The Use and Care of Self when Engaging in Rights-Based Clinical Practice

  • S. Megan BertholdEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Rights-Based Approaches to Social Work book series (SBHRSWP)


The concluding chapter, Chapter 5, examines the social work practitioner’s use and care of self in engaging in rights-based practice. Human rights instruments that support social workers’ right to leisure, health and well-being are identified. The practitioner’s ethical duty to remain deeply self-reflective and aware of the impact of his or her work and approach on self and those they work with is also highlighted. Application of cultural humility and other core principles of a rights-based approach to practice are infused throughout this chapter. The vital need for social workers to deepen their skills of self-awareness and continually reflect on their own values, biases, assumptions and prejudices is promoted in order to safeguard and realize the rights of those they serve. Attention to assessing, preventing and attending to the practitioner’s vicarious or secondary trauma and the impact of countertransference reactions on the therapeutic relationship is included, and readers are introduced to the concept of vicarious resilience. Recommendations are presented to advance self-care and the clinical practitioner’s ability to engage with the pain, distress and trauma of those they serve in a therapeutic fashion in keeping with a rights-based approach to practice. Finally, a call for the importance of creating an organizational culture of self-care is made.


Social Worker Therapeutic Relationship Clinical Social Worker Trauma Survivor Secondary Traumatic Stress 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Baker, E. K. (2003). Caring for ourselves: A therapist’s guide to personal and professional well- being. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  2. Barth, R. P., Lloyd, E. C., Christ, S. L., Chapman, M. V., & Dickinson, N. S. (2008). Child welfare worker characteristics and job satisfaction: A national study. Social Work, 53(3), 199–209.Google Scholar
  3. Berthold, S. M. (2014). Vicarious trauma and resilience (2nd ed.). Peer-reviewed CME course published by NetCE Continuing Education Online. Retrieved from
  4. Bonach, K., & Heckert, A. (2012). Predictors of secondary traumatic stress among children’s advocacy center forensic interviewers. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 21, 295–314. doi:10.1080/10538712.2012.647263.Google Scholar
  5. Bride, B. E. (2007). Prevalence of secondary traumatic stress among social workers. Social Work, 52(1), 63–70.Google Scholar
  6. Bride, B. E., & Figley, C. R. (2007). The fatigue of compassionate social workers: An introduction to the special issue on compassion fatigue. Clinical Social Work Journal, 35(3), 151–153.Google Scholar
  7. Bride, B. E., Robinson, M. M., Yegidis, B., & Figley, C. R. (2004). Development and validation of the secondary traumatic stress scale. Research on Social Work Practice, 14, 27–35.Google Scholar
  8. Briere, J. (2010, July 1). Self-Trauma model: Applications for torture survivors [webinar]. Advance Clinicians Peer Consultation Group. Retrieved from
  9. Briere, J., & Lanktree, C. B. (2013). Integrative treatment of complex trauma for adolescents (ITCT-A): A guide for the treatment of multiply-traumatized youth (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: USC Adolescent Trauma Treatment Training Center, National Child Traumatic Stress Network, U.S. Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Google Scholar
  10. Briere, J., Scott, C., & Weathers, F. W. (2005). Peritraumatic and persistent dissociation in the presumed etiology of PTSD. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162, 2295–2301.Google Scholar
  11. Briere, J., Hodges, M., & Godbout, N. (2010). Traumatic stress, affect dysregulation, and dysfunctional avoidance: A structural equation model. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 23,  767–774.Google Scholar
  12. Chadwick-Parkes, S. (2014). Integrating human rights into the Jamaican social work curriculum. In K. R. Libal, S. M. Berthold, R. L. Thomas, & L. M. Healy (Eds.), Advancing human rights in social work education. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education.Google Scholar
  13. Chapman, M. V., Oppenheim, S., Shibusawa, T., & Jackson, H. M. (2003). What we bring to practice. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 23(3–4), 3–14. doi:10.1300/J067v23n03_02.Google Scholar
  14. Cournoyer, B. (2000). The social work skills workbook (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  15. Cox, K., & Steiner, S. (2013). Self-care in social work: A guide for practitioners, supervisors, and administrators. Washington, DC: NASW Press.Google Scholar
  16. Crenshaw, D. A. (Ed.). (2008). Child and adolescent psychotherapy: Wounded spirits and healing paths. New York, NY: Jason Aronson.Google Scholar
  17. Engstrom, D., Hernandez, P., & Gangsei, D. (2008). Vicarious resilience: A qualitative investigation into its description. Traumatology, 14(3), 13–21.Google Scholar
  18. Grawitch, M. J., Gottschalk, M., & Munz, D. C. (2006). The path to a healthy workplace: A critical review linking healthy workplace practices, employee well-being, and organizational improvements. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 58, 129–147.Google Scholar
