Social Work: An Introduction to Contemporary Practice

February 26, 2009

Authors: Kate Wilson, Gillian Ruch, Mark Lymbery and Andrew Cooper

Edition: First

Publisher: Pearson Longman

Pages: 752

Price: £.99

ISBN 9781405858465

I have strongly recommended this textbook to students since its publication. It is probably the largest textbook on social work in print, but it does not have a superfluous page.

The volume is in three parts: "Understanding social work"; "Practice skills and practice theories"; and "Relationship-based work with user groups". Its introduction has one of the clearest explanations of relationship-based practice that I have seen.

Students new to social work may ask "Don't all social workers use relationships?" But here the authors refer to a very specific meaning, which they define as characterised by "the emphasis it places on the professional relationship as the medium through which the practitioner can engage with and intervene in the complexity of an individual's internal and external world".

This notion of "the use of self" has a psychodynamic feel to it. But the authors have skilfully brought many of the individualistic tendencies of psychodynamics into contemporary 21st-century social work practice, a space in which the sociological and the psychological meet, this time in the realm of the psychosocial rather than in the area of social psychology. The difference is that the latter is interested primarily in how people behave in groups, whereas the former is concerned with the dyadic nature of the "space between us", the intersection of the internal and external worlds of two (or more) individuals. This is how the book achieves a dialogue between structural factors (such as poverty and diversity) and psychological factors (such as attachment, resilience and self-efficacy).

The authors incorporate National Occupational Standards and clear learning objectives into each chapter.

This is a must-have and must-read for student social workers.

Who is it for? Students on any qualifying and post-qualifying social work programme.

Presentation: Engaging.

Any extras? Companion website with links to interactive and virtual learning materials.

Would you recommend it? Definitely.

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