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Feature Profile - Field Instructor Leyla Didari

Feature Profile - Field Instructor Leyla Didari


Leyla Didari is a Registered Social Worker (RSW) with two Master of Social Work (MSW) degrees from Iran and Canada.  She currently works as a social worker at Compass ACT Team at Michael Garron Hospital with adults with chronic mental health issues.  She is using an eclectic approach tailored to the unique needs of each client.  Leyla has over 16 years of experience in a variety of settings and with diverse clients, including both patients with physical and/or mental health issues.   Leyla is always challenging herself. She went through so many changes in her life, such as changing her career from nursing to social work, immigrating to Canada and starting over, learning a new language and going through various academic programs in her new country, such as IESW (International Educated Social Worker) Program at Ryerson University, as well as MSW Program at the University of Windsor, while working full time.  She is continuously seeking to gain more skills and broaden her education.  For instance, Leyla has spent many hours of training to become a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) facilitator and a certified Auricular Acupuncture Specialist.  Leyla tries to provide an environment of compassion and support to help her clients and families overcome obstacles to move forward and thrive.

This is what Leyla had to say about her experience working as a social worker in Canada and supervising York University social work students.

Tell me about your social work journey.

I was a nurse before becoming a social worker, but I was always fascinated with what the social workers working at the hospital were doing for our clients.  I started to realize that I wanted to be a part of change in all aspects of my clients’ life, not just one area. I wanted to enter people’s lives and follow up with them upon getting discharged.  I wanted to provide not only direct counselling for my patients, their families, and groups, but liaison between different institutions to assist patients and collaborate with other health professionals to ensure my client’s wellness.  That’s why I chose to be a social worker.  During my social work journey, I experienced many changes such as working in a different field, teaching, supervising students, immigrating here and practicing my skills in a new country.  I worked with people with physical challenges back home in Iran, as well as people with mental health issues here in Canada. Based on my experience in both countries I believe that social work is a profession that you can apply anywhere worldwide.

Tell me about your current position and what you love and what are some of the challenges.

Not many people go to work everyday to do a job like mine.  It’s unpredictable and no day is similar to the day before.  I am working as a social worker in Compass ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) Team at Michael Garron Hospital for the past 8 years and enjoy every minute of it.  It is a multidisciplinary team supporting people with chronic mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, who need high and intense support.  Every member of our team participates in providing case management support for our clients.

Working in this field helped me specialize my practice with specific types of clients as well.  I also work with many special types of disorders, such as addiction and substance abuse; aging-related mental health issues, family, marital or parenting issues, problems with self-esteem, and various emotional and behavioral struggles.  The most important aspect of my social work job is doing biosocial assessment, entering people’s lives and working with all aspects of a client’s life, such as family, friends, work place etc.  Also, as a social worker I will follow up with a case after a discharge to make sure a client has connected to proper resources.

The social work specific work has to do with recovery support.  Recovery support includes a peer support group, a recovery group, destigmatization of our clients to integrate them back into the community.  We highlight their strengths and support their integration into their community, therefore they can be as dependent as they can be.  It feels amazing to see our clients grow, become more independent and move on. It is a rewarding job.

The most challenging aspect of my job is to keep reminding myself to look at issues from our clients’ point of view not mine.  Also our work environment is often extremely demanding. Irregular schedules, exposure to unsanitary conditions, and risk of assault are just some of the realities that we confront in a daily basis.


Field Instructor Leyla Didari


What attracted you to supervise students?

I have been supervising social work students for the past fifteen years, both in my home country and in Canada. I enjoy mutual learning opportunities during student placements. I learn a lot from York students, they help me to grow and I help them to get out of their comfort zone, bridge practice and theory, and try new aspects of the social work profession.

What have been some of your favourite supervision moments?

My favourite moment is when I hear the students I have supervised are successful in finding employment after their placement, especially when they find their dream jobs.  I also enjoy our supervision sessions and seeing how my students are practicing their skills and improving their field knowledge.

How do you support students in bridging practice and theory?

I am very clear and honest with my students during their placement interview about what they can expect with their placement.  I always let them know the theories they learn in books, they sound good, but are not always easy to practice.  The mental health field specifically in a hospital setting we do work with a medical model which goes against progressive theory.  This can cause a social work dilemma where students must decide what type of social work they want to practice and participate in, but also presents a wonderful learning opportunity for students.

What tips do you provide students you supervise about practicing self-care?

As social workers, we need to be mindful of our own mental health.  Try to work as best as we can, but not internalize our clients’ issues, and don’t bring them home with us.  Practice mindfulness meditation and have some “me” time to relax and enjoy life.

What have you learned from the students you supervise?  How have they inspired you?

I find supervising students really fun.  They have lots of fresh ideas and challenge me.  My last student was very curious and had so many questions, which was good for me and my practice.  I didn’t have all the answers, but it made me think, learn and search for answers. I really enjoy working with students. 

Last question - what advice would you give to new social worker graduates?

Don’t wait for your dream job, go with any opportunities that come your way and go from there.  Improve your skills and enhance your knowledge in the field.