Centre for Social Work Practice

Key features of therapeutic social work: the use of relationship

Posted January 01, 2002


Sudbery, J – January 2002

This article summarizes key features of therapeutic social work from a psychodynamic perspective. The emphasis throughout is on the social worker’s use of relationship.

The article’s starting point is that whatever their other concerns - welfare administration, advocacy, social action, practical assistance, or social control, for example - social workers have a core responsibility for outcomes which are therapeutic, empowering and developmental.

The key components of relationship are analysed as attention to basic need, response to aggressive impulses and the lessening of punitive self-criticism. These are located within the conceptual framework (set out earlier in the article, with examples) of transference, countertransference and the punitive superego.

Such work requires a managerial supervisory function which supports and enables this use of relationship. Core components are the provision of staff support and suitable work arrangements and expectations. Journal of Social Work Practice, 16 (2) , pp. 149-162.

Read the paper in full

University or Salford website

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