A Social Worker's Duty to Care: The Self–Other Dimension of Disaster Response

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Abstract

Subsequent to the events of September 11th, there has been an increased interest among mental health professionals to develop strategies that address psychological and social manifestations of disasters. One understudied area relates to the ways in which professionals sort out inner conflict among personal and professional interests and obligations following a disaster. In this article, we highlight the results of an international qualitative study, which explored the dialectical tensions that arise when professionals confront the task of serving clients during a disaster while concomitantly assimilating postdisaster reactions within themselves. The study was conducted with focus groups of social workers in health care and social service settings in the United States, Canada, and Israel. Respondents were asked to reflect on their disaster response experiences, both professionally and personally. Specific focus was placed on understanding postdisaster cognitive, affective, and behavioral patterns, perceptions, and motives.

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