Posted: August 6th, 2022

Demonstrate Ethical & Professional Behavior

Learning Products (Evidence of Meeting Competencies)

Competency 1: Demonstrate Ethical & Professional Behavior
Conducting yourself as a professional is a distinct difference between how you act as a professional and the way you are in your personal life. Professionalism is demonstrated in the way you interact with those who are your superiors and colleagues. It also includes how we speak with and advocate for our clients. This is exhibited by appropriate behavior that is approved according to the NASW Code of Ethics. Conducting oneself as a professional is distinct from how you portray yourself in your personal life. Professionalism can be demonstrated in how you interact with your superiors and colleagues, speak to, or advocate for our clients, and even exhibit behavior approved by the NASW Code of Ethics. The learning project that I chose for this competency is the Agency Assignment.
The agency assignment was an incredible opportunity for me to gather extensive experience as a student intern and professional. I was asked to perform different tasks that pertained to social work and case management in my field placement, such as the populations that we were providing services to and the role I would be fulfilling at the agency. This assignment also involved understanding cultural and ethical dilemmas that could arise at the agency and functioning as a social worker in the field.
This assignment helped me fulfill this competency by using my critical thinking skills to answer questions that arose both from clients and colleagues. In the project, I wrote about the substance use population that I worked with, their needs would be met not only in the facility but also after their discharge. how to dress appropriately, and respect the dignity and worth of the clients. I also spoke of working closely with clients to ensure that
In this internship, I was also taught how important it is to maintain a professional approach to interactions. With my previous experience in recovery, it was sometimes easy to get the lines blurred from a recovery aspect, especially since I am personally in recovery to a professional relationship. This was difficult, but I learned that I could illicit more interactions individually and in a group setting.
I can also better understand that there are several areas of service that Catholic Charities St. Luke’s provided. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the placement, I was taught that there are boundaries that a social worker must practice. Within the facility, we work with the legal system, medical and mental health providers. Although these agencies work together, there is a mutual respect that prohibits overstepping the roles involved within each agency. In essence, we learn to work in collaboration with one another to provide the best quality care.
Competency 2 Engage diversity and difference in practice.
The ethical principle addressed in competency two is making decisions that apply to the NASW guidelines. It entails managing our values as social workers while also allowing professional values to direct our practice. This is especially true when working with clients, as we must remain professional in all interactions. The assignment that I chose that helped me demonstrate this competency is The Day it Snowed in Miami.
This assignment allowed me to have a greater understanding of the challenges that various populations endure for who they are as a person. Gaining the vast knowledge of the discrimination that is portrayed and inflicted by others has opened my eyes to the fact that ethical principles play a major role in who I am as a social worker. Knowing that I can advocate for change and fight the injustices in society has enlightened my view of each population and culture that I will be working with.
This assignment focused on the LGBTQ community, which has also intrigued me since my mother was a lesbian. I saw firsthand the discrimination she faced in the late 1970s through the 1980s. Watching this helped me understand that there is such a diverse population in the community, and each has its own needs. Enlarging my views on this community allowed me to engage with clients of the LGBTQ community from a different perspective. It also opened the door for a more profound sense of commitment to equality and working with a more significant diverse population.
I was also able to apply competency 2 in various ways during my internship, but none was more important than working with a female client of Hispanic descent. Not only was it my first intake with a female, but she also experienced substantial trauma in her life. Having prior knowledge of the trauma, I prepared differently from other intakes I had done previously.
The client showed courage by expressing the amount of sexual abuse she had experienced. During the intake process, I began to observe the emotional toll it took on my client when sharing her story, and I displayed a form of acknowledgment and was able to validate the overwhelming feelings she was feeling. I reassured her that it is okay to take her time, that she was brave, and that it was not her fault.
This was something that I had to take great care in doing as it was different from the other intakes I had done previously. Although it was challenging, it gave me a greater appreciation of the differences between ethnic backgrounds I would be working with and a better chance to implement different strategies when working with clients. With this experience, I understood how important it is to realize that intakes should be done concerning the culture and tailored for the individual.
