Journal Article

Constructing social work identity based on the reflexive self

D Miehls and K Moffatt

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 30, issue 3, pages 339-348
Published in print June 2000 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online June 2000 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Constructing social work identity based on the reflexive self

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In this article, the social work identity is conceptualized based on concepts of the self (Benjamin, 1995; Foucault, 1988), rather than concepts associated with ego psychology. Social work students, teachers and practitioners have historically attempted to gain a sense of ego mastery and control by the acquisition of theory to enhance skill-based practice expertise (Austin, 1952; Zetzel, 1953; Bandler, 1960; Memmot and Brennan, 1998). In so doing, they have attempted to manage anxiety as a means to enhance learning. Traditional social work functions such as acceptance, non-judgemental attitudes, and empathy (Biestek, 1957; Woods and Hollis, 1990) have been utilized to encourage practitioners to manage their feelings related to difference. We argue, however, that the social work identity is enriched when social workers allow their selves to be in a state of disassembly in the presence of the other (Smith, 1997). When social workers experience their selves as complex and dialogical, they are more open to the influence of the other (Bakhtin, 1993). We make the case for practitioners to work on a reflexive self rather than attempting to achieve ego control through the management of anxiety.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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