THE REACTIONS AND RESPONSES OF PROFESSIONAL SOCIAL WORKERS TO CHRONICALLY PHYSICALLY DISABLED CLIENTS
FAFFER, JACLYNN ILA
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the reactions and responses of professional social workers to chronically physically disabled adult clients and the ways in which the reactions and responses were translated into practice. Twenty-two social workers providing service to chronically physically disabled clients answered a schedule of twenty-two open ended questions regarding their practice. Seven social workers providing service to an acutely ill population answered the same schedule of questions to ascertain if the reactions and responses of the first group were specific to the chronically physically disabled population. The method of content analysis was used to categorize the data.;The study suggested that social workers providing service to chronically physically disabled adult clients reported experiencing anxiety specifically related to the clients' physical disabilities. This anxiety was experienced as a perceived threat to personal self, threat to professional self, and frustration related to the chronicity of the clients' physical disabilities. The social workers developed methods of working with clients that helped them to deny, or not relate to, the clients' physical disabilities. This enabled them to cope with that which was perceived as threatening.;The study described a variety of coping mechanisms utilized by the twenty-two social workers. They included the manner in which workers discussed their clients, the manner in which the workers discussed their roles with clients, and the methods by which they responded to the clients' presentation of disability related issues. Also important to the workers' ability to cope was the use of what was described as supportive supervision and the positive perceptions of colleagues.;The Denial Response was developed by the social workers to cope with the perceived threats engendered by the clients' chronic physical disabilities. It varied qualitatively depending upon properties specific to setting and worker and emerged as a process by which the workers responded to a threat, resolved a crisis, and allowed service to clients to continue.
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