The Biggest Challenge Facing Social Work Today
I f the profession of social work was a client we might say that she was wrestling with the psychosocial crisis of identity versus identity confusion. We might assess the conflicted issues from her childhood (casework versus therapy versus policy/administration), the inadequate mirroring she receives from her environment (a culture that needs her to help those who the culture pretends do not exist, but is also compelled to devalue her for the same reason), and the gender biases that help keep social work a low-status, poorly compensated profession.
Depending on our theoretical interests we might perform various tasks with our client. We might offer ourselves to our client as idealized figures of power and generosity, evaluate the maladaptive cognitive processes that contribute to her impasse, or attempt to break up the sequences of negative reinforcement and sanctions that lock our client into someone else's agenda.
Other professions, such as business, medicine, and law, vigorously identify themselves with expanding technological niches. Unlike these other professions, the most powerful associations for social work are with the clients whom she traditionally serves, namely the poor and the disenfranchised. Despite the increasing diversity of social work training and professional activities, many people outside the social service fields believe that social work is limited to social welfare case management.
This situation is particularly ironic because the unique character of social work provides several things that other professions either do not have or do not have in abundance. These are: a powerful commitment to positive social...