The Social Work had not been a very clear concept until I decided to apply for this major of the University of Hong Kong, for I was majored in the Public Affairs Management of the undergraduate schooling. At that time, a general idea came to my mind that the Social Work is specialized in the concrete matters. It is also the reason why I choose this major for I hope to learn the practical skills rather than the abstract and virtual academic knowledge. However, there has been a worry existing in my heart that I am afraid what if I can not do anything to those who are seeking help and assistance, though I know it is just because my previous major are quite irrelevant the current one which make me a little bit nervous, for I am the kind of person that if I feel I am not qualified to help people then I will not prematurely offer help. So I need to be well-equipped myself in order to help people readily at any time. I think the two-year Master of Social Work program is also a journey for me to do the self-exploration. I am an ordinary person with flaws in personality, but I hope to better myself through the postgraduate.
In the arena of social work practice, it can be imagined that we as the potential social worker will take miscellaneous cases and confront with different kinds of clients. And I deem that we will not have too much right to choose which client we will deal with. In my views, I think I need to train myself to be a qualified social worker with a broad mind and high acceptance and tolerance. After contemplation, I think the clients who looked fierce and vicious might evoke images of my past experiences, especially my childhood experience.
I was a very shy and timid when I was a child. After reviewing my past, I deem that there are two reasons contributing to my cowardliness. The deep reason is the over-protection from my family members. Because my mother gave birth of me almost in dystocia, I always got illness for the not good physical quality. Therefore, all of my families and relatives especially took care of me. Especially my parents barely allowed me to play with other children after dinner, for they thought I was vulnerable easily to get hurt, which contributed me to a quite speechless and a coward child at that time. I often could not express my feelings well. For example, I barely talked back or defended for myself when the other kindergarten classmates bullied me. For this reason, I stilled remembered my mother taught me many time to protect myself. But I still did not change a bit in my childhood. And there is a piece of terrified memory in my childhood. It was a lingering memory that I was almost kidnapped at 3 years old and a half. In the lobby of a local hospital, my mother put my down and she went to fetch the medicines, a stranger just hold me in his arms when I was waiting for my mother and intended to take me away, coincidently encountering my uncle who was going to hospital to take us home around the gate of the hospital. I did not remember the exact look of that stranger but a very vicious image in my mind. Since then I was extremely afraid of people with fierce and ferocious look and barely dare to talk to the ones with that look.
3 The analysis of the Social Work Practice perspective
Though now I am a grown-up with critical thinking and rational judgment, I can control my fear when facing with such kind of person. Sometimes I feel that there is still a gap between myself and the impression of that kind of person, and I still try to keep distance with those kinds of people. Therefore, it is necessary to find out the possible influence on the future social work practice. After reviewing some books and articles, I think my fear about specific group would possibly trigger the countertransference in the future social work practice.
At one hand, I know the fear of the "look like vicious client" is existing in my mind; one the other hand, I hope I still can provide efficient assistance to him/her, and I do not want my pervious experience to hinder the intervention process. Sometimes, I am even doubted whether it is just an excuse for me to access something new. This self-inconsistency is what I am worried about.
First, I need to figure out what is countertransference. The technical term of countertransference was first time mentioned in 1910 by Freud (Gelso & Hayes, 1998). He thought that the countertransference is happened during the therapy session, because of the patient's influence on the therapist, the profession might react inappropriately against the professional requirement Reich (1951) subdivided the countertransference into two types: the "chronic" and the "acute". The former is based on the personal characteristics which have the fundamental influence on the human behaviors; the latter will possibly happen on the condition that confronting with the specific client in some specific circumstance. Contemporarily, referring to Bouchand, Normandin and Seguin, there are three types of countertransference: "1) Objective-rational countertransference as the neutral type; 2) Reactive countertransference as the conflictive one (something about the client might remind the social worker of not good past experience); 3) Reflective countertransference as the positive one (will motivate the social worker to have deeper insight into the client)"(1995).The contemporary views the countertransference from professions reactions to clients related to one's present/ past experiences or the characteristics of clients (James, 2008; Knight, 2006; Nichols, 2006).
