Centre for Social Work Practice

Getting to the root of problems: The role of systemic ideals in helping social work students to develop relationship-based practice

Posted January 01, 2007


Helen Hingley-Jones and Philippe Mandin – January 2007

This paper discusses the use of systemic ideas in shaping and informing an approach to teaching social work students on a qualifying social work programme in a UK university setting. The context of contemporary social work training and the primacy it gives to practice experience and service user and carers’ perspectives will be explained, in part to remind us that service users want their practitioners to be competent, even ‘expert’ at using relationship in their work. From here an argument will be developed for revisiting systemic ideas in social work, the suggestion being that systemic thinking can actively promote a relationship-based approach suited to the modern context of practice that seeks to move beyond a potentially limiting, ‘procedure-led’ or ‘surface’ approach. We will give an outline of and rationale for the curriculum followed by the module in question and will suggest that its focus on systemic approaches in dialogue with other theory perspectives is a creative one; one which enables an exploration of many of the issues of concern in contemporary social work practice, from working with individuals and their families through to the wider community level of practice. Findings from a student evaluation of the module are presented to illustrate that drawing on this particular area of theory has something positive to contribute to training resilient, competent social workers, aware of the importance of relationship in their practice. Journal of Social Work Practice, Volume 21, Number 2

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