‘Social workers are the ones who are expected to be tough’

A social worker who has accessed counselling talks to Community Care about how a lack of management support made counselling the best option

“Counselling isn’t the same thing as supervision, but it’s a route I’ve taken when the job has felt particularly difficult, and for me that has been times when support has not been available,” says Jasmine*.

“One was when a very young woman died unexpectedly, and the organisational focus was on reassuring me that there had been no wrongdoing on my part, and it felt that there was no acknowledgement or sharing of the sadness of a very young woman dying,” she explains.

Jasmine is explaining the situations that have prompted her to access counselling as a result of her job. She works with adults with learning disabilities, where she manages a health and social care team in a local authority in the East of England. In her 13 years since qualifying, she has accessed counselling three times.

Lack of management

“I think on each occasion that I’ve accessed counselling it’s been a time when I have felt there to be a lack of management support or supervision within the job,” Jasmine explains.

Despite her openness to admit she has had counselling, Jasmine is in a minority.

A recent Community Care survey found there had been an increase in the number of children’s social workers aware that counselling was on offer to them, but only 6% had ever used it.

Jasmine believes that social workers consider counselling “too big a step”, and it implies that any difficulties they are experiencing are more serious than they want to acknowledge.


“In a multi-disciplinary team, it does seem that the social workers are the ones who are expected to be tough, and who have a reputation for laughing things off, and this might be another reason why there’s a reluctance to look for help.”

Jasmine has found counselling useful when it has been delivered by someone who understands the social work role, and she says it’s important for social workers to take advantage of counselling when they need it, as she sees it as one of the last few “perks” of working in a council.

“Lease cars, employee loans and many other advantages of working for the council have gone, but counselling is still available. I don’t know if this is because there is some evidence that it keeps people in or supports them back to work, or because it is little used and easy to implement,” says Jasmine.


She says she feels fortunate to have accessed the counselling she has had, but that there needs to be more work done to make counselling more accessible for social workers.

In hospitals, she says, there are often posters for NHS staff counselling services on staff notice boards. “I’ve never seen that in a county council setting,” she reflects.

“I do think the organisation could make it better known that this service is available and could do more to de-mystify the process,” she says.

*Name has been changed

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