• Home
  • News
  • Ways to build and strengthen emotional resilience in social work
30/03/2023  •  Blog

Ways to build and strengthen emotional resilience in social work

We understand that, along with being a rewarding career, social work can also be challenging at times. This means that having emotional resilience in social work is an incredibly valuable quality to build and strengthen.  

In this article, we have outlined everything you need to know about emotional resilience in social work. We have looked at how social workers can strengthen their emotional resilience as well as ways in which organisations should support their social workers so that they can continue to thrive and grow in their careers. 

What is emotional resilience in social work?

Emotional resilience in social work is the ability to manage problems and difficult situations in a way that prevents them from negatively affecting your wellbeing and progression.  

When you’re emotionally resilient, you have the strength to let adversity inform the way you approach situations going forward. It helps you to take a step back and gain insight into how difficult situations shape your own identity, along with what you have to offer to others.  

Why is emotional resilience important in social work?

As a social worker, you will often work closely with people who are experiencing difficulties. As you help in the management of these challenging situations, it is important that you are able to support yourself and the professionals around you, while also being able to positively influence and advocate for service users during these difficult moments. 

Emotional resilience in social work will also help you to reduce your stress and grow in confidence. This in turn can positively impact both the service users and colleagues that you work with. It can also help you to communicate effectively and be able to quickly move on from any setbacks that happen as you work.   

Browse our social work job vacancies

As the leading social work recruitment agency in the UK, Liquid has hundreds of jobs in social work available. Browse our vacancies and apply today.

How to build and develop emotional resilience

Many different methods can help you to build emotional resilience in social work. Some will incorporate learning new strategies and techniques. Over time, as you practice these new skills in your day-to-day work and strengthen your emotional resilience, it will become a benefit to you, both professionally and personally.  

Here are some tried-and-tested methods for increasing emotional resilience as a social worker:  

1. Create a strong support network

Spend time with people who you can mutually exchange support with. This is also referred to as peer support, which is a social exercise involving someone who is in a similar role or position to you. Start by reaching out to peers, colleagues and acquaintances. You can also expand your network by joining online communities and forums as well as attending events and social gatherings. 

When building your support network as a social worker, focus on quality not quantity. It is better to have a handful of strong connections.  

Within your network, take the time to listen to the issues that each of you is dealing with. Be genuine, open, and supportive of one another. Also, focus on helping one another find solutions and set goals. Regularly check in with each other, and don’t be afraid to adapt your support network as and when your needs change as a social worker.  

2. Set clear boundaries outside of work

A good work-life balance is crucial for preventing burnout and strengthening emotional resilience in social work.  

Of course, the passion you have for your work will mean that you want to do your best and sometimes, a situation may arise where you go above and beyond. However, it is important to understand how much you are capable of with the time and resources you have.  

Achieving balance and having boundaries may seem challenging, but there are steps you can take to put them into place: 

  • Recognise boundary setting as a necessity. Burnout can happen in social work, so setting boundaries is crucial for your wellbeing, efficiency and emotional resilience. 
  • Think about what you’re comfortable and uncomfortable with. This will help you to identify and define what your personal boundaries should be. 
  • Communicate what can be expected in terms of your availability, response times and your working relationships.  
  • Set clear working hours and avoid taking calls or answering emails outside of these. 
  • Practice self-care to support your wellbeing. We’ve included a section on how to look after your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing below. 
  • Recognise when you’ll need help with any boundary challenges. If you have to ask for support in order to meet certain expectations of the role, don’t be afraid to bring others in and work together. 

Learning to set clear boundaries will help you in many aspects of your life. Read our blog to gain further advice and information on preventing burnout in the workplace

3. Practise self-care

When it comes to strengthening your emotional resilience as a social worker, you need to have compassion for yourself and take steps to maintain and protect your wellbeing.  

Along with setting boundaries, there are other activities that you can carry out as part of your self-care:

  • Firstly, prioritise self-care. Make it a non-negotiable part of your day. 
  • Find activities that work for you, whether that is exercising, reading or spending time with family and friends. 
  • Incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life, which could be through deep breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques like body scanning or meditation. 
  • Take breaks at work, as even taking a short break can help with energy levels and focus. 

There is no one-size-fits-all self-care plan for social workers. Every person has their own lives and challenges, as well as their own preferences when it comes to de-stressors, so how you approach self-care will be different from other social workers looking to build upon their emotional resilience. 

When thinking about better ways to introduce self-care into your daily routines, focus on activities that will look after your physical health, manage and reduce stress, fulfill your emotional needs, support your relationships and promote a healthy work-life balance.   

If you are looking for ways to take better care of yourself, read our blog containing self-care tips for a healthier and happier you.  

How organisations can support social workers in strengthening emotional resilience

Emotional resilience isn’t something that social workers should have to learn and cultivate by themselves. Employers are responsible for their employees’ wellbeing, so it is important that they provide tools, processes and an environment that allows for emotional resilience in social workers.
Here are some of the ways in which employers can promote and strengthen emotional resilience:

1. Reflective practices

Reflective practices enable social workers to look back on their work and develop confidence, self-awareness and autonomy. As such, it is important that they have the time to be able to regularly examine and evaluate their actions and choices through reflective practice, to help strengthen their emotional resilience.  

Employers can encourage reflection and support through: 

  • Setting up regular 121 meetings between social workers and managers 
  • Establishing peer support groups 

These reflective spaces can give social workers the ability to regularly discuss their cases and any challenges they face, as well as gain insight and feedback from multiple perspectives. The sessions can also help develop ideas through gained insight and learning, which can improve and influence their social work practice. 

2. A secure team culture

A strong team culture can create a sense of community, support self-care and provide social workers with an opportunity to learn and develop. As such, a cohesive team can help to enhance the emotional resilience of the social workers within it. 

A secure team culture can be achieved through: 

  • Effective communication, where openness, transparency and honesty are encouraged 
  • Team building activities that strengthen trust and cohesion 
  • Inclusivity, where all team members and perspectives are respected 
  • Celebrating successes that individuals and the team have achieved 
  • Continued learning and development, supporting the gaining of new skills and knowledge 

It is important that social workers feel that they are in a safe space. Employers can support this by creating a culture where there is no judgement, but plenty of active listening.  

And while it is important to feel comfortable in working relationships, social workers should still be given the space to meet challenges. With the right foundations in place from employers, this can help social workers to feel confident in how to manage risks or understand potential outcomes.  

3. Modelling resilience

Managers and leaders in social work play a significant role in building and strengthening the emotional resilience of their teams. 

By modelling emotional resilience, they can inspire and motivate their teams, reduce workplace stress, improve the overall working environment and enable their team to provide the most effective level of support to their service users.  

It can help to establish ways of working that let social workers, their managers and their teams flourish together. This means setting the standards for building trust and being committing to shared goals, as well as collaborating on any challenges that occur.  

Social work opportunities with Liquid

If you’re looking for new social work job opportunities, Liquid can support you at every stage. 
Your career matters to us. Our caring consultants will take the time to understand your professional goals and individual strengths in order to help you find your perfect next role. You will even have a dedicated consultant, who will be there to support you from the day you sign up with us. 
Browse our current social work vacancies and get in touch today to find out how Liquid can help you progress in your social work career. 

Register today
Search and apply