Author: Lo, Yuen-shan
Title: Exploratory study on the conceptions and challenges in social work helping relationships among the social workers in Guangdong China
Degree: DSW
Year: 2017
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Social workers -- China -- Guangzhou
Helping behavior -- China -- Guangzhou
Social service -- China -- Guangzhou
Department: Department of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: viii, 312 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: The helping relationship is considered to be the core of social work practice. Relationship building is one of the inextricable processes in the entire field of social work helping that may highly influence the outcome of an intervention. Therefore, it has often attracted much attention from academia and practitioners who want to examine its nature and the skills involved. Social work as a newly developed profession in Mainland China, has generally adopted Western social work knowledge and skills and applied them in the local context. Many disparities were identified in the conceptual understanding of the "relationship". Local knowledge and practice wisdom pertaining to the helping relationship were rarely found. Many scholars had already raised concerns about indigenizing western knowledge to develop a contextualized knowledge. Therefore, this study aimed to identify the views of the local social workers on the helping relationship through examining its nature and attributes, the contextual and cultural factors affecting the helping relationship, and the dilemmas faced. Qualitative research using in-depth interviews was adopted for the study. Eight social workers from Guangzhou were invited to share their views.
By using NVivo as an aid for thematic data analysis, it was found that the eight social workers had similar understandings of the helping relationship with its time-bounded and goal-oriented nature. However, the relationship was more like companionship than a professional relationship. The significant attributes were characterized by providing tangible assistance to obtain a successful outcome, and building a good image, etc. Various contextual forces apart from the agency and setting differences were unexpectedly found. The administrative interference from the Ministry of Civic Affairs (MoCA), Street offices and Residents' Committees was identified as a factor influencing the helping relationship on various levels. Apart from this, the understanding of relational networks, reciprocity and face culture etc. obtained from and influenced by Chinese culture inevitably influenced the people's orientation towards the helping relationship. These forces sometimes facilitate the helping process but usually create barriers for the social workers. These difficulties consist of the tension among professional knowledge, personal values, cultural forces and contextual norms. The respondents also expressed the opinion that the existing social work knowledge was too theoretical, standardized and did not address the human and contextual complexity. Yet, they still developed their practice wisdom within the cultural context and contextual constraints together with personal beliefs to overcome the various challenges. Some comparisons were also made to articulate the difference in perspectives between rural and urban settings and local and non-local social workers, as well as young and experienced social workers. These findings draw attention to understanding the social work profession in Mainland China is an interlocking systemic framework rather than a dyadic one. It consists of the influence of cultural forces, political discourse and various stages of social work development. It also calls for the need to indigenize the social work knowledge and practice including the redefinition of the helping relationship and professional boundaries within the sensitivity of local Chinese culture. It is recommended that the professional socialization of the social workers be strengthened, including the provision of social work education, the establishment of professional regulating mechanisms, and public recognition etc. It is hoped that the current study may contribute to the building of professional knowledge on the conceptual understanding of the helping relationship. More local educators and practitioners are encouraged to develop and consolidate contextualized knowledge making it compatible with local culture as well as giving it a global perspective.

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