Who do we think we are?: Self and reflexivity in social work practice

  • Butler A
  • Ford D
  • Tregaskis C
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Abstract

A counterbalance to evidence-based approaches in public services and professions such as social work is the assertion that professional expertise is more about process than outcome. Postmodern frameworks have prompted practitioners to challenge any notion of objective truth that excludes contradiction, paradox and subjectivity. Rather, workers should seek to engage with service users in a process of negotiating meaning through intersubjectivity and attention to individual experience. Informed by research with women marginalized by mental ill-health, this article examines feminist perspectives of narrative and validating experience in the construction of self. Helping women to `re-story' their lives requires reflexivity by workers, and sensitivity to the management of power in the relationship. Creative autobiography offers a process that enables women to negotiate conflicts between subjective experience and that which is socially constructed. We argue that the challenge for reflexive professional practice is a similar struggle for reconciliation between professional and personal identity.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Creative autobiography
  • Feminist
  • Mental health
  • Narratives
  • Professional identity
  • Use of self

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Authors

  • Avril Butler

  • Deirdre Ford

  • Claire Tregaskis

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