The essence of the social work relationship: the workers 'use of self'

O'Hagan, Gretta (2014) The essence of the social work relationship: the workers 'use of self'. Masters (Research) thesis, James Cook University.

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This thesis explores the essence of the social work relationship from the perspective of the social worker, that is, the social workers 'use of self'. Whilst the 'use of self' denotes key facets a worker should bring to practice including an high level of self-awareness and self-knowledge, examination into what the 'use of self' or 'self' means is left largely unexplored. This thesis will do two things: firstly it will critique literature to find out what is known about the 'use of self' and 'self' in social work and other disciplines; and secondly it will propose a universal 'use of self' Integral framework for the practice of social work.

Studies have shown that the 'use of self' directly influences the quality of the social work relationship and practice outcomes more than the application of any specific technique (Howe, 1993). However, the analysis also demonstrates that the current thinking on the 'use of self' doesn't go far enough. The notion of the 'use of self' being explored in this thesis is one which is viewed through the Integral model as developed by Ken Wilber (1996, 2000) and further explored by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens (2009, 2014). The definition of 'self' being used in this thesis is, "the 'self' is that which attempts to integrate or balance all of the components of the psyche at any given level of consciousness development including: body, mind, soul" (Wilber, 2000, p. 4).

This thesis highlights that whilst there are some individual discussions on topics such as the social self and personality, it also demonstrates that there is no consensus on what is the 'use of self' and 'self' within social work practice nor is there a universal framework relating to the 'use of self' and 'self'. Through exploring other disciplines, it is shown that the 'self' is not a new notion but as ancient as philosophy and religion themselves, and through these disciplines a fuller picture of the 'use of self' (albeit not final) is considered.

In order to make sense of the existing knowledge (from the selected texts) regarding the 'use of self' and 'self', the thesis draws upon Wilber's Integral model (1996, 2000) as an integrative application. The Integral model (Wilber, 1996, 2000) is being used as a lens in which to discuss the results from the textual analysis and as a basis from which to develop a universal workers' 'use of self' Integral framework for the practice of social work. I have done this by including the following components of Wilber's model (1996, 2000): the four quadrants with its guiding principles of Integral meta-theory, Integral Methodological Pluralism, multiple perspectives and the notion of whole/part. These are described in further detail in Chapter four.

What this thesis will do, is critically analyse a select number of texts from social work and other disciplines knowledge to find the 'orientating generalisations' (Wilber, 2000, p. 5) of the 'use of self' and 'self' and show the analysis through Wilber's Integral model lens (1996, 2000). Wilber (2000) explains of his Integral model, "it is a string[ing] together" (p. 5) of accepted knowledge. It is a philosophical model containing,

[quote] "'orientating generalisations' … [that have] … a great deal of agreement (although the specifics maybe hotly debated) … [and provide] the broad outlines of which really has an awful lot of supporting evidence. [Wilber's model culls] from these orientating generalisations … [of] the various branches of human knowledge" (Wilber, 2000, p. 5).

By showing the analysis though this Integral model the basis of a 'use of self' Integral framework for social work practice will be proposed. The thesis identifies what becomes possible for a robust 'use of self' in social work practice when a worker's 'self' is incorporated into an understanding of a 'use of self' and both applied to an Integral framework. A number of new horizons for the social work profession will be considered in the concluding chapter.

Item ID: 41352
Item Type: Thesis (Masters (Research))
Keywords: clinical social work; cognitive; identity; Ken Wilbur; philosophical aspects; philosophy; psychological aspects; self; sense of self; social work; social workers; use of self; Wilbur, Ken; Wilbur’s 4 quadrants; Wilbur’s four quadrants
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2015 05:18
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1607 Social Work > 160701 Clinical Social Work Practice @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 50%
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