In my perspective, the countertransference can be summarized as the unavoidable overt or covert reactions from the social worker triggered by some characteristic or experience of the clients, during the invention process or realized by social workers themselves, and the underlying reason for the reactions is the unsolved issues of the social worker.
Second, the potential effects of the countertransference can be positive for the social worker as well as the clients. The countertransference plays an important and influential role in the psychotherapy. Every coin has two sides, if the social worker can take the advantage of the countertransference, then the therapy process will be more beneficial for the client on the reason that the social worker will devote more energy and time on behalf of the client. In the light of the basic knowledge of the Social Work and the guidance of the Code of Practice for Registered Social Worker from NASW, some social workers can get an awareness of the emotional or feeling reactions towards the certain clients, then if they start to retrospect the underlying reason-their past experiences, it will be not only a good chance for the social worker to know herself/himself better and resolve the past issues but also provide more efficient help the clients from the deep insight of the reflection.
4 Personal plan of coping with countertransference
4.1 Coping with fear
According to the typical professional countertransference reactions summarized by Knight (2006) and Etherington (2002), my situation is quite similar to the "disliking certain types of clients" (Papalia, 2009). For my case, I think my internal feeing is fear for those "looked vicious people" and I might transpire with some covert dislikes if confronting them. It can be seen that my fear stems directly from the first impression. Based on the impression, it is prone to make prediction or anticipation of the people I first time meet with. Therefore, first, I should to learn to avoid the primacy effect by giving the psychological suggestion to myself like "He/she is just a client not exactly a bad person; I should be professional and so on", just like a self-talk, with several times of deep breath, which will help me clam down. Second, finding something in common can relieve the fear. When you undertake a high-stakes prediction, keep looking until you find some common ground, something you share with the person whose behaviors you seek to predict---this will help you see the situation as he perceives it.
4.2 Making the regular introspection
Though living in a city with rapid life tempo, there is still indispensible to squeeze time for myself and think about what I have been through. In my views, I can make the introspection through 3 different ways, first is the self-reflection, involving an analytical nonverbal dialogue with myself in order to discover and sort out the sources of feelings and perceptions. Everyday, a period of time is required to make retrospection and self-introspection, which I think it is a good way to train myself having a peaceful mind. For instance, I have a handy notepad, actually I have already written out a couple of them of ideas or short diaries since the first year in senior high school. Now I not only need to write what I am thinking about but also make some analytical thinking on what I have expressed on the diaries. Second, communication with close friends and relatives is also a good channel to know myself better. Just as the old saying "bystander is always clear-minded", I would like to talk to them getting some enlightening perspectives if I feel scared about someone. Third, watching films and the other mass media, I want to obtain positive reinforcement that the not good looking people are not always the bad people.
4.3 Learning self-control and relieving the negative emotion skills
Referring to the work of Hayes and Gelso, they put forward five effective factors of countertransference management. First is the self-integration, which is crucial in identifying with clients and set the necessary boundaries. Second is the anxiety management. The trait of anxiety is very typical in countertransference relationship between social worker and client. Third is the conceptualizing skill. It is a cognitive process for the social workers to master. Fourth is the empathy, by adjusting to client's feelings, the more likelihood of social worker will meet the client's need. The fifth is the self-insight. This point is quite similar with the self-reflection (1991).Through these five managing factors, social workers can do some self-training to control their negative emotions for the sake of avoidance to hinder the therapy.
Actually, I think it is the just the beginning of self-reflection. In the future, there will be more dilemmas for me to tackle and some clients might remind me of the other negative emotions or unpleasant memories, thus, I need to keep the habit of contemplating and introspecting as an imperative part of my daily life. Only in this way can I be sensible and keen to the emotional changes of my self. What we think will direct our behaviors. No matter what I will get through in the future, I will try my utmost to perfect myself in order to serve people with the consistent enthusiasm and endless efforts.