March/April 2014 Issue
“We are never rid of our history, nor do we need to be.”
That’s the first sentence of this month’s cover story by Char Wilkins, MSW, LCSW, a teacher and practitioner of mindfulness-based interventions. The statement expresses a valuable lesson that characterizes a practice with the potential of helping individuals relate differently to the effects of past events that confront them in the present.
Mindfulness as a way of being in the world is infiltrating much of our daily lives, from stress-reduction strategies to better ways of eating to improved business practices. In the cover story, Wilkins uses the challenges that women who have experienced childhood abuse encounter to demonstrate how mindfulness can offer another way to be with difficult and painful thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
Childhood abuse survivors often develop self-destructive habits to help them cope with physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual traumas or more covert traumas of neglect, oppression, and isolation. Mindfulness-based practice can be a conduit to relating rather than reacting to present discomfort that may follow past abuse. As Wilkins suggests, “turning toward what’s difficult” can help those who have experienced abuse recognize the transient nature of what terrifies them and that they can survive.
The recognition of March as National Social Work Month with this year’s theme of “All People Matter” and April as Child Abuse Prevention Month intersect in this issue of Social Work Today in an important feature article that focuses on immigration and sexual abuse. Author April Birks-Dihun, PhD, LISW, MSW, explores the heightened vulnerability of undocumented children to sexual abuse and the difficulties of detection and reporting due to noncitizen status.
Sexual abuse in this population is difficult to identify because it often goes unreported due to the fear of deportation and can be an especially taboo topic in some cultures. This article identifies techniques social workers who work with immigrant populations can learn for working with children and families where abuse has occurred or is suspected.
Regardless of the socioeconomic or citizenship status of the clients you work with, all people matter who are vulnerable and in need of the special skill sets of social workers. Celebrate the uniqueness of your profession this month and every month as you help individuals, families, and communities find a path to hope, health, and well-being.