This paper begins by summarizing the results of a qualitative exploratory study of thirty experienced social workers which was undertaken in order to identify some characteristics of social work expertise. Some of the features identified include a confidence with professional identity and an ability to deal with complexities. Participants were also able quickly to prioritize relevant factors and were aware of constraints and resources, but made conscious use of formal theory only minimally. The full results of this study are reported elsewhere (Fook et al., in press). The main purpose of this paper is to explore the implications of these results in developing a theory of social work expertise. The issues examined include the debates around the relationship between theory and practice in social work, the generic versus the specialist nature of social work, the relevance of existing theories of expertise to social work, and the affirmation of artistic elements of social work practice.
|Number of pages
|British Journal of Social Work
|Published - Jun 1997