Competency 3: Advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice
Having critical thinking skills is essential to having a social work career. As social workers, we are continually working towards finding new and effective ways of approaching situations and working on ways of intervening and helping to change them. This competency is specifically designed to stress the importance of how we can effectively communicate verbally, electronically, and in writing. The assignment I chose for this competency is Designing a Group Proposal.
Designing a group proposal was an assignment that I was tasked with designing a proposal for a new group. Within this, I was asked to find an unmet need that a group and agency could be further met. While at my internship, I was given the task of running a Living in Balance group weekly. In running this group, I had to decide which topic would be discussed each week. Although other colleagues ran the group during the week as well, the topic I chose needed to be reflective of the needs of the clients.
Another thing that played a significant role in my learning during my internship was the focus on social and economic justice for my clients. I was tasked with helping several clients with their stimulus checks and verification to receive them. Although doing a non-filers return was but the first step, there was also a personal identification process that my clients had to take part in. Given the fact that most clients had no permanent address or bank account, we had to physically call the IRS to do the verification. Often this was difficult, but with advocation and a willingness from the client, we were able to accomplish the goal of helping them get their stimulus checks.
I was also tasked with working towards advancing my client’s human rights. There were several incidents where a client felt their rights were being violated, whether it was through the court system or psychiatric care. To take care of the client’s perception, we would talk to the probational/conditional release officer or psychiatrist and work on restoring rights that the client felt were not being upheld. Often this was an issue when it came to the court system as there were legal problems that lead to why they were placed in the center.
Through running groups, I was able to gain a better understanding of how clients felt their rights were not being upheld and where they believed they should be held. Allowing clients and other staff to help intervene proved to be a necessity since I was still in the process of learning. These interventions provided me with substantial information that allowed me to continue to move forward.
Through discussions with my supervisor, clients and applying critical thinking, I was able to formulate a plan for each week’s groups. The group was tailored to allow for substantial participation by the clients while also respecting those that did not want to talk during the group. The assignment itself allowed me to cover another population that I know has needs to be met. For this, I chose sex trafficked victims and small groups that not only protected the participants but also allowed for a greater support system.
Competency 4: Engage in research-informed practice and practice-informed research
Social work practice understands how individuals face alienation, oppression, self-perceived privilege, and power and marginalization. This competency is directly linked to learning about different cultures from others, such as clients, research, and collaboration with other colleagues. It also entails ensuring that we research material to keep current with new and innovative services as they become available. This leads to better use of the evidence-based practice in the social work field. Without this form of research, we are denying our clients the quality of services and interventions that they deserve. The assignment I chose for this competency was Designing a Group Proposal.
This assignment was something that I enjoyed working on as I had a chance to research what would benefit my group the best. Not having much knowledge of female victims of trafficking, I had to engage in extensive research to gain a better understanding of their needs. While engaging in this practice for the assignment, I was able to learn much about mental health, substance use, and other potential needs that may arise as members of the group begin to feel comfortable.
I was also able to use this assignment as a guide to better understand that there are other organizations that may have more information as well. This makes it important to be willing to gather information not only from written material but other outside sources. Due to this action, I put together a better group and ensure that the needs of clients can not only be met on a group level, but also an individual level as well.
While at my internship, I learned how important it is to research things to provide the most beneficial and current care to my clients. When being tasked with running various groups at the facility, I realized that I would need extensive information if I were to present the material appropriately. A key example would be a group I did on grief. Although I understood what grief was, I never really parlayed it on a substance use model. I had to take time to do further research on how grief played a role in substance use recovery and helping to facilitate growth with my clients. Having done this research, I was then able to implement what I had learned into the group setting.
This also held true when I ran Living in Balance Groups. These groups focused on various aspects of issues that one could be faced in recovery. Some of these subjects proved to be more difficult than others to present. When these issues presented themselves to me, I would reach out to my field supervisor, who would often refer me to additional material to use in the group setting. Going through these materials allowed me to incorporate additional information that was pertinent to what I was going to present.
