Journal Article

The Ethic of Care: Recapturing Social Work's First Voice

Phillip Dybicz

in Social Work

Published on behalf of National Association of Social Workers

Volume 57, issue 3, pages 271-280
Published in print July 2012 | ISSN: 0037-8046
Published online July 2012 | e-ISSN: 1545-6846 | DOI:
The Ethic of Care: Recapturing Social Work's First Voice

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This article examines the dynamic between expressions of care—that is, simple acts of kindness and consideration that make up friendly relations—and professional expertise. During the 20th century, social work based its expertise on a solid scientific foundation. Within the embrace of scientific expertise, expressions of care are assigned the vital, but limited, role of ameliorating the sterile application of scientific knowledge, mainly through the application of social work values. This role is limited, however, because social workers are cautioned to avoid dual relationships; one cannot be both a professional and a friend to the client. This was not always the case. Working from a different paradigm, Charity Organization Society workers and settlement house workers each actively embraced and nurtured the notion of being a friend and neighbor to those they served. Postmodern practices—also stemming from a different paradigm and embracing an expertise in critical consciousness, in turn—seek to redefine the client–social worker relationship along this dimension. Expressions of care, propagated through a genuine (albeit circumscribed) friendship, actively contribute to treatment planning and a more fruitful outcome.

Keywords: care; client–social worker relationship; dual relationships; expertise; feminism

Journal Article.  5941 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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