Dr. Faye Mishna

It Just Crept In: The Digital Age and Its Implications for Social Work Practice

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“What we’ve discovered is that [technology] has completely crept in. It is a part of the lives of social workers in their professional face-to-face work whether they have chosen it or not. And, because it has kind of happened before policies or education happened, what we’re finding is that social workers themselves have had to use their own practice wisdom and their own experiences to figure out ways to address it in a proactive way because, initially, it was just reactive.”

Dr. Faye Mishna

One of the hallmarks of social work is our ecological focus –an awareness of the roles that context and environment play in shaping lives, opportunities, and behaviors. Recent decades have seen advances in technology produce large and rapid changes in our social context. Technology has transformed our environment in myriad ways, and holds out the promise of continuing these changes.

In this podcast, Dr. Faye Mishna discusses these technological changes and the impact that they have had on social workers’ day-to-day practices. While many of the ways that technology has affected social work are uncontroversial, there are still many ethical and practice issues that social workers need to engage with. Dr. Mishna notes that much of the discussion on technology in social work has been negative, focusing on the risks and dangers that technology brings, and argues that we as a profession need to explore the positive strengths and possibilities that come with our changing technological environment. She discusses shifting boundaries and the importance of setting clear boundaries with clients, as well as the need for social workers to develop competence in technology cultural in order to understand the significance that technology has for our clients. Along the way, she explores ways that social workers education can incorporate a greater awareness of the various ways that technology has crept into social workers’ daily lives.

Dr. Faye Mishna is Dean and Professor, at the Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto and is cross-appointed to the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. She holds the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Chair in Child and Family. Prior to joining the Faculty, she was Clinical Director of Integra, a children’s mental health center serving children and youth with learning disabilities. She is a Fellow of the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities. Professor Mishna’s program of research is focused on: bullying; cyber abuse/cyber bullying and cyber counselling; and school-based interventions for students with learning disabilities. An integral component of her research entails collaboration with community agencies and organizations. Her scholarly publications have focused on bullying, social work education and clinical practice.

Interviewer: Nancy Smyth, PhD, LCSW

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