Breaking Barriers from Within

Mar 2, 2023

woman using smartphone, floating technology icons

By Lorrie R. Appleton, LCSW

When it comes to snap decisions, we can all benefit by pausing to reflect first

The theme for 2023 Social Work month is descriptive and inspiring: Social Work Breaks Barriers. At our best, social workers are analogous to super heroes. When clients and families are faced with challenges, we rise to the occasion.

Social workers advocate for justice, leap over mountains of agency red tape, and scale mountains of paperwork. We are laser focused on helping others. Here’s the question. 

Do social workers apply the same standards when responding to our own needs?  Read the story and see if you can relate:  

I did it again!

It’s 7:30 am. My day started with a tidy desk, a color-coded meeting calendar, and a sense of calm and hope.

Fast forward. It’s 4:30 p.m. My inbox is full, I am juggling projects and client requests, my papers are strewn across my work space, and I am leaving voice mails with abandon.  I appear frantic like Lucille Ball in the “I Love Lucy” episode where chocolates were careening down a conveyer belt and she was relegated to shoving candy into her mouth and down her dress.

My limbic system is on steroids. While I have the phone to my ear and my fingers are poised to reply to another email, I read a comment in a social work forum that I perceive to be offensive and caustic.  I respond with no cognitive filters and quickly press “Send.”

Although I experience momentary pride in standing up for the “little guy,” I am overtaken with dread and remorse. Am I going to be viewed as acting on the behalf of the underdog or as an unhinged lunatic?

Sound familiar?

We live in a time when “read, react, send, repeat” has become commonplace. Responses are either too short, (“Like,” “Love,” “GRRR” emojis), or way too long and opinionated.

Occasionally, we answer a simple question in a stream of consciousness with no particular objective other than to reference our own experience and chastise those who are clearly unenlightened.  (Sarcasm alert).  I believe we are well-intentioned; however, the impact of our words are commensurate with the amount of time used to craft our statement.

So, how can social workers side-step barriers and build bridges among us? How can we respond to our requests for help with civility?

How about a trying a new ritual: “Read, React, Send to Self, and Review.”  

I can rant all I want to myself. Then, I can read the post later and actually consider whether my posting would add value to the reader and provide actual guidance.

And here’s the best part: If I forget I wrote my “Note to Self,” then rest assured that others will respond and provide assistance. We get two for the price of one – all the adrenaline release with no regret!

Let’s face it. Breaking a barrier is so much more challenging than finding an overpass. Don’t you agree?

Lorrie Appleton

Lorrie R. Appleton, LCSW specializes in couples, family, and individual therapy. As a child, Lorrie aspired to be a comedian. Luckily, she discovered how clinical work and humor are perfect partners to advance problem solving and healing. Lorrie’s post-graduate experiences span over 40 years. Lorrie has practiced in a variety of settings including private practice, non-profit, inpatient psychiatric, military behavioral health, schools, corporations, and human service agencies. You can reach Lorrie at lorrieappleton@gmail.com

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