Despite this recognition and resonation with the idea of interconnectedness and a systemicappr
oach to problem solving, I still entered the field believing that the “work” of social workers consisted
of one-on-one counseling or therapy. The major professional association of social workers, the NationalAssociation of Social Workers (NASW), asserts that macro practice is a critical component of effectivesocial work practice(NASW Delegate Assembly, 2008). However,survey data continues to show thatmacro practice is a primary job function for only 25-35% of professional social workers(Association of Social Work Boards, 2010; Doelling, Matz, & Legal, 2003).Macro social work practice, for purposes of this article, is conceptualized as those activities in which social workers engage that are aimed atchanging the environment within which individuals live rather than the individual themselves (Netting,Kettner & McMurtry 2004).
My first position out of school was as a
in a domestic violence agency. I workeddirectly with women (never any male clients) in violent relationships. I ran support groups and onoccasion advocated for or assisted them with the legal process, such as obtaining Orders of Protection orattending criminal hearings. I quickly discovered two things about myself-first that my empathy skilloutweighed my shut off skill. I could not separate myself from the stories, the pain and the suffering myclients were experiencing. Secondly, the barriers to solving their problems were far greater than the kindof service I could provide. I became frustrated, depressed, and increasingly annoyed with my clients for
“bothering” me with their problems. There was no way I could allow myself to go down a path of such
jaded cynicism, it violated everything I thought I stood for-being a champion of the oppressed, thevictimized, the fact that women were victims of male dominance, not the cause of it. I knew that I had tomodify where I engaged in social change in order to maintain my values and sanity.The majority of the women I saw were stuck in abusive situations because they lacked access tohousing, jobs, transportation, education, even intensive psychotherapy or medication. Our agency couldnot provide these things in a way that would truly help them move toward a life independent of violence.