As Social Worker in Private Practice, I am registered with the South-African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP), the South African Association for Social Workers in Private Practice (SAASWIPP) as well as the Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF).
I have always been very inquisitive about human behaviour and wanted to understand more about the individuals’ feelings, thinking and conduct. This led to my ongoing involvement in studying human behaviour and the development of several different programmes and training courses to provide a service to enhance individual, family and community functioning.
My passion is to work with individuals and families. Being married for 44 years and the father of two children and three grandchildren, reminds me of the importance of strong foundations in our relationships. I believe all behaviour to be functional, irrespective of whether it is constructive or not, and when people request assistance, I understand this to be due to them no longer being able to manage their life or circumstances in a meaningful way. For this reason, I choose to follow a solution-focused approach in working with people, where we discuss and find ways to deal with the issues at hand, together. Any change that may take place is ultimately the responsibility of the person in need of assistance.
ASSISTING THE ADDICTED PERSON AND/OR PARTNER LIVING WITH ADDICTION
During my many years of working as a social worker, I have become increasingly involved in working with addiction, particularly with substance use disorder and related problems. This has become an area of specialisation for me, especially in assisting the partner or family living with substance abuse.
It is said that “Addiction means sacrificing EVERYTHING for ONE thing … recovery from addiction is sacrificing ONE thing for EVERYTHING”. Recovery from addiction is an ongoing process for both the person struggling with addiction as well as his or her family.
Lately persons become increasingly addicted to prescribed medications and internet including social media. The reason we become addicted, whether it is to substances, gambling, internet, etc. is in my opinion always related to addressing our emotions; to compensate for our underlying pain. Using substances or addictive behaviour is at first always functional. Over time, often without being aware of it we increase this behaviour, it become riskier and more harmful, and we do it more often. Stopping this behaviour means must face the world and ourselves head on; we must break up a bond we have established with a very reliable friend (the drug/behaviour) who has stood by us faithfully for a long period of time.
Living with a partner with addiction proves to be an extremely stressful experience. Constant arguments and a partner’s spells of aggression and abuse, which is often related to the addiction, contributes to high degrees of anger, feelings of fear, hurt, abandonment, guilt and hopelessness, feelings which eventually end in emotional detachment from such partner. All their attempts at helping are in vain, crying pleading, threats, leaving him/her, etc. Eventually they start neglecting their own well-being. The partner therefore needs assistance as person in his or her own right.
My approach in assisting people caught up in addiction is both client-centred and solution focused. I start with an assessment of the situation and agree to see addicted persons and family members individually or together as required. I network with other role-players when required, including medical practitioners, treatment facilities and support groups. Strict confidentiality and transparency towards the client are always upheld.
WORKING WITH COUPLES
In working with couples, I apply the same principle of recognising each person as a unique individual. It is therefore important for me to make a proper assessment of the individual in terms of his or her understanding and feelings about their situation, their insights, and abilities to address the issue at hand, their motivation for change as well as how they perceive the outcome of any professional inputs. We discuss this information before we agree on how we attempt to proceed. All concerns, stumbling blocks, strengths, appropriate community resources, practical issues of time, transport, and finances as well as issues of confidentiality and consent and how this may impact the way forward, are considered.
I prefer to break down bigger goals in smaller units to sustain development of the process of change. Strict confidentiality and transparency towards the client is always upheld.
ASSISTING CLIENTS WITH TRAUMA
We are all from time to time confronted with traumatic events. Some traumas can take the form of sudden unexpected events leaving us emotionally exposed and vulnerable. We find ourselves struggling with putting our lives back together again. Assisting with specific incident trauma, assistance takes the form of a practice-based debriefing process. This is a very supportive and concrete way in addressing trauma.
But some of us experience trauma over a long term, either during childhood or as adults. Experiences of abuse and shame may lead to delayed or unresolved trauma. This exposure to historical or long-term traumatic incidents, is addressed by cognitive behaviour therapy in terms of Traumatic Incident Reduction.
In assisting people with trauma, I accept that the traumatic events cannot be undone. We cannot change what happened in the past, but we CAN try and live a more manageable life.