As a result of doing this research, I learned how important it is to be as informed as possible when not only working in group settings but also with individuals. Often it is easy to work based on current knowledge, but we must also remember that as things are researched, they can present better tools for engagement. This is one competency that I was grateful to have more qualified input from those around me and in written material, whether it be from publications or internet searches. I believe that this is something that will continue to allow me to provide the best continuum of care to future clients.
Competency 5: Engage in policy practice
All through the program, I have seen myself not only apply this specific competency several times. For me, it is about understanding how discrimination and oppression impact us all in society. It is seen in schools, careers, agencies, and the medical/psychiatric field. We see it with our clients and within communities. It is up to us to take the next step in advancing human rights, social and economic justice. The assignment I will be sharing is the Response paper: 13th Amendment.
The documentary 13th was an eye-opening experience in learning about discrimination and the injustices that are inflicted on different ethnic backgrounds. I have seen myself apply this principle in my personal life on many occasions. I can remember as a teenager working along the side of those who ran the organization Rock Against Racism. This was but a start on my path of advocation for human rights and social justice for all.
When working with Rock Against Racism, I learned at an early age that working on policy changes was a vital part of society. At this time, there were not many policies in the Boston area that truly worked on fighting discrimination, especially in the poor neighborhoods, quite like the one in which I lived. As a group, we attended monthly political committee meetings and advocated for changes in laws that helped fight discrimination. Although success was minimal, I learned a lot about working within political circles.
My field placement has been able to assist me in meeting this competency by allowing me to engage in policy practice in many different forms. In doing so, I was able to determine the numerous needs that my clients had within the agency. Being allowed to interact and move forward with procuring these needs has taught me the intricacies of working with other organizations and move forward towards providing clients with important issues in working towards recovery.
I was able to learn that the need for policy change was predominant in the areas of healthcare, economic justice, and housing, and so many other areas that affected my clients. It also allowed me to understand how important it is to be active within the community to ensure that these challenges could be met at a local level by attending community meetings or other gatherings that allowed me to address the changes that needed to be made and advocate for our clients.
A prime example is working with my clients to obtain services that were vital to their recovery. One of the organizations that we interact with is Ryan White which serves that HIV community. One of the things that they do is provide funding for clients at St Luke’s. There have been numerous times where we have had to obtain additional funding for the client to effectively discharge from the program. Although this is at times met with resistance, the need of the client has come first, and a compromise has been met. While they have their own policies in place with regards to funding, we have been able to facilitate some change through advocation.
This is also shown when trying to procure housing for clients. Often when a client is ready to be discharged, they lack stable housing to be successful in the community. Many of the organizations that we have worked with require prospective residents to have employment and some funds to provide upon acceptance. While these policies are in place for specific reasons related to the proposed housing, it has been something that we have been able to advocate for in adjusting policy when needed.
Many clients fail to seek help from organizations that are there to help them because they feel they will be looked down upon. This feeling is derived from the fact in their past, they have, in fact, have been shunned or cast aside by those around them. The idea that I try to help clients to see is that one day at a time, they can make a change not only for themselves but that of the community where they reside. With all this said, my agency has taught me the importance of engaging in policy practice on an organizational and individual level.

Competency 6: Engage with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
In the social work program at FIU, I have been taught that research and practicing informed behavior are essential to social work. This means that I need to take time to research and constantly look for any new information that may be available. Although certain information may not pertain to one client, the chances are that another client can use the information that is found through research. Practice-informed behavior is also a key element in working with clients. If we were to not have the proper information for our clients, then we would be doing an injustice to their needs and growth. For this competency, I chose the Individual & Family Assessment.
I was able to take this knowledge with me to the field and do assessments with clients. While it was a challenge at the start due to having a new format, I was able to adapt and form an approach that worked within the guidelines. I had to keep in mind that each client would have a different approach, would be more emotional than others, or would want to rush through it. Although this was sometimes frustrating, I came to terms that the assessment is what allowed the facility to gain a better understanding of the client’s needs and the direction they would need to take to move onto a sober lifestyle.
