One of the most profound experiences of clinical social work is witnessing relationships heal. It is a myth to think that any one person is completely devoid of emotional pain, at some point or other over a lifetime. Clinical social workers need a philosophy of care that mirrors this belief in the healing power of love. Where social workers struggle with the view that relationships are able to recover from significant experiences of betrayal such as infidelity, then it is important to be honest about this standpoint before offering any clinical intervention to others. Reflective practitioners are called to examine their own beliefs about the capacity of people to forgive one another, and the ability to move on in new and healthy ways. Many married couples do recover from the terrible impacts of betrayal and loss. Discovering some otherwise hidden truth about a spouse including infidelity, gambling, financial indiscretion, drug use, or an illegitimate child is deeply painful. Surviving the loss of a child together is likely the most difficult challenge any couple might face. Building on a strong foundation of respect and friendship, individuals are able to heal together, often growing closer than ever before. The discovery of a sexual affair is devastating to most people. Yet, spouses are often able to understand the factors that led to hide the truth or lie in the first place. Many are also willing to work on getting-better together. Of course, some couples are not able to move forward, and decide it is best to separate and divorce. This decision to end a marriage is a very serious one. Most couples engage the support of a clinical social worker or marriage therapist, even for a few sessions, before deciding to part ways. Where children are involved, recovery is further complicated, but not impossible.
A loving relationship built on a strong foundation of respect, care, and friendship has the capacity to rebuild where trust has been compromised. Where individuals decide to share this healing journey with a registered mental health professional, an impartial and non-judgemental approach works best. If you hold cynical views about marriage following sexual infidelity, financial betrayal, or substance abuse, then it important to be honest about this position with your clients from the get go. In our present times, perhaps more than ever before, individuals have options. Supporting relationships to grow and heal is truly a privileged aspect of clinical social work. Do you feel qualified and prepared to support couples seeking clinical support? What are your views about healing relationships? Do you believe that marriages can survive a significant betrayal?
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