Teaching Social Work Practice in the Shared Trauma of a Global Pandemic

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By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Unique clinical dynamics occur when both clinician and client are exposed to the same community traumatic event or reality. This reflection explores the applicability of the concept of shared trauma for social work educators in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The author describes her experiences shifting suddenly to teaching social work direct practice courses online, against the backdrop of a rapidly escalating coronavirus pandemic. Several parallels to the clinical concept of shared trauma are described, including a stronger emphasis on the mutuality of the teaching relationship, heightened emotional identification with students, and blurred professional boundaries in the student-teacher relationship. The author also describes significant differences between her own experiences and those of her students, recognizing that shared trauma is not always shared proportionately in environments of persistent racial and economic inequality. The chapter concludes with implications for educators working in shared trauma contexts, including the importance of self-care and administrative support. Teaching in a shared traumatic reality requires social work educators to stay cognizant of our connections to our students, as well as the disproportionate tolls of this pandemic.

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