While individuals were just the beginning, I learned how to work with groups and organizations on a more productive approach. I found that to engage with the various groups, and I had to ensure that I was prepared for the session. At times this also required me to reach out to an organization for more information on the topic that was going to be discussed.
While I have personal experience running groups, I had to break away from my previous experience and change the ways I conducted groups. The principal reason was that there were different standards that I had to comply with. In the beginning, this was difficult, but the more groups I ran, the more comfortable I became. This has been a wonderful learning experience as I have learned that there are more ways to interact with groups than relying on my personal life experiences.
Another aspect that changed and enhanced my work was working at Fresh Start of Miami Dade. Within this organization, there was a very diverse population of clients that would need services. The community itself also had needs that needed to be met, whether it was through advocating for funds, materials, and food. It enhanced my knowledge of what proper work within an organization entailed, and the engagement that I was able to have most gratifying.
While at my internship, I was afforded the opportunity to have direct interactions with clients. Through interacting with them, I was able to learn more about the clients as a person, their current situation, and the goals that they had for discharge. Often, they had goals that may seem out of reach, but we were able to work together to plan smaller goals and move forward from there. This was something that kept me grounded when working with clients.
There are also times when I have had to engage with other organizations such as Jackson Health, Camillus House, or Social Security to assist my clients. This communication allowed me to help meet the needs of the clients and provided a chance for me to learn more about the other organizations that I would need to interact with on an almost daily basis. This has been something that has had a great impact on the way I engage with my clients and those that would be most beneficial in assisting in their recovery.
Competency 7: Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
In the social work program at FIU, I have been taught that research and practicing informed behavior are essential to social work. This means that I need to take time to research and constantly look for any new information that may be available. Although certain information may not pertain to one client, the chances are that another client can use the information that is found through research. Practice-informed behavior is also a key element in working with clients. If we were to not have the proper information for our clients, then we would be doing an injustice to their needs and growth. For this competency, I chose the Individual & Family Assessment.
I was able to take this knowledge with me to the field and do assessments with clients. While it was a challenge at the start due to having a new format, I was able to adapt and form an approach that worked within the guidelines. I had to keep in mind that each client would have a different approach, would be more emotional than others, or would want to rush through it. Although this was sometimes frustrating, I came to terms that the assessment is what allowed the facility to gain a better understanding of the client’s needs and the direction they would need to take to move onto a sober lifestyle.
While individuals were just the beginning, I learned how to work with groups and organizations on a more productive approach. I found that to engage with groups, I had to ensure that I was prepared for the session. At times this also required me to reach out to an organization for more information on the topic that was going to be discussed.
While I have personal experience running groups, I had to break away from my previous experience and change the ways I conducted groups. The principal reason was that there were different standards that I had to comply with. In the beginning, this was difficult but the more groups I ran the more comfortable I became. This has been a wonderful learning experience as I have learned that there are more ways to interact with groups than relying on my personal life experiences.
Another aspect that changed and enhanced my work was working at Fresh Start of Miami Dade. Within this organization, there was a very diverse population of clients that would need services. The community itself also had needs that needed to be met, whether it was through advocating for funds, materials, and food. The enhanced my knowledge of what proper work within an organization entailed, and the engagement that I was able to have was most gratifying.
While at my internship, I have been tasked with doing intakes and assessments on clients. This experience has often been an eye-opening experience for me as I have been able to gain a greater understanding of the client personally and what has precipitated their substance use. It has also taught me that each person that comes into the facility has their own unique story. Although some may mirror others, it has been important to understand that their needs will vary.
Doing assessment has also played a substantial role in how treatment plans are implemented. Not doing a complete assessment is detrimental to the overall process of recovery. If a specific problem or history is not discussed, future treatment ideas and implementation can not only cause harm to the client but may also mislead future interventions and other assessments that may be conducted at other agencies; thus, it has been important for me to be as thorough as possible during this process.
