How to put off writing notes? Writing blog entries!

2 11 2010

I love writing. It’s kind of why I do this blogging thing. I was worried, when I started social work school, that I wouldn’t have time to write anymore. But I was wrong.

I just don’t have much time to write things that I like.

Most social work job listings (not that I’ve been looking) specify that they are looking for someone with good writing skills. I don’t think most people think of this as a field that requires tons of writing.

Let’s all take a minute to laugh at those people, shall we?

Document, document, document. It is the social work mantra. (Well, that and “be nice to each other.”) If you’ve written it down once, surely that isn’t enough. At my job, we have one computer system where we enter contacts that we have with clients. Seeing them in the office, seeing them on home visits, running into them in the bodega (seriously) it all goes in. Along with the purpose of the visit, who you saw, how long it went for, and if anyone looked fat.

Then you get to write progress notes. Every social worker’s dream. (Did a chill just go up anyone’s spine? Just me? Oh, OK.) This is where you record everything else. Did you see the kids? Did any of them have marks or bruises? How was everyone dressed? What did you talk about? If you were in the home, was it clean? Was there food? Why were you there? Type faster, dammit, you’ve got four other people to see today!

I’m beginning to suspect that my computer judges me when I take too long to get my notes done.

Notes can be difficult. It’s like reliving a session. Sometimes, this is fine. We played with play-doh, talked about how we feel about Deadbeat Dad, and drew a picture of an angry monster.

Sometimes, it’s not.

Hmm, what happened first? Well, I think the teen revealed that she had a girlfriend. Then mom screamed at her. Then the teen stormed out. Oh no wait, first she told her mother to “fuck off.” Never mind, she stormed out, came back for her jacket, then told her mother to fuck off.

Am I allowed to write “fuck” in a progress note?

It’s better than social work school, though. In social work school you have a smaller caseload, because you’re in the office for fewer days, but you are still expected to do all the usual documentation. With one additional assignment.

PROCESS RECORDINGS. (OK, I know you all felt it get colder in here that time!)

Is there anything worse than a process recording? Really, one thing, aside from waterboarding?

For those who might be unfamiliar, there are some variations, but here are the basics. One starts off a process recording by making a nifty three column chart. This is where the fun ends.

The first column is where you write what happened in the session. Not bad, right? We do that in the progress notes!

Oh, you poor, naive bastard.

Process recordings are verbatim. Write down word for word what was said in that 45 minute meeting. And don’t leave anything out! You think it’s unimportant, but what the hell do you know? The kid interrupted you? Interesting. The dad needed a bathroom break? Was this before or after you brought up depression screenings? How long was he in there for?

The second column is where you write about the therapeutic interventions and theories you were using. “Yes, that was one of Minuchin’s techniques.” “I brought in CBT to the process.” “I’m going to say this was Freudian, but I’m pulling that out of my ass.”

Then in the third column, talk about how you were feeling while all of this was going on. “I was nervous when she brought this up.” “I experienced some counter transference at this point.”

It’s all so social work-y I could die.

The real fun happens when your supervisor goes over it with a red pen, tearing your work apart and convincing you you’ll never have a clue as to what you’re doing.

But thank goodness we get beyond that. I’ve grown into such a confident, competent, worker.

No time to write about it now, though. I’ve been working on this same note for three hours, and I’m having an anxiety attack about handing it in.

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13 responses

2 11 2010
Aisha

Hi this help me a lot. Are you a social worker right? what is the most beneficials for you to be a social worker and what are difficult tasks for your job requirements and requirements or communication between client and yourself?

I want to be a social worker oneday.

3 11 2010
socialjerk

Hey, thanks for reading and commenting! I am definitely a social worker. Getting a good social work education is the most important thing I’ve done for my work. I spoke with another social worker about a lot of these questions recently, so you might find this helpful: http://www.dorleem.com/2010/09/what-is-social-work-in-child-welfare.html

Good luck!

2 11 2010
Fos

It’s like you read my mind! I was thinking today about how tiresome running records are. I make a phone call, write it down. Send an email, write it down. Make a visit, exhaustive detailing about the whole thing.

Good to hear it’s the same over the pond. 🙂

3 11 2010
socialjerk

I am glad to hear this, but also a little disappointed to discover that I can’t escape all my problems by running away to London 🙂

3 11 2010
Carolyn

Very timely. I woke up in the middle of the night last night (’round about 3:00 a.m.) so that I could panic about letters that I have to write today. I love my job, really I do. I just need to change my job title from Social Worker to Professional Begger!

3 11 2010
socialjerk

I am panicking about phone calls right now. Job anxiety that keeps you up or gives you nightmares is the worst!

4 11 2010
cb

Yep, can definitely empathise with this one. I find recording embarrassingly tedious because I know how important it is but you know, I think it’s just because I’m a ‘talker’ type. Saying that, I don’t mind writing in other contexts, it’s just the relaying of the standard visits and going over them about so many times.
Process recording – argh. Haven’t done that for a while but I always ask the students who come to spend time with me to do it.. 😉 I do wonder sometimes if they are being wholly honest with me when they enthuse about how useful it is. 🙂

4 11 2010
socialjerk

When I have an intern some day, I will definitely make him or her write process recordings. Whether that is because I find them to be a useful learning tool, or because we must all experience that pain, I’m not sure 🙂

4 11 2010
KatjaMichelle

Wow, not sure how I managed to get so lucky. I made it through my BSW and my MSW without having to do process recordings at any of my three practicums. Maybe it was that my profs were more of the touchy feely “journal how you feel after each day at your internship” types. Of course I did have to do recorded interviews and then sit in an office just me and the prof and analyze it to death.

4 11 2010
socialjerk

Wow, it does sound like you were pretty fortunate. Though recorded interviews sound rough…and by “rough” I mean like an anxiety attack waiting to happen. Thanks for reading!

14 11 2010
njsmyth

Just wanted to let you know that I shared the email with this blog post with our social work faculty, and at least one professor shared it with his students–he told me they all really enjoyed it. I told him to encourage them to comment on your blog itself, but no one ever listens to me on this kind of thing!

15 11 2010
socialjerk

Thanks so much! That’s awesome! I appreciate the plug 🙂

3 04 2013
Megan

Yes!! Amazing. Read this as I was pouring over my water boarding session…I mean process recordings 🙂 thanks for the laughs!

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