  19. Hepworth, D., Rooney, R., Rooney, G. D., Strom-Gottfried, K., & Larsen, J. A. (2010). Direct social work practice: Theory and skills. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.Google Scholar
  20. Hernández, P., Gangsei, D., & Engstrom, D. (2007). Vicarious resilience: A new concept in work with those who survive trauma. Family Process, 46, 229–241.Google Scholar
  21. Hernández, P., Engstrom, D., & Gangsei, D. (2010). Exploring the impact of trauma on therapists: Vicarious resilience and related concepts in training. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 29(10), 67–83.Google Scholar
  22. Hernandez-Wolfe, P., Killian, K., Engstrom, D., & Gangsei, D. (in press). Vicarious resilience, vicarious trauma and awareness of equity in trauma work. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0022167814534322Google Scholar
  23. Heydt, M. J., & Sherman, N. E. (2005). Conscious use of self: Tuning the instrument of social work practice with cultural competence. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, 10(2), 25–40.Google Scholar
  24. Jacobson, W. B. (2001). Beyond therapy: Bringing social work back to human services reform. Social Work, 46(1), 51–62.Google Scholar
  25. Killian, K., & Hernandez-Wolfe, P. (2013, June 7). Development and validation of the vicarious resilience scale. Presentation at the Annual American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) Conference, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  26. McCann, I. L., & Colletti, J. (1994). The dance of empathy: A hermeneutic formulation of countertransference, empathy, and understanding in the treatment of individuals who have experienced early childhood trauma. In J. P. Wilson & J. D. Lindy (Eds.), Countertransference in the treatment of PTSD (pp. 87–121). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  27. McCann, I., & Pearlman, L. (1990). Vicarious traumatization: A framework for understanding the psychological effects of working with victims. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3(1), 131–149.Google Scholar
  28. Neuman, K. M., & Friedman, B. D. (1997). Process recordings: Fine-tuning an old instrument. Journal of Social Work Education, 33(2), 237–243.Google Scholar
  29. New Tactics in Human Rights. (2010, September 22 to 28). Self-care for activists: Sustaining your most valuable resource. Retrieved from
  30. Ortega, R. M., & Faller, K. C. (2011). Training child welfare workers from an intersectional cultural humility perspective: A paradigm shift. Child Welfare, 90(5), 27–49.Google Scholar
  31. Piwowarczyk, L., Moreno, A., & Grodin, M. (2000). Health care of torture survivors. Journal of the American Medical Association, 284(5), 539–541. doi:10.1001/jama.284.5.539.Google Scholar
  32. Polusny, M. A., Rosenthal, M. Z., Aban, I., & Follette, V. M. (2004). Experiential avoidance as a mediator of the effects of adolescent sexual victimization on negative adult outcomes. Violence and Victims, 19, 109–120.Google Scholar
  33. Pryce, J., Shackelford, K., & Pryce, D. (2007). Secondary traumatic stress and the child welfare professional. Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.Google Scholar
  34. Saakvitne, K. W., Pearlman, L. A., & Staff of TSI/CAAP (1996). Transforming the pain: A workbook on vicarious traumatization. New York, NY: Norton.Google Scholar
  35. Sheafor, B. W., & Horejsi, C. R. (2003). Techniques and guidelines for social work practice (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  36. Shulman, L. (1999). The skills of helping individuals, families, groups, and communities (4th ed.). Itasca, IL: F. E. Peacock Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  37. Stamm, B. H. (Ed.). (1999). Secondary traumatic stress: Self-care issues for clinicians, researchers, & educators (2nd ed.). Lutherville, MD: Sidran Press.Google Scholar
  38. Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (1996). The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: Measuring the positive legacy of trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 9(3), 455–471.Google Scholar
  39. UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). (2000, August 11). General Comment No. 14: The right to the highest attainable standard of health (Art. 12 of the Covenant). Geneva, Switzerland: Author. Retrieved from
  40. UN General Assembly. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948, 217 A (III). Retrieved from
  41. UN General Assembly. (1966). International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 993, p. 3. Retrieved from
  42. van Dernoot Lipsky, L., & Burk, C. (2009). Trauma stewardship: An everyday guide to caring for self while caring for others. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.Google Scholar
  43. Walsh, J. (2011). Countertransference with clients who have schizophrenia: A social work perspective. Families In Society, 92(4), 377–382. doi:10.1606/1044-3894.4156.Google Scholar
  44. Wilcox, P. (2012). Trauma-informed treatment: The restorative approach. Fitchburg: NEARI Press.Google Scholar
  45. Wilson, J. P., & Lindy, J. D. (Eds.). (1994). Countertransference in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  46. Wilson, J. P., & Thomas, R. B. (2004). Empathy in the treatment of trauma and PTSD. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of ConnecticutWest HartfordUSA

Personalised recommendations