Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Can I talk to my social worker about medication?

Psychopharmacotherapy is not a hot topic in social work but it should be. People who are using medication, especially psychotropics should be able to talk to their counsellor (yes, I know I'm shoulding right now but hear me out). There is a real and serious reluctance in social work to talk about medication, we can't diagnose (in Canada), we certainly can't prescribe medication and this results in most social workers telling clients that they are not able to talk about medications.

Well, why the heck not? I implore you, my fellow social work students and practitioners to broaden your understanding of medications, their effects and how individuals experience them in their many varied ways. I'm currently working in an interdisciplinary medical team and getting some great insight from nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists on medication but the best words are from clients sharing their experiences.

So here I am left wondering how much is too much when it comes to my talks about medication. Should I just listen intently and nod in acknowledgement to my clients insights and concerns but withholding any information; or do I share the stories I've heard/read to help clients understanding and making meaning out of their medication. I propose that talking about medication is a good thing, exploring it's strengths and perceived benefits for clients or acknowledging limitations. Once a social worker becomes comfortable with medication terminology and navigating the world of pharmaceuticals, a social worker could become proactive and prepare clients who are awaiting psychiatric evaluation, making referrals or sharing information on medication.

Your thoughts?


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    1. Thank you so much for your comments and insight. I agree, a natural step for social workers tends to be advocacy and specifically advocating against chemical interventions or medication but lest we forget, social work is also about empowering; we could empower our clients to decide (much like you said) to take medication or not through education and information sharing.

      Which leads me to question how prevalent taboo is in the world of medication. Perhaps people don't talk about medications and feel comfortable enough getting the dialogue they need out of shame, not knowing or feeling overwhelmed by all the technical jargon and medical talk that surrounds medicines.

      Some food for thought,

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  5. I am glad to share my thoughts with you Tim but actually I would prefer to keep them private after all.I know you read them. thanks for the article and your reply. have a great day.

  6. How many social workers does it take to turn on a light bulb?


    But the light bulb has to be willing to light up.


  7. In Canada, is there a licensing practice for social workers? If so, are you saying that even once licensed, social workers can't diagnose using the DSM? If that's true, that is quite amazing to me. Yuck!

    As to medications, I believe social workers need to be familiar with them and their uses. I personally don't want the ability to prescribe medication. I do appreciate the balance of using medications in conjunction with therapy. I found an informative article on this if you're interested...