Aesthetics of Self-Care for social workers


The Need

Support for graduating social work students who have been experiencing stress and compassion fatigue from doing work placements, and will soon be entering the ‘real world’ of social work.

The Response

A self-care program contextualized for up and coming professionals in the social work field, focused on giving space for productive rest through art and play, as well as the learning opportunity in deepening an understanding psychosocial skills that can be applied to their own self-care practice, as well as the work they do with others.


  • Among graduating students, there was raised awareness about the realities of social work, and practical steps towards building their own self-care practice.
  • For the course leaders, they felt their students were better equipped through a program that complemented the curriculum already in place.


The Chair of the Social Work Department (currently, Dean of the College of Social Work), Rosario Sequitin RSW, had been looking for programs to augment the learning experience of her graduating batch of 2018 at the University of Southern Philippines Foundation. Typical stress management and psychosocial processing training did not adapt enough of a holistic perspective in order to equip incoming social workers for the complex work to be done. In the 2017 launch of The Human Costs of the Philippine War on Drugs, members and network of the National Association for Social Work Education (NASWEI), Ms. Sequitin also noted the direction of the open forum focused on the complex and chronic stress, depression, and compassion fatigue social workers of the country are facing, which was underscored by the topic of the book. The message was clear: in order to keep supporting those in need, social workers needed support, too. 

Through the support of the Agustin and Beatriz Jereza Memorial Foundation, Dean Sequitin was able to partner with MAGIS Creative Spaces to offer her graduating students a learning opportunity that introduced the expressive arts as an approach to both professional self-care and professional social work practice, describing that it would be the first course of its kind to be offered in Philippine Social Work education. Over the course of 3 months, the last quarter of the school year, MAGIS worked with the graduating students through the program Aesthetics of Self-Care, running two batches of the full program, and a half-day program and debriefing with the course leaders. 

The role of the expressive arts in a program such as this is to bridge sensitivities that may be coming from the rich personal stories that the participants bring as their narratives are shared and held throughout the program. This is achieved by creating a space for participants to engage in non-verbal exploration of concerns, and making tangible what may not be easy to verbalize.

The program was framed by an assessment process that documented quality and levels of self-care, professional quality of life, self-compassion, and burnout. Through these self-reported assessments, the programs team identified more than half of the group as experiencing compassion fatigue, which allowed them to design a flow of activities addressing that issue. While stress management was still a staple topic, the team placed emphasis on the practical application of self-compassion. As one participant said, “It’s nice to finally have something that is made for us.”

It’s nice to finally have
something that is made for us.
– Student

This program was made possible through the partnership of:

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