The uncommon sense in youth work : a study of practice wisdom in social work relationship with young people

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The uncommon sense in youth work : a study of practice wisdom in social work relationship with young people

 

Author: Cheung, Chun-sing Johnson
Title: The uncommon sense in youth work : a study of practice wisdom in social work relationship with young people
Degree: DSW
Year: 2016
Subject: Social work with youth.
Social workers.
Social service -- Psychological aspects.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: xii, 234 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2925458
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/8711
Abstract: Over the past century, the purpose of social work has been changing, and it has yet come to a consensus about the core mission of this profession. The relationship between social worker and service user has also been changed, to the service users as customers, the manager as the key, and the social workers as employees (Tsui & Cheung, 2004), due to the escalation in managerial control and reduction of practitioners' professional autonomy (Lymbery, 2001; Murphy, Duggan, & Joseph, 2013). The changing roles of service users as consumers suggest that they no longer depend on "trust" but rather emphasize their "right" to services through contractual obligation (Smith, 2001). The purpose of social work is, and should always be, about relating with and trying to understand our service users (Howe, 1998). However, the importance of this purpose has been largely diminished as social work is professionalizing according to the standard of other disciplines, such as psychotherapy, medicine, science, etc. The professionality of social work is not as distinctive as its counterparts since its knowledge base (Trevithick, 2008) has yet been well established. Provided that the boundaries (Abbott, 1995) of our profession remain blurred, but we are striving for professional uniqueness at the same time, the "profession" of social work is conceptualized mainly according to the functionalist perspective. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why social workers are sometimes being downplayed as practicing according merely to general common sense. Social worker is not a technocrat with the expertise in tackling human problems by applying only the procedural knowledge (Chu, Tsui, & Yan, 2009). Wise practitioners should be uncommonly good at being present and possess common sense to an uncommon degree (Powell, 2008). Only by this could they practice with this unusual sensitivity to start where the client is. For a competent and highly experienced social worker, intuition can never be avoided. He/she should practice according to a matter of intuitive understanding through the intersubjective encounter with service users. Practice wisdom in social work is not only a commonsensical basis of professional judgment but also a kind of uniquely uncommon practical sense among social workers in particular. Indeed, practitioners might face difficulties in discerning practice wisdom from practice experience, good practice, or common sense. There is an urgent need to address the knowledge gap by looking for evidences to substantiate that practice wisdom in social work is exceptional. Youth work was conceived as a showcase of relationship-based social work in this study. The author was interested in examining how social workers are able to connect with service users through a relationship with trust. By making references to soft evidences in youth work, this study aimed to pinpoint a controversial but important issue in practice, i.e. the practice wisdom in social work relationship.
In this study, a holistic understanding of practice wisdom was developed to address the contemporary crisis in social work. The author argued that the distinctiveness and professionality of social work could be found in the intersubjective encounters between social workers and service users. Practice wisdom was defined as a sensibly use of self of a highly experienced social worker in the artistry of practice. It involved not only experiences and skills but also encompasses the moral senses of practitioners. Informants of this study explained that core ingredients of trustworthiness such as acceptance, companionship, and genuineness were crucial to a good relationship with service users. The trustworthiness in social work relationship provided practitioners with an invaluable opportunity to foster empathic understanding and helping alliance with their service users. Yet, it demanded a long-lasting engagement in developing such a strong feeling of togetherness. Practice wisdom in social work referred to the humanistic attitude and embodied sense that could only be cultivated by engaging with service users in an unconditional and person-centred social work relationship. The author intended to draw the attention of contemporary scholars, educators, and practitioners to determine how this important concept in social work can be defined and apprehended more explicitly.

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