Promoting conscious competence by introducing mindfulness to social work students


  • Jayne Howie University of the West of Scotland
  • Debbie Innes University of the West of Scotland
  • Paul Harvey University of the West of Scotland



Given the emotive context of social work practice, acquiring competence can be challenging. Professional aptitude involves prowess in analytical thinking and controlling emotions, however, this can create conflict within the therapeutic relationship. For trainees, analytical thinking and managing emotions are difficult skills to attain and are not always directly taught, leaving individuals to their own devices to develop possibly ineffective, strategies for dealing with complex emotions and resulting stress. As evidence suggests social workers are vulnerable to burnout, thus managing work-related stress becomes a career-long necessity and, if not managed, has serious consequences for organisations and service users and workers themselves. To address this gap, we piloted mindfulness sessions based on Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programme (MBSR) with final year social work students. These sessions are being increasingly and successfully used in a wide variety of organisations across the globe and there is an increasing body of research evidencing numerous benefits for those involved. Feedback from our students suggests these sessions produced a number of personal and professional benefits and includes promoting their resilience and conscious competence.

Author Biographies

Jayne Howie, University of the West of Scotland

Lecturer in Social Work

Debbie Innes, University of the West of Scotland

Lecturer in Social Work

Paul Harvey, University of the West of Scotland

Lecturer in Social Work


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How to Cite

Howie, J., Innes, D., & Harvey, P. (2016). Promoting conscious competence by introducing mindfulness to social work students. The Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning, 14(1), 88-104.