Teaching Mental Health and Well-Being Online in a Crisis: Fostering Love and Self-compassion in Clinical Social Work Education

Trevor G. Gates*, Dyann Ross, Bindi Bennett, Kate Jonathan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has shifted clinical social work (CSW) and mental health education in Australia, and indeed throughout much of the globe, onto online delivery. The disruption caused by COVID-19 presents unexpected challenges in fostering the development of skill sets among social work educators in partnership with students. This article is a reflexive collaborative autoethnography written by four educators of different international and cultural backgrounds at a regional university in Queensland. Our university has experienced a shift from primarily a face-to-face delivery to online delivery due to social distancing. This article is grounded in an ethic of love, a values-based relationship-oriented practice promoting care, collaborative dialogue and solidarity between people, using self-compassion and reflexivity. We explore how COVID-19 has forced the authors to alter their teaching practice, cope with uncertainties, and respond with loving kindness to the shifting needs of students. We draw upon our experiences as educators of diverse cultural, linguistic, gender, and sexualities from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Nigeria and reflect upon how we have simultaneously turned inward and outward through technology. We draw upon person-centered, narrative, trauma informed and anti-oppressive clinical and educational approaches when exploring self-compassion and loving approaches with the students. We discuss the need for self-compassion and love of others as we respond to the current crisis by modeling self-compassion and love for CSW students who are experiencing crises, including loss of employment, separation from family overseas and interstate, isolation from colleagues and loved ones, and healthcare issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-34
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Social Work Journal
Issue number1
Early online date28 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


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