The Supervision Process in Social Work: Emotional Dissonance and Acting


Abstract: Being a social worker involves a heavy emotional burden, if we consider the implications of a social worker’s relationship with their clients. In their profession, they have to face the aspects of human life which involve most suffering, such as sickness, poverty, death, violence and hardship. Contact with these areas of human experience can become extremely wearing, to the point where an imbalance arises between the emotions normally required by their professional role and those they actually feel. This is why social workers are at risk of experiencing what Hochschild (2006) calls emotional dissonance. Based on these assumptions, the aim of the study which forms the basis of this article was to draw attention to how social workers handle the emotions their job evokes in them. Furthermore, we intend to investigate whether and how social workers dedicate time and space to reflecting on their feelings and emotions. To achieve the aim of the study, our analysis focused on four fundamental aspects in particular: - what emotions the social workers interviewed felt; - whether these emotions were considered a hindrance to their work; - what emotion management/regulation mechanism(s) the social workers interviewed deployed; - whether there was a supervision procedure in place at the facilities where the interviewees worked, and if so, how they viewed it. To answer these questions, we conducted thirty semi-structured interviews with social workers who work for care providers in the Veneto region of Italy. The study was carried out between November and December 2021. Confirming the studies already carried out on the topic (Leung, Mok & Wong, 2006; Moesby- Jensen & Schjellerup Nielsen, 2015; Lavee & Strier, 2018; Reed & Ellis, 2020), social workers perform emotional labor using mainly surface-acting rather than deep-acting strategies. The data which emerged from the study show the need for coaching and training programmes designed to prepare social workers to understand the various nuances of emotions (Dore, 2019; Bini, Pieroni, Rollino, 2017). Gaining awareness of their own emotions are inherent abilities in every person, but little is done to cultivate and develop this ability in traditional training programmes (Sewell, 2020).

Viviani D. (2023) "The Supervision Process in Social Work: Emotional Dissonance and Acting " Italian Journal of Sociology of Education, 15(1), 119-137. DOI: 10.14658/PUPJ-IJSE-2023-1-6  
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Italian Journal of Sociology of Education
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