Characteristics Of Modern Social Work

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Modern critical social work emerged in the late 1800’s and has continued to be shaped and altered until present day (Healy, 2014). Although each social work perspective contains differences, Healy (2014) has identified four common discourses that unite the modern critical social work perspectives. Firstly, she identifies the dedication of social work professionals to work collaboratively with populations who are oppressed (as cited in Leonard, 1994). Secondly, modern critical social work perspectives recognize power differentials that occur within all relationships, especially the relationship between social workers and service users. Thirdly, these perspectives acknowledge broader systems’ influence on both individuals and social workers (as…show more content…
Some additional characteristics of modern critical social work perspectives today include the acknowledgement of the transformation of public and social services to reflect business models, new public management, and the impacts of capitalism and neoliberalism (Healy, 2014). Anti-oppressive modern critical social work is a leading perspective today. Anti-oppressive social work highlights multiple dimensions of oppression including cultural, personal and structural (Healy, 2014, p.193). Healy (2014) identifies five main components of anti-oppressive social work practice. These include the promotion of critical self-reflection by social workers and working collaboratively with service users. They also include a need for an increased understanding by social workers about forms of oppression people face, which contain oppression from the use of language to maintain unequal power relations (Dalrymple & Burke, 2006, p.150 as cited in Healy, 2014). Lastly, anti-oppressive practice encourages the empowerment of people to promote self-capacity while promoting collaboration, minimal intervention and a focus on preventative…show more content…
For example, one component of anti-oppressive practice is critical self-reflection by social workers. Critical modern social work approaches fail to identify diversity of social worker’s abilities to reflect critically depending on context, institution (Healy, 2014, p.203), education and personal barriers. A second example of the potential contradictions within modern critical social work is that of empowerment and addressing larger structural systems. For an individual, gaining insight into the power and control that structural systems play in people’s lives can be overwhelming. For individuals facing multiple barriers on psychological, individual, familial and societal levels, facing structural barriers can further contribute to feelings of powerlessness. Conversely, if social workers do not discuss these structural dimensions of power within society and instead focus only on micro-level issues, modern critical social workers continue to perpetuate unequal power
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