The Need For Practicality
Sometimes, we as social workers have very good interventions that are sitting in our notepads, filing cabinets, or books we have purchased. Sometimes they are on other peoples’ blogs.
What if I told you that you could easily access some interventions quickly, easily, and without distraction? Without having to get up from your chair in the middle of a session to look through your drawer for said intervention? Without kicking yourself later that you couldn’t find the intervention?
Today, I’m going to show you how to begin to pull all of your resources together into one central location: your Social Work Tool Box
Read More about how to make your own Digital Social Work Tool Box, after the break!
What You’ll Need (and What’s Optional)
You really don’t need anything other than your computer desktop to create your Social Work Tool Box. If you can right-click on your computer desktop and select “New Folder”, then you are golden.
If you want to make your Social Work Tool Box mobile, then I have some app recommendations.
Dropbox [FREE!] – omg!
Dropbox is a free service that allows you to sync your files online and across computers (and other mobile devices). They provide you with 2 GBs for free and work on the freemium model (i.e. more storage space will cost you). Your data is stored in the cloud – think of it as a USB jump drive that can be accessed as a folder on your local hard drive and on any computer (and most smartphones) when you’re not in front of your computer. I hardly use my USB thumb drive anymore to hold files that I will need later.
When you download the program to your desktop, you will select a location for your Dropbox folder. Any changes you make to files in that folder will instantaneously sync over the air. This is great for more purposes than my Social Work Tool Box – I have all my school work synced on here so that if my computer hard drive physically crashes, I will still be able to access my files from my iPhone or iPad.
One can sign up here: http://db.tt/pT4N5cW (full disclosure: I get a small amount of space upgrade when you sign up with this link).
GoodReader for iPad ($4.99) [iTunes Link]
I have touted the value of GoodReader – a very good app that works as a way to store, organize, and quickly access a variety of files (Microsoft Office, PDF, video, audio, presentation, etc.) in a variety of contexts (i.e. academic, clinical, personal).
The app also knows which other app(s) on your device can open/edit the document you are looking at.
Goodreader + Dropbox = OMG!
GoodReader recently updated their app where you can select folders to sync with Dropbox. This is very useful to have all your documents synced across the cloud and your device(s):
File Structure for your Social Work Toolbox
On my Dropbox, I created a folder called “Social Work Tool Box” to keep everything I use in practice organized. Based on everything I use I use as a social worker, I created the following folders and numbered them accordingly so that they stay in a particular order. I invite you to adjust to your taste:
- Assessment – includes MSEs, suicide assessments (generic or agency specific), etc.
- Diagnosing – primarily, my DSM IV-TR
- Treatment Planning – empty for now, but if I ever scan a clinical treatment planner page (from a book) to PDF, I would put it here.
- Intervention – my biggest folder and one that I use frequently in practice (see video below)
- Resources & Referral – as I find resources for my client, develop a referral, or translate information to Spanish, I put these things in here
- Ethics – NASW Code of Ethics (for reference use), literature that concerns ethical issues, ethical dilemma exercises, etc.
- Social Work Profession – generic articles about the profession
- Theory – some theoretical models that I haven’t yet familiarized myself with or those which guide me (e.g. “Stages of Change”)
- Cultural Considerations – specific articles about practicing in different cultures or communities and their special needs
- Case Presentations – format for case presentation (generic or agency-specific)
- Evidenced-Based Practice – articles that reflect current research about intervention
- LCSW Exam - LCSW Exam Practice Book, tips for studying, CA Board of Behavioral Sciences literature
- Trainings – materials from impactful trainings I have attended that will help me grow as a professional
- Professional Development – articles that help me better develop as a professional
- Research Methods - currently holds a book I scanned to PDF, but I intend to put more documents in here that will make me into a better researcher
- The New Social Worker – my favorite professional magazine about social work practice
- Clinical Supervision – notes taken during clinical supervision (of course, with omission of identifying client information)
Within these folders, you can also create subfolders. Within “02 Diagnosing”, I have a folder for DSM-IV-TR, but if there are any other diagnosing methods (e.g. medical diagnosis), I would create a different folder and put them there. Within “08 Theory”, I can also create various folders for different types of theories (e.g. behavior-specific, systems, etc).
This is what my Social Work Tool Box looks like on my iPad:
Within folder “04 – Intervention”, I have a very extensive library of interventions based on what my knowledge and limited expertise. Below, I have a list of the areas I have some knowledge in. This is usually the only folder that I access during session. I may occasionally go into the theory folder to dig up aforementioned “Stages of Change” model and go through it with a client that feels like they are regressing or stagnating. If my client is interested in completing homework, I can pull up the intervention quickly and we can review it on my iPad before I get up and print it out on my big computer.
Some mentioned interventions from the video:
What is also really awesome about having my Social Work Tool Box on my lap, is that I have my interventions readily available and it saves paper! Who wouldn’t want to save a few trees and unnecessarily waste paper and money?
Sitting With The Client
I hope not to give the impression that I solely rely on these tools in my therapy sessions. The most important tool is my listening ability and working with the client where they are at. If something a client says to me resonates with me and if I think that I have a sound and clinically appropriate intervention, I will use it. Otherwise, the normal client interaction supersedes the aforementioned intervention approach.
In reviewing the intervention with a client, such as the above-noted handouts, the client may not be ready or willing to “go there” yet. In writing a Truth Letter, which requires that the client explore very painful emotions, it is my opinion that much of the preceding work be done in a face-to-face environment, where the client is safe and where the clinician can assess whether or not the client is ready for said intervention.
Some Closing Thoughts:
- Everything in context: Be familiar with the interventions you are using. Just because something looks cool online (e.g. a domestic violence psychoeducation piece) does not mean it is ethical to present it to the client if you cannot justify its clinical value
- How can you start? Easy-peasy: start collecting or making PDFs of things that may be valuable to use in session and begin to file them away accordingly. Every time I come across something that I think I can use in session with a client, I add it to my collection and either scan it to PDF or create a Word document (and convert that to PDF) and file it away accordingly.
- Add, Adjust, Maintain: Add interventions to your Intervention folder. Adjust your interventions to what is in your scope of practice or to meet the client where they are at. These two processes help me to maintain my tool box and keep it relevant.
Editor Note: This post was primarily typed up on my iPad during which I filmed this post.