Arts based methods in social work education and research as critical method

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Social work can be defined as the interface between individual and societal stress, and thus, it trains students to intervene both at the micro (individual and family functioning) and macro (communities, organizations, institutions, and policy) systems levels. However, also when taught social change ideologies, in choosing targets for their intervention, social work students have been found to prefer to focus on the individual rather than on the societal level (Weiss and Kaufman, 2006). Paradoxically, this creates a situation in that teaching social workers to conceptualize clients through social critical theories can become a form of indoctrination that does not comply with the students own preference for individual oriented understandings of clients. Thus, social work students sometimes need ‘emancipating’ to find their own voice, just as do social work clients. An alternative explanation for the preference for individual work rather than social change could be that the impact of extreme poverty on the individuals that the students work with in their field placements, is so emotionally overwhelming, that they cannot connect between the individual experience and the social reality that formed this experience – and so stay with the individual experience. A phenomenological, reflective methodology for researching their own experiences, that expresses and connects between both emotional understandings of clients, and cognitive or socially structured understandings of clients, such as an arts based method, could be a useful research tool in reflecting upon the above described discrepancy. This is the area explored within this study. As stated above, although students of social work may not exhibit a ‘culture of silence’, they are a processed group, taught specific theories that may be dissonant with their emotional experiences. Arts based phenomenological research methods, that work indirectly through metaphors and that use visual stimuli as triggers to express the participants’ thoughts and emotions, can be a useful way to encourage more emotional and reflective forms of self-expression that can be used for research, or for reflective teaching.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical and Creative Research Methodologies in Social Work
PublisherAshgate Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781472425836
ISBN (Print)9781472425829, 9781138494350
StatePublished - Jun 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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