boundaries without clouding them. I have to maintain the boundaries and ensure they do not compromise my practice. Truthfully, practice, and relationships in practice, require a lot of finesse and special abilities, you have to question the benefit of self-disclosure and what you are hoping to achieve.

In the recent past, I visited a family with the intention of carrying out a guardianship supervision. During the ensuing conversation a connection was developed between myself and the parent and within the hour we shared some similar and personal characteristics. It was in one sense not my usual way of practice but in another, it is a usual way of practice; and this is not to confuse issues! This parent wanted that connection and stated that hearing about the similarities we share made them to feel unjudged and to also know others have walked the same paths.  I am not saying this is always appropriate but I am presenting the benefits that come from this kind of connection. 

As a practitioner, I believe strongly that I am not just there to tick boxes and complete an assessment/review but I think I also have to connect with the person's situation and provide support in different forms. I know I learnt from this person and I think they learnt from me. I believe strongly that our conversation was helpful to both of us in these strange and not so strange times. This to me is what social work is all about. 

I go further and state categorically that this is one way of the ways that 'social work cares'!"