Conflict resolution is an essential part of social work practice today, but one that can frequently be mishandled. Social workers must learn to use conflict resolution to help their clients and resolve issues constructively. Undergoing a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) can help social workers develop these critical skills.
Conflict resolution is an inherent part of the social work environment and the role of a social worker is expected to play in advocating for their clients’ best interests.
Social workers need to practice conflict resolution in a variety of areas, including family violence, sexual assault, child or elder abuse, crisis intervention or when issues of litigation or criminal proceedings are involved for clients.
Moreover, social workers are increasingly required to follow disputes into court, whether as expert witnesses or parties to lawsuits, and the subsequent tensions and negative feelings often require social workers to play a conflict management role.
What is Conflict Resolution?
Conflict resolution is a way that two or more parties can find a peaceful solution to a disagreement – be it personal, financial or emotional. Strategies are employed to successfully manage, mitigate or otherwise settle such differences among individuals, families, groups, organizations, communities or any other social unit.
Social workers may use a wide variety of conflict management methods to achieve this. These can include negotiation, advocacy, group facilitation, family group conferencing, healing circles and evaluation.
Why Social Workers Need Conflict Resolution Skills
Whether they are advocating for clients, dealing with conflict within an organization or community group, or helping clients learn how to deal with conflict in their own lives more effectively, being able to employ, model and teach conflict resolution is an essential skill that many social workers must use on a daily basis.
Conflict resolution is not only a core competency for all social workers, but it’s a field in which social workers can specialize. Conflict management professionals provide services to help people in conflict find their way to a healthier, more productive resolution.
As a specialized area of practice, conflict resolution can encompass mediation, coaching, dispute system design and arbitration. The use of conflict management processes is growing within areas of social work practice, ranging from family counseling and child welfare to elder and medical care. There are many opportunities as a social worker for people with a passion and talent for conflict resolution.
Conflict Resolution Skills and Strategies
Constructive strategies for conflict resolution include problem-solving, confirmation and perspective taking, whereas destructive strategies can include rejection, avoidance and using a win/lose paradigm.
There is a wide range of psychosocial theories of conflict resolution that can help inform the social work practice. Students undertaking a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) will be introduced to a range of theories and the corresponding practical strategies that can be applied.
They will come to understand: the dynamics of conflict; how to develop effective conflict management skills; how to support clients in resolving conflict themselves; and how to assist clients in using new perspectives and skills to resolve conflict.
The internship that students undertake during their MSW degree often provides them with a chance to test out these skills in a professional, supervised environment.
This is just one of the ways that an MSW helps prepare social workers to deal with conflict resolution in a professional environment. Learn what an MSW can do for your career and start exploring your options today.
How do you think social workers can utilize conflict resolution skills to reach mutually beneficial solutions for their clients?