Although doing assessments and intakes would be difficult at times, I had to maintain my focus, especially when a client had similar experiences to my own. Keeping my personal life separate was vital in keeping the relationship on a professional basis and not let personal feelings interact with the task at hand. In doing so, I was able to maintain a professional approach yet be able to meet the client where they are at in their recovery process.
Competency 8: Intervene with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
Intervening with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities is something that I believe is vital in social work. In doing so, we not only involve ourselves in seeking solutions but also are able to provide those we work with to be a part of the solution. This promotes a healthy working relationship that can be built upon and allow future interventions to be successful as needed.
For this competency, I chose the Case Assessment. This involves working with a client that was introducing a problem and needs assistance in meeting goals. It is my responsibility to use critical thinking to access their current and future needs while at the program. Doing an assessment is an all-encompassing assignment and practical experience that demonstrates why knowledge of human behavior is vital to those that we work with. In this assessment, I must take the time to look past their past and their present circumstances to find the best possible interventions.
While I was at my internship, I learned that an intervention is much more than just what the client’s current situation entails. Often there are medical and psychiatric needs that need to be addressed. Often, this is not capable of being done without some sort of intervention. To make such interventions possible, it was vital that I communicated with others the needs of the client.
An example of providing appropriate intervention was when I had a client that had talked about suicide. While this is something that I have some previous experience with, the actions of the facility were different than what I had used in the past. The first part of the intervention involved having another staff member sit with the client while I went to talk to the therapist and informed them of the situation.
Once the therapist was aware and had some background on what was happening, we were able to sit with the client together and discuss what was going on. We learned that the client had recently lost custody of her children and was distraught due to it happening. Working as a team, the therapist and I were able to assist the client in understanding that a suicide attempt would not help her in a possible reunion with her children but instead would deny her of a chance of perhaps gaining visitation and seeing the children grow.
While this has a difficult intervention for me to encounter, there have been others on a lesser scale. There have been interventions on clothing needs, financial needs, and work with probation officers. Taking the time to work in these areas has enhanced my understanding of how various interventions directly affect the client. It may seem daunting at first, but often the result is one of gratification knowing that we played a role in changing the lives of our clients.
Competency 9: Evaluate Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
Evaluating practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities is something that I find to be integral when functioning as a social worker. In the ever-changing spectrum of society, taking the time to look at how we engage those we work with is of ever-increasing importance. Knowing that general practice can and will change over time is something that needs to be continuously taken into consideration. By practicing this competency, we can ensure that we are not only practicing evidence-based engagements, but also quality service tailored to the person, groups, or organizations that we work with.
The assignment that helped me to look at and evaluate practice is the Treatment Plan. It is with this assignment that I had to apply critical thinking and work with the client to evaluate progress or make necessary goal changes and desired outcomes from the plan. We needed to be able to look at goals and ensure that we used the SMART format. By doing so, we had a more effective tool that we could use.
Conducting the evaluation also allowed us to look at any behavioral patterns that might pose a risk to maintaining adequate progress on the client’s goals. One instance that I had at my internship was with a client who would relapse each time he went on a pass. We were able to pinpoint where the issue was when he did go on pass. Processing this, we were both able to look over and dissect where the possible problems were and adjust his treatment plan.
At times, evaluating individuals and groups was challenging. On several occasions, I was able to be an evaluator of how groups were run and whether the group was moving in a positive direction. I understand that this is not always possible given the different make-up of the groups. With the information that I gathered, I was able to have discussions with my supervisor and learn new tools for evaluations. Without using evaluation as a tool, we would never be able to implement plans that ensured future success.
Professional Growth and Lessons Learned
As a young adult, I had wanted to have a career in a helping profession, and I just was not sure which one at that time. When around others, I often felt frustrated because I knew I could help but lacked the proper schooling and training to help facilitate change for others. The adults that I surrounded myself with suggested social work as a potential field of study and work. Although I did not know it at the time, their suggestions were a driving force in my life. Initially, I thought of possibly psychology or the medical field but also knew there would be numerous obstacles to overcome. While I have great respect for these professions, they seemed like something that I would not be able to accomplish. In the medical field, I realized that I would have issues with certain situations with patients. In terms of being a psychologist, I did not particularly like the idea of just spending a day in an office. While these have the qualities that I wanted in a profession, they were not something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life.
