The wounded social work student: A strength-based enquiry of personal loss experience and its impact on social work students’ professional practice




The wounded healer, loss and grief, social work curriculum, field placement supervision


INTRODUCTION: When working in the fields of loss, grief, bereavement and dying, the lived experience of the social work students, and their developing practice in the field, can be enhanced by awareness of the concept of the wounded healer.

METHODS: This study sought to explore the wounded healer concept amongst Australian social work students who had experienced the death of a loved one. The project was underpinned by a phenomenological approach seeking to understand personal loss experiences in professional practice skill development. Using semi-structured interviews, final-year social work students were asked to reflect on the positive and negative impacts of their personal loss experience on their emerging professional social work practice.

FINDINGS: An analysis of the data identified three main themes: (1) repeated triggers of loss and grief during field placement can occur; (2) students’ ambiguity and confusion of safe inclusion of lived experience in a professional setting was identified; and (3) learning can be impacted by wounded reflections.

CONCLUSION: The study noted a lack of understanding among social work students on how to safely navigate their own woundedness and how to incorporate awareness into their professional practice skills. This may be addressed by responding to a current gap in the Australian social work curriculum. Future considerations for reflections on the effectiveness of field placement supervision and further guidance and education for wounded social work students at a university level may assist.

Author Biography

Sarah Wayland, University of New England

Senior Lecuturer at the University of New England, School of Health / School of Social Work


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How to Cite

McInnerney, K., & Wayland, S. (2022). The wounded social work student: A strength-based enquiry of personal loss experience and its impact on social work students’ professional practice. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 34(3), 136–144.



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