Client violence toward Iranian social workers : A national study

Abstract: Introduction   Client violence toward social workers has become recognized as a common problem, and major concern has been raised with regard to its impacts on the workers’ practice, and physical and psychological health. More than half a century has passed since the social work profession was established in Iran, and yet client violence and the associated health-related consequences remain unexplored. This thesis aims to address this gap in knowledge. Methods   A national survey was conducted involving 390 social workers from the Centres for Socially Injured People (CSIP), affiliated to the Social Affairs Department of the State Welfare Organization, Iran. The survey included self-administered questionnaires, namely, the Workplace Violence in the Health Sector questionnaire, the General Health Questionnaire-28 (GHQ-28), the Ways of Coping questionnaire, the Burnout Measure, and the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale. Results   A high proportion of CSIP social workers (67%) have experienced violence. Psychological violence was about three times more common than physical violence. A high tendency of not reporting psychological violence to managers/supervisors was found. Psychological violence was associated with poorer mental health. Social workers with experience of psychological violence were found to be more worried about occurrences of violent events. Worrying about violence was significantly correlated with poorer mental health. Active coping had a direct effect on health, suggesting a poorer health status with more frequent use of active coping. Burnout was experienced by 10.9% of social workers, and 17.4% were found to be at risk of developing burnout symptoms. Low self-esteem and experience of violence were associated with burnout. Conclusion   The results suggest the importance of not neglecting cases of client violence and of putting the health and safety of social workers on top of the agenda. A victimized social worker with limited resources at work needs to note that coping skills may reduce the impact of stressors, not only by changing the stressors themselves, but also by changing how the social worker responds to them.