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What does Service mean in the Human Services?

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…


Bernadette Glass supports practitioners in the social services and health sectors to bring a people-centred approach to their practice. Explore the range of practical and insightful workshops she offers online & in person.

Click here for event details and bookings.

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