Friday, August 28, 2015

Macro-level Interventions in Social Work

     I'm teaching macro-level interventions this semester.  Some students are interested in macro-level social work and others are at least "open" to it.  In my work experience, the connection between micro to macro has been seamless.  
     When I think about working with families in urban communities, I can't help but use a public health approach because some problems are so widespread.  Take the rates of PTSD for example. At LAUSD, students are reporting rates of PTSD at 32% to 50%.  One-on-one and small group approaches are just not feasible to meet the need.  That got me thinking...
     In studies about the relationship between disclosure and health, James Pennebaker has given the following writing instructions to college students, children, elderly, layed-off white collar workers, prisoners, and so on:
"For the next 3 days, I would like for you to write about your very deepest thoughts and feelings about an extremely important emotional issue that has affected you and your life. In your writing, I'd like you to really let go and explore your very deepest emotions and thoughts. You might tie your topic to your relationships with others, including parents, lovers, friends or relatives, to your past, your present, or your future, or to who you have been, who you would like to be or who you are now. You may write about the same general issues or experiences on all days of writing or on different topics each day. All your writing will be completely confidential. Don't worry about spelling sentence structure, or grammar. The only rule is that once you begin writing continue to do so until your time is up."
     Participants wrote for 3 to 5 days, 15 to 30 min each day. Although it might be painful to write about stressful or traumatic events, participants who did reported improvements in mood and well-being. For example, students showed improvement in grades, senior professionals who had been laid off got new jobs more quickly after writing, university staff had improved work attendance, students experienced a reduction in the number of physician visits, immune system markers improved, and so on.
     Even though a large number of participants report crying or being deeply upset by the experience, the overwhelming majority report that the writing experience was valuable and meaningful in their lives.

With PTSD rates at epidemic levels in urban public schools, I wonder what would happen if all public school English teachers gave this assignment? 


Pennebaker, J. (1997). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological Science, 8(3), 162-166.

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