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Is being a social worker hard to do if you're an emotional person?

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Sabrina’s Answer

Hi there, yes, I think it makes it harder, having spent 9 years working at a homeless shelter myself and being a fellow empath that tends to feel everybody's emotions. However, it also helps you serve people better because you also likely have a deep sense of compassion and understanding of people's situations when maybe others simply judge them and move on. It's important to have regular time away from your work, even if it is just a Friday off here and there. It's important to have a hobby or something to turn to at home that completely engages your brain and gives you a break from thinking about whatever you encountered during the day. Learning how to set boundaries is also important. You can do some research about setting emotional boundaries. I didn't understand this when I started in my 20s and it contributed to my burnout because the work of a nonprofit organization never ends, so the temptation is to constantly work with your heart and soul 24 hours a day. However, you need to also preserve yourself so you can continue to be an asset and help people. Hope this gives you some insight.

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Gretchen’s Answer

I have a Master of Social Work and am an empath. I personally found it hard to be a social worker because my feelings of connection with the clients I served were intense. In my experience , being a successful social worker means learning how to make a connection with clients that includes the right level of objectivity or distance. This balance makes it better for you to ask questions and deliver services that help the client gain insight to help themselves. In addition, you don't want your feelings to overwhelm you or your clients. (If you client has to worry about making you sad, then the client can't focus on their needs.)

But have no fear!

Being an emotional person will be a benefit to you in a helping profession. The skill you need to develop is managing your feeling so they don't (a) overwhelm you or your client(s), and (b) you can be in the right place to ask insightful questions/offer resources to help the client develop the answers they need to grow.

In social work, there is something called "supervision." This is a formal process where someone more senior to you offers you regular "therapy" focused on your work/client life. The point is to help you process your feelings about and in relation to your clients so you can be a better helper to them. I remember one time when I was working with with homeless people - I felt guilty because I had a home and money in the bank. I talked with my supervisor about it and she helped me see that my role was to make sure my clients had the same privileges that I did. This supervision helped me transform my guilt into a renewed commitment to helping my clients achieve their goals of housing and financial success.