The essentials of the helping relationship between social workers and clients

Hagit Sinai-Glazer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The helping relationship between a client and a practitioner is often described as the heart and soul in social work. This research explored the helping relationship between social workers and clients (the clients were mothers) in the context of public social services in Israel. The results presented here are part of a larger ethnographic study that included interviews with 14 social workers, 20 mothers who are clients, and extensive participant observations and textual analysis. Presented in this article are the results pertaining to the essential elements of the helping relationship as perceived by the research participants. Social workers and clients pointed to similar elements that comprise a good helping relationship: love and support; trust and feeling safe; listening and feeling understood; making an effort to help; humanness, compassion, and sensitivity; availability, continuity, and being there when needed; and chemistry. Participants' accounts exemplify the importance and centrality of the helping relationship in social work. The article concludes with a discussion of the study's implications for practice, policy, and research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-256
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Work
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Clients who are mothers
  • Ethnography
  • Helping relationship
  • Public social services
  • Social work practice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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