Methods: The study utilized a qualitative‐constructivist perspective, which seeks to capture the essence of a phenomenon through a close examination of people's individual perceptions and experiences in light of the broader social‐political relations in which they are enmeshed. The sample included 30 community social workers in the public social services in Israel. All participants that were included in the study (26 women and 4 men) were active frontline community social workers (i.e., their core task as social workers is to carry out community-based interventions) and their overall years of experience ranged from 1 to 25 years, with an average of 5.66 years. Participants ranged in age from 26 to 50, with a mean age of 37.96. Data were collected through in-depth interview with participants. Informed by an inductive approach to data analysis, all data were coded thematically.
Findings: Findings show that community social workers experienced a wide range of interrelated negative emotions, including helplessness, frustration, disappointment, and anger. In response, findings expose that workers developed four distinct coping practices: (1) emotional distancing, which involved community workers suppressing their emotions and detaching themselves from them; (2) sharing of emotions with colleagues, friends, supervisors and managers; (3) self-soothing techniques in which workers frequently reminded themselves of the magnitude of the pandemic and told themselves that they do not have control over it; and (4) politization, which involved confronting the negative emotions by becoming involved in political activity that, among other things, challenged the policies and rules that the government launched in response to the pandemic.
Conclusions and Implications: Findings echo Foucault’s notion of “technologies of the self,” which refers to how individuals act and respond to the power exerted upon them so as to create a specific form of subjectivity. At the practice level, findings underscore the need to recognize the importance of emotions in community practice at the frontlines of the social services.