Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Social Worker Burnout

Yesterday I travelled with one of our social workers to Los Angeles, California to handle a very tough client.  The apartment management had complained the client was non-cooperative in signing the additional apartment agreements.  Upon arriving we tried to get the situation resolved.  The client was a middle aged CI oral deaf lady who refused to agree to the apartment terms.  After 3 hrs the apartment manager took me out to dinner.  When we returned, we found the social worker crying on the sofa in the meet room.

Burnout. I took over and administered some 'shock therapy' to get her to sign the agreements.  She became combative.  We decided to be more firm, 'no agreement, you move out next week, period, and no more help from us', and remained that way for the next 2 hrs. The client finally caved in and signed the papers.

I saw all this beforehand when the client first came into our office.  She was being kicked out of her old apt because of similar issues.   I could say, I knew that she'd be an un-cooperative client and told the social worker to phase her out immediately.  The social worker is soft and she decided to take her in and help her under my objections.  She found her a new place under our low income housing partner line-up and moved her into there last week.  This went on until yesterday when we had to deal with her combativeness with the property management over the rental agreement.

I know social workers have a high burnout rate and there are rules to follow to prevent future burnouts and preserve their ability to help more people later on.

I have no problems with social workers phasing out their clients the moment they become either non-cooperative or verbally combative.  This happens to approximately 15% of the clientile.

It's a rule I normally follow and suggest other social workers follow as well.

We give them free help and they need to respect that, else, we show them the door.

Most clients are cooperative to our help in getting their issues resolved.

We don't need to let our clients mess up our sanity, our stamina, our personal health, and our ability to help others in the future.



  1. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  2. lol the agreement might not be valid in the eyes of the court if it ever to came to that because she signed under duress.

    Well, you didn't elaborate what the issues were.

    Lots of unanswered questions here.

    So, you're saying you are willing to provide free services to clients but they have to do what you or your agency says?