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The fall and rise of ‘use of self’? An exploration of the positioning of use of self in social work education

This article is about use of self and the our analysis of the SiSWE standards/ the Degree Review so particularly relevant just now.

'Use of self' was a central concept in social work in the middle of the twentieth century. Since then its emphasis in social work education has declined as more managerial, procedural and task-focused approaches have prevailed. A review of the degree and postgraduate diploma in social work in Scotland, initiated in 2014, incorporated a comparative content analysis of past and present UK National Occupational Standards (NOS) for social work. The analysis revealed many shifts in thinking and practice, including increased emphasis on 'use of self' in the 2013 Standards. This paper reports on this finding in the context of the fluctuating positioning of use of self in social work education, and the potential impact of these changes on qualified practice. It concludes that the changing standards reflect increasing interest in social workers' ability to draw reflectively on 'self' in their day to day practice. Some of the drivers and challenges for a renewed focus on relationship-based practice and use of self are identified, as well as the opportunities presented by this review of the degree for evaluating the impact of changing educational policy on day to day social work practice.

  • Author(s):
Jean Gordon, Moira Dunworth
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Research and Evaluation
Standards, Standards in Social Work Education, Self-Awareness, Reflective Practice, Scotland
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(Accessed on 20/01/17)
  • Recommended by:
Jon Bolton
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Gordon, J. and Dunworth, M. (2016) The fall and rise of ‘use of self’? An exploration of the positioning of use of self in social work education. ScOPTbox Practice Learning Library. [Online]. Available from:

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