Academic journal article Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare

The Poet/practitioner: A Paradigm for the Profession

Academic journal article Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare

The Poet/practitioner: A Paradigm for the Profession

Article excerpt

This article explores a new paradigm or model for the professional social worker: The poet/practitioner. The training and practice of the poet are congruent with many aspects of social work practice. An examination of the practice of the poet, and the congruence of these practices to social work, reveals a paradigm with the capacity to focus social workers on the essential values of our profession. This paradigm, which highlights the humanistic, creative, and socially conscience role of the social work practitioner, may be particularly important today given the medicalization of social problems and the conservitization of society.

Keywords: poet, practitioner, social work, social work practice

Introduction

The social values of a professional group are its basic and fundamental beliefs, the unquestioned premises upon which its very existence rests. Foremost among these values is the essential worth of the service which the professional group extends to the community. The profession considers that the service is a social good and that community welfare would be immeasurably impaired by its absence (Greenwood, 1957, p.52).

Throughout its history, social work has grappled with its professional role and identity (Arkava, 1967; Berlin, 1990; Dziegielewski, 2004; Kolevzon & Maykranz, 1982; Meyer, 1973). The search for professional identity may be essential to professional life and is engaged in by numerous professions. Defining a profession is a dynamic, evolving process deeply linked to shifts within the society the profession serves (Payne, 1997). Social change exerts pressures upon a profession to adapt to society's evolving needs (Kreuger, 1997). When a profession fails to adapt to its social context, professional drift occurs (Shulman, 1991). In such instances, members of a profession lose touch with the profession's mission, its values, and its modalities for meeting its aims. Postman (1992) has noted that social means of production have changed faster during this century than during any other millennium in history. Professions now exist in a state of flux and must engage in a constant process of creating and re-creating their role visa vis society. This process has special currency to a profession such as social work, which is not merely a passive player in the process of social change, but itself is a change agent acting upon the forces that simultaneously act upon it.

The purpose of this article is to explore a new paradigm for the professional social worker: the poet/practitioner. The training and practice of the poet are congruent with many aspects of social work practice. Examining the skills, attributes, and values of the poet, and their congruence to social work values, skills and knowledge, may lead to a paradigm with the capacity to focus social workers on the essential features of the profession. This paradigm, which highlights the humanistic, creative, and socially conscious role of the social work practitioner, may be particularly important today, given the medicalization of social problems and the conservitization of society.

This