Social workers learn to care for themselves

January 30, 2013 9:00 AM

Barri Bronston

When Jane Parker, director of the Institute for Psychosocial Health at the Tulane School of Social Work, thought of the concept of a boot camp, the words “rough” and “difficult” came to mind. She wanted a much more soothing title for her self-care workshop for social workers.

Slipper Camp

Instead of a boot camp, the Institute for Psychosocial Health offers a "Slipper Camp" to help mental health professionals develop self-care strategies. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

So she dubbed it “Slipper Camp” and invited participants to ditch their heels in favor of warm, snuggly and even silly-looking bedroom slippers.

“If we’re not taking care of ourselves,” Parker said, “we’re more likely to make poor judgments and burn out.”

It was with those words that Parker coordinated her first Slipper Camp last week at the Lavin-Bernick Center on the uptown campus. About 40 New Orleans area social workers attended, with most taking Parker up on her invitation to wear slippers.

The workshop featured talks and activities designed to help mental health professionals develop strategies for taking care of themselves.

Speakers included Ron McClain, executive director of Family Service of Greater New Orleans, who spoke on the wisdom and ethics of self-care; Vaughn Randolph Fauria, executive director of NewCorp, who spoke on financial health; and Emelina Edwards, author of Fit and Fabulous at 70 and Beyond, who shared exercise, nutrition and relaxation tips.

Harpreet Samra, senior program coordinator for the Institute for Psychosocial Health, addressed the issue of maintaining boundaries with colleagues and friends, and Parker offered strategies for reaching career potential.

“Social work is such a demanding profession,” Parker said, “and I wanted to address the whole person — spiritually, financially, physically, occupationally, socially and psychologically.”

At the end of the workshop, prizes were awarded for the cutest slippers, the weirdest slippers and the slippers most in need of replacement. Participants who filled out a survey lauded the experience. “The evaluations were off the charts, with requests to do something similar each year,” Parker said.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu