What's All this Talk About Emotion? Developing Emotional Intelligence in Social Work Students

Dr Louise Grant, Dr Gail Kinman, Kelly Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The capacity to manage emotional reactions effectively, frequently in complex care settings, is central to the role of a social worker. Nonetheless, there is evidence that social work students frequently find their placements emotionally demanding and stressful. It is proposed that emotional intelligence may help students manage their emotional reactions more effectively during placements and their subsequent career. To date, however, little systematic research has explored whether emotional intelligence and associated competencies can be enhanced during social work training and the implications for wellbeing. This paper presents a mixed-methods two-stage study which aimed to increase emotional competencies in social work students during the first year of training. More specifically, it assesses the impact of a workshop designed to enhance emotional competencies and an emotional writing task on levels of emotional intelligence, reflective ability and empathy which were assessed via questionnaire and reflective logs pre- and post-intervention (Times 1 and 2). Levels of reflective ability and empathy increased significantly between Times 1 and 2 and psychological distress decreased. Content analysis of reflective logs found evidence that reflective ability, empathy and emotional intelligence were enhanced following the interventions. The implications of the findings for the development of the curriculum are considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)874-889
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Work Education: The International Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2014


  • Reflection
  • Resilience
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Social Work
  • Students
  • Teaching


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