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Ensuring social work perspectives are valued: week five at the Summer Institute

It’s the penultimate week at the Summer Institute, and communication has played a big part in this week’s learning.

Communication skills are hugely important for social workers in many elements of their job. Of course, being able to build relationships with service users is crucial – as Frances Turner, an experienced mental health social worker and one of Think Ahead’s Practice Specialists, explains: “Two-way communication is really important – making sure you’re really listening to people, hearing their stories and understanding their strengths and the challenges that they are facing.”

Good communication helps you to get to a point where the service user trusts you, and can work with you in making a plan to build on their strengths and address any issues.

Frances Turner, Think Ahead Practice Specialist

But these skills are also essential for communicating with other professionals, as Frances explains:  “Social workers work in multi-disciplinary teams, alongside psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, nurses, and other professionals – communication skills are vital to ensure that social work perspectives are a valued part of the team’s work.”

The week’s teaching included practical sessions where participants role-played with actors, who represented service users experiencing depression. “The practical sessions this week were really good. Learning about communication skills in just an academic way can become quite wooden, so it was great to role-play with an actor,” said Katie Meadows, a 2016 participant.

“We were reminded that we’re doing lots of academic learning on the programme which is really important, but when we go into practice we need to be human as well – we have good qualities as human beings.”

The Institute was also visited by Helen Bevan, Chief Transformation Officer for NHS England, on Wednesday evening. Helen spoke to participants about leading change in organisations, and explained her approach of rocking the boat but still staying in it.

Anna Segal, another 2016 participant, said: “The leadership session this week was brilliant – I thought it was really pertinent to what we are learning. Helen talked about managing the balance between being a rebel and a conformist. It was engaging and inspiring, I enjoyed being encouraged to challenge and to debate ideas.”

Next week is the final week of the Summer Institute, and teaching will focus on preparing for practice.

You can follow more from our Summer Institute at #ThinkAheadSI

Read about our Week OneWeek TwoWeek Three and Week Four.