Social work was never a true career option until I started working as a Peer Specialist and working with a psychology professor during my time at Miami Dade College. I remember going to Professor Heastie’s office asking for guidance on a potential major since I had started my educational path. We discussed various occupations during our sessions, and it was he who finally provided a positive impression of the social work field. He went to great lengths to explain the many positives that the field had and how rewarding it would be to see someone accomplish the goals that they had set during our sessions.
It was as if I had my eyes opened to the world and that I was finally ready to be a part of it. While I thought I was already a part of it, my perceptions undertook a profound change. Not only in the way I could step up, so to speak, but also be a voice of resilience, empathy, compassion, and hope. These were qualities that I knew I had but never knew to enhance further.
After concluding that social work was the field, I truly wanted to be a part of, I became more observant of those I worked with and saw the real differences that they were making in others. As I became more aware, I realized that not only were social workers in the general community, but they were in hospitals, schools, colleges, and other facilities. In essence, social workers were everywhere, wanting to help others.
While studying at Miami Dade College, I was unsure of which school to attend as there were many to choose from. After further discussions with my professor, it became apparent that Florida International University should be the choice. He explained that FIU had one of the best social work programs in the country, and that was something I desired and wanted to pursue the best possible education I could get. I believed that FIU would help me accomplish this.
When I entered the program, some of my goals were to gain a better understanding of the overall role of a social worker. I realized that to accomplish this that I needed to become educated on all aspects of the field. I needed to be more self-aware, refined and to gain confidence in the abilities that I already possessed from being a peer specialist. I also had to understand that while I did have some knowledge, there was so much more to learn.
During my Social work with Groups class, Professor Gray taught me that although we may have experience running groups with various populations that adjustments will need to be made as we work with our clients. While groups are essential, it is also important to understand that each one needs to be tailored to meet the needs of those in attendance. Doing this must include research, communication with superiors for approval, or additional insight. Keeping this in mind, it is important that I be self-aware of my potential triggers and to always practice self-care.
It was during this class that I was able to share my own personal experience running groups as a peer specialist. While this experience was invaluable to my learning experience, there was extensive new information that was provided during the class that I will be able to integrate into my future as a social worker. Part of this, perhaps is from my own experiences but having gained proper education has only enhanced where I am at today when working with others.
As I moved through classes, I was challenged to look at all areas of social work. It was a challenge that I readily accepted and wanted to excel in. I began to understand that there was so much more than just extending a helping hand. I learned that not only was social work about helping people, but it was also abundant with political and community advocation, but also learning how to work within different cultures and extending proper respect to their traditions.
While I thought I had confidence going into the process of becoming a social worker. I learned that the confidence of being a peer specialist and a social worker is on separate platforms. There is much more to being a social worker and a peer than I thought imaginable. I am grateful to have been placed in a new direction of professionalism.
Overall, the social work program began with someone who thought they had a good understanding of what it takes to be a social worker, but that view has changed dramatically. There are strengths that I never saw in myself before, and the program helped me to find and enhance them. I know that this career is going to be a never-ending journey of self-growth but also the growth of the communities that I will work with. While I will continue to accomplish the goals that I set forth, there will be those that are continuously created to continue to enhance not only my knowledge but to provide more efficient service. I know that the education and experience I have gained in this program will be carried into the field in my future practice as a social worker.
Having taken all the information, I have learned thus far into the field has benefited me in ways I never thought imaginable. I have been able to work with clients in ways that showed them the utmost respect and dignity. I have been able to respect their various cultures and traditions and to make them feel comfortable in the intake and assessment process. While working on policy practice has been limited, I was able to advocate for one change that has enhanced the quality of participation from my clients. I have also been tasked with running groups which is something that has come naturally for me in a social work setting since I have previous experience. That, however, does not mean that I cannot learn new approaches from others.

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