The moment of feeling flummoxed is not surprising. From one angle, social work as a profession could be defined by (and it is paradoxically both weakened and strengthened by) the sheer breadth of what counts as social work activities and the diversity of contexts of social work practice. This flows on to challenges for the development of social work practice theories, and to what one might choose to include in the ambit of ‘knowledge for social work’. Of course, it also flows on to how one might think about what constitutes advanced social work practice. There are clear orientation points in all the familiar definitions of social work – enhancing the well-being and the potentials of individuals, groups and communities; central commitments to social justice and social change; and knowledge and practice directed toward the interface of people in their environments.
we have come to the end of the project of trying to build a generic universal social work knowledge ‘base’. Social work practice requires a flexible constellation of knowledge, and social work training is all about providing a beginning map of the breadth of this constellation. An important message in social work education is that any particular area of social work practice will require a particular constellation of knowledge, some of it produced within social work, some it produced by social workers working in interdisciplinary contexts of knowledge and practice, and much of it produced ‘outside’ social work. Positioning of self, reflexivity and reflective practice: Regardless of context of practice, advanced social work practice ‘shows’ the practitioner’s greater capacity for a flexible use of self, for reflexivity, and for a more autonomous and independent reflective practice. The process of reflective practice is at the centre of all social work practice, and indeed all practice disciplines. Reflexivity is specifically about the capacity of practitioners to factor themselves into their reflection on their own practice.
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