Produced by Hannah
BA (Hons) Social Work
During my second year studying Social Work, I completed a 70-day placement working in substance misuse with adults in the community. For my course, the placement is mandatory, therefore the pressure was taken off finding it myself, as this was down to the course academic leads to match us. Whether your course includes a mandatory placement or the opportunity to undertake a placement as an option, I’d highly recommend it to prepare yourself for your future career and to meet contacts.
During my placement, I began shadowing the recovery navigators whilst they undertook 1-1 key working with service users and group sessions with the focus being around thinking patterns, behaviours, and self-esteem. I soon established my own case load, managing my own clients around their well-being, addiction, mental health and focusing on their recovery. I would run women’s group weekly and co-facilitate mixed groups, online and in person. I ran wellbeing check ins regularly on a 1:1 basis and had a weekly initial assessment slot. I incorporated psychosocial interventions to work alongside those in recovery, making the appropriate and necessary referrals to ensure they received support in all areas of their lives. I updated and took risk assessments, care plans and initial assessments, establishing efficient relationships with the service users.
I gained insight working alongside the mental health nurse, understanding medication, and prescribing options, harm reductions interventions and attending workshops to enhance my knowledge and understanding around bereavement, suicide, safe sex and homelessness.
I was able to work closely with social service cases, including child protection, exploring interventions with the wider family unit, escalating situations to child protection when necessary. I worked closely with mental health disorders, those with a dual diagnosis and communicated with community mental health teams, hospitals, and probation officers.
Once I’d completed my mandatory 70 days, I continued volunteering for Reach expanding my case load, for a further 4 months. The experience I gained on this placement was invaluable, opening opportunities for me to have paid experience in the local prisons within the substance misuse teams. I was able to take on lots of voluntary training, adding to my CV, which demonstrates to future employers my knowledge around subjects such as domestic violence and interventions such as motivational interviewing.
The support I received from the university whilst on placement was great. I had a practice tutor who assisted with regular meetings, a practice educator who ran supervision around my studies and wellbeing fortnightly, and a placement mentor who I worked closely with and ran supervision around managing my caseload alternative weeks. I found the workload manageable as I was given the opportunity to have regular meetings with them around concerns, I might have had at balancing my academic studies, placement, my wellbeing, as well as areas I might want further training in. I was able to voice areas of interest or areas I’d like more responsibility in, for example, leading a women’s group and having a regular initial assessment slot, to strengthen my learning.
I strongly believe the contacts I made and opportunities that were made available to me to learn, added to my growing confidence at establishing relationships with vulnerable adults in the community. I still remember sitting in my first session, overthinking my own body language, what to say next and how to build relationships with these service users who were being so honest about something so sensitive in their lives. Now, as much as there’s still so much to learn, I feel my confidence has developed at understanding my career choice and being offered further opportunities to get me career ready.
You’re in a safe environment on placement, where you’re able to ask questions, explore and learn, with low risks as you’re so closely under supervision. So, if you find yourself being offered a placement opportunity, embrace it! Accept all opportunities offered to you, every meeting, experience, responsibility, training course, because it could just be the opening to many new doors to help you advance within your career.