The best tool in integrating theory with practice was practice
Oct 31, 2017

The best tool in integrating theory with practice was practice


Georgia chose to do her first Masters placement in Family Services at Doncare because of "Doncare's positive reputation among students for being a great, supportive place to learn". Here, she reflects on her time putting theory into practice.

What opportunities did you enjoy most during your placement at Doncare?

Being a student, I got the opportunity to ask a lot of questions. The staff have such a wealth of knowledge and expertise across so many areas, and I was very lucky to benefit from that. I got to have great conversations with my team about their processes, their approaches to client work, and also their ideas around the field of social work.

How has the placement helped to integrate theory with practice?

I had done a lot of coursework, in my Master of Social Work (MSW) yet never really worked in direct client service work. This meant that a lot of my ‘knowledge’ was abstract, and it was very different being able to write about it in an essay versus drawing on the knowledge during a conversation sitting across from a person who might need your support. The best tool in integrating theory with practice was practice – doing it over and over. Doncare gave me many opportunities to do this, not only on the fly, with clients, but during conversations with my team that challenged me to consider the theory behind the approaches I was planning to take.

Can you tell me about a particularly powerful moment you’ve had while at Doncare?

Early on in my placement, I was confronted by some challenging behaviour from a young child. It reflected some things that the child had been through and it was very upsetting for me. I spoke to my supervisor about it and she spoke with a lot of passion about the value of early intervention that we get to do in our work. She explained that even though this had been upsetting, the fact was that the child and their family was engaged with the program and we had a lot of resources and opportunities to help. It really turned it around for me and made me committed to the work we were doing.

Has your experience at Doncare set you in good stead for job opportunities in the future?

During my time at Doncare, I had a lot of opportunities to do direct work with clients, which was new for me, and such a valuable experience. I had no social work experience, and so the field was still abstract to me. Being able to work properly galvanised my learning to date, and I really enjoyed it! I had always felt passionate about social work while learning about it, but you never know until you actually have to do it. Once I did, I knew I was in the right space. This certainty gave me a lot of confidence in seeking job opportunities, and I have since been offered a dream-role where passion and commitment is a primary requirement.

Can you describe the impact you’ve had on a client?

I had one main client who I worked the most with. The program was able to support her through a massive transition for her and her children. She was an excellent mum; clever, fun, and patient with her kids. When she first engaged with us she had been systematically abused to the point where she did not realise what a good mum she was. Doncare’s approach is strength-based, and so over our therapeutic relationship, I was able to regularly point out the great things she was doing with her kids. By the time we were finishing up, she was so confident, and spoke about herself so differently. She told me how she’d never been able to look at herself so positively before, and I was glad to be a small part of that change for her.

What other areas of knowledge and skill have been developed during your placement?

I was given the flexibility to take a lot of initiative during my placement – learning how to do that in a field that was so new to me felt like a new skill in itself! I got to participate in a lot of training in and outside of Doncare, which often turned into other opportunities – I found eSafety training so interesting that I am now volunteering developing Facebook security training, and after attending an Introduction to Volunteering session hosted by Volunteering in Manningham (ViM) Coordinator Meredith Bubner, I began volunteering supporting youth at police stations.

Doncare's strong commitment to building the next generation of Social Workers and Counsellors is evident through our partnerships with Cairnmillar Institute and RMIT. Doncare also accepts students from ACAP, Monash and many other tertiary institutions.