The determination of the level of preparedness of various graduates in dealing with substance addiction in the practice set up has been shown to indicate that those students lack the necessary requirements. This may be the argument of authors who claim that the academic setting does not provide relevant skills due to the concentration of the curriculum on the ecological rather than the clinical setting used in addressing substance abuse issue (Jani et al., 2009).However, the present essay refutes this claim with the proposal that likein other professional courses, it is impossible to effectively gain practical knowledge and preparedness in the classroom set up. Moreover, the diversity of social work issues makes it difficult to effectively understand the entire scope of any single aspect of the profession. It is therefore only through field practice gained after graduation that the students can effectively build their knowledge as well as preparedness in dealing with the variety of issues presented in social work practice, inclusive of dealing with substance addiction.
Comparison to other works
The argument that social workers may not be aptly prepared or knowledgeable in dealing with substance addiction issues is built on the premise that besides the wide scope of the profession, other individual factors also come into play when it comes to the practice of social work. For instance, the variety of internship positions gives the students different capabilities as they deal with their clients in the professional set up. While one student may be aptly capable of handling substance abuse issues due to past experience, another may be capable of dealing with children in social work issues. This does not mean that one is more capable than the other but rather one needs more experience in a particular aspect than another.
In addition to this, the difference in the views experienced in the field may also contribute to the lack of preparedness and knowledge among graduates. In particular, as Jani et al. (2009) report, factors such as discrimination also influence the opinion of students about addressing substance addiction in social work. The unwillingness of the more experienced social workers coupled with their pessimism about the potential for success of any interventions makes it difficult for graduates to ease into the practice with regards to substance addiction. The present study supports this argument with the addition that besides the incapacitation of the intervention process, the pessimism experienced in the field also reduces the morale of the graduates, making it difficult for them to gain new knowledge in addressing substance addiction issues. The combination of lack of academic strength and pessimism in the field poses a challenge to graduates entering into active social work practice.
Jani et al blame the continuum between BSW and MSW for the lack of knowledge and perceived preparedness in dealing with substance abuse. Although this may also contribute through the waste of time consumed in specialization, it cannot be directly linked to the perceived lack of preparedness and knowledge. Moreover, the argument that the lack of preparedness may be due to lack of prioritization within the faculty and during the training at an administrative level lacks sufficient foundation. As explained earlier, the scope of social work is too diverse to be tackled wholly in all its aspects. It is therefore expected that the differences in the academic and the field experiences encountered in the social work practice should be able to build sufficient knowledge and skills for later application.
The need for including substance abuse intervention education at all levels of social work education is recommended by Jani et al. However, it is the opinion of the essay that including substance addiction as an essential part of training at all levels may not effectively address the lack of preparedness and knowledge that is prevalent among social work graduates. This is because while training offers the theoretical application principles to varying contexts, these principles may to a large extent be similar to the general principles offered for intervention in most other social work cases. This implies that however much the aspect of substance addiction may be studied theoretically, effective application depends only on the training offered in the field through practice. On the other hand, Jani et al may be right in this aspect since as Bina et al assert, most of the graduates who report lack of preparedness only do so because they are unaware of their capability.
Specialization in the MSW setting provides students with sufficient skills in social work. However, Jani et al report that even those who specialize through MSW either in an advanced standing capacity or otherwise perceive themselves to be of less preparedness and knowledge in dealing with substance addiction. This clearly shows that the capacity to deal with substance addiction is a function of factors beyond the classroom and as such, it would not be easy to achieve the desired level of preparedness through curriculum modification. A point of view contrary to this is that rather than having students specialize in the type of social work problems that can be handled; the curriculum modification should be aimed at specialization in the type of intervention, either clinical or ecological.
The recommendation to specialize in particular social work types is based on the argument that although the recommendation by Jani et al to include substance addiction intervention in the social work curricular is supported by other authors such as Bina et al (2008), it is believed that this may not contribute effectively to the buildup of knowledge perception or preparedness. This is based on the argument drawn from the work of Jani et al which shows that there is a probability that the perceived lack of knowledge or preparedness is due to the lack of exposure in the field. The graduates may not have encountered a case of substance addiction and are thus unaware that they can effectively handle such a case.
The articlesauthored by Jani et al and Bina et al provide ways through which preparedness and knowledge of substance addiction intervention can be improved in the academic setting, it is important to note that both articles lack in terms of provision of adequate rationale for the inclusion of such knowledge in the curriculum. In this essay, the recommendation made is to not only modify the curriculum to fit the types of intervention rather than particular case types but also to cater for other factors which influence the lack of preparedness and knowledge among students. One of the ways in which this could be achieved is through incorporation of at least two internship sessions during social work training to give the students an opportunity to gain experience in dealing with different cases.
Moreover, the experiences of the students in the varied cases may also be shared to enhance understanding of the social work context with respect to various cases. This is because inclusion of singular case types such as substance abuse intervention will broaden the curriculum, making it difficult for the students to effectively grasp every point given. Moreover, it may place pressure on other aspects of the curriculum resulting in lower quality of training. Eventually, there may be a complaint of inefficiency in several aspects of social work training.
The argument that the diversity of social work issues makes it impossible to effectively acquire all relevant knowledge in the classroom set up is exemplified through various supporting points. Contrary to claims by Jani et al and Bina et al that the classroom set up can provide sufficient training on intervening in substance addiction issues, the present essay suggests that the only way to cover the gap between perceived lack of preparedness and actual preparedness is through field practice. While this essay addresses the issue of preparedness and knowledge of graduates in substance addiction, it is limited in its scope since it is based merely on the arguments of other authors and on critical thinking. It is therefore recommended that future research should focus on other factors that may contribute to the perceived lack of knowledge and preparedness in addressing substance addiction in practice. In practice, it is more necessary to change the social work mindset with regards to substance addiction intervention rather than changing the curriculum. It is easy for pessimism to result in lack of effectiveness even in the presence of sufficient academic background.
Bina, R., Hall, D., Smith-Osborne, A., Mollette, A., Yum, J., Jani, J.,and Sowbel, L. (2008). ‘Substance Abuse Training and Perceived Knowledge: Predictors of Perceived Preparedness to Work in Substance Abuse.’ Journal of Social Work Education, 44, 3, 7-20.
Jani, J., Sowbel, L., Smith-Osborne, A., Yum, J.,Mollette, A., Hall, D. and Bina, R. (2009). ‘Perceived Preparedness and Knowledge of Substance Abuse among Recent MSW Graduates: Advanced Standing Revisited.’ Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 9, 381- 399.