What does Service mean in the Human Services?

Bernadette Glass
on Jan 28, 2014

Words are easy to come by and can be glossed over to the point that we don’t really take much notice of what they mean any more. The word service is one of those glossed over - a word that applies to almost every thing we do  - at work, in a restaurant, getting my car fixed, going to church, mating a mare and on it goes!

In the human services there is not much we can gloss over if we are tuned into what our work entails.

My 35 years in the human services has seen me faced with disease ridden and dying patients, homeless people - young and old, people who are suicidal, parents who have put their children at risk and those desperate to come to terms with the reality of their lives whether that be disability or caring for a mentally unwell child or spouse for example.

It is not until recently that I have more seriously consider what the word service means to me.  So far I have felt that the word means:

  1. To serve another – open the way for another to be more self determined
  2. To see others as equal, absolutely equal to me
  3. That the client’s desires come first - as long as safety is ensured
  4. That I can become complacent in my job and subtly impose on clients
  5. That expressing feelings and thoughts with true care prevents unresolved tension
  6. That I am not responsible for any one else’s life choices – rescuing people is harmful to them
  7. My own self-care is the most important ingredient for remaining available, ready and committed to the service I provide.
  8. Service is another word for Love and needs to be discussed in workplaces a lot more!

I’d love to hear from you about how the word service resonates for you. The more we express what really goes on in our workplaces the more effective support and quality services we will deliver… Let’s make this a space for some honest discussion…

1 comment on "What does Service mean in the Human Services?"

Submitted by Sally Scott on Thu, 06/02/2014 - 15:42

I have worked with some of the most marginalised people in society, including groups of young people, families and women. I have spent many years as a case-worker, developing strong case management skills and working with clients who had ‘given up’ and had complex needs and issues – including mental health, alcohol and drug use, offending behaviours, homelessness, family and domestic violence, and trauma. Today, I manage a not-for-profit service that supports women in the justice system. It is here that I have been fortunate enough to work with a professional group of colleagues where together we have focused on how we are with each other on any given day, that is, how we are being in the workplace before we bring focus to what we do at work. We serve ourselves first by self caring, being self responsible and developing as a team. We then serve others with integrity, quality, equality, respect and love.

Leave a Reply