Session Readings


Burnout, defined as physical and mental exhaustion combined with self-doubt about professional competence is sadly an increasingly well-known phenomenon in today’s workplace. This is of particular concern for social workers.

Resilience is the capacity to respond to stress in a healthy way such that goals are achieved at minimal psychological and physical cost. Resilient individuals not only “bounce back” after challenges; they also grow stronger from overcoming them. Resilience is a key to enhancing quality of care, quality of caring, and sustainability of the social services workforce.

The first step in practical mental training is to recognize that the way we think, including our thought patterns, are deeply ingrained.  Consequently, “reframing” the situation and “re-wiring” our thought patterns requires deliberate, intentional effort, founded on a foundation of self-awareness. This session aims to provide a framework to start this journey.

To begin, please start by watching the above TED talk, “The Happy Secret to Better Work.”

Next, consider the following questions and come prepared to discuss your thoughts:

  1. If a 1st year social work student asked you about resilience—how to avoid stress and burnout—what kind of advice would you offer?
  2. Keeping up in social work can be a difficult task. How do you manage this?
  3. What do you do to take care of yourself so that you can be of service to others?
  4. How can you strive for excellence and at the same time have compassion for yourself when you don’t have all the answers or make a mistake?
  5. How can I offer my expertise and at the same time stay open to what my clients have to teach me about their own healing?

At the completion of this session, moving forward we propose asking the following questions to raise self-awareness, allow reflection, and facilitate building your resilience:

  • What did I learn today? What surprised me?
  • What three things am I grateful for today? What inspired me?
  • How did I talk to myself today? What did I do well?
TEDxThe happy secret to better work We believe we should work hard in order to be happy, but could we be thinking about things backwards? In this fast-moving and very funny talk, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that, actually, happiness inspires us to be more productive.
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TEDxThe Burnout Gamble by Hamza Khan Overachieving, something often lauded in our society might be a term that actually means guaranteed burnout. Listen as Hamza Khan shares his thoughts about the costs of overachieving - something quite pertinent to those of us in the healthcare realm.
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social-work-poilcy-instituteSocial Work Resiliency
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Session originally created by: Adam Saperstein | SOM/GSN, Uniformed Services University | Director, Reflective Practice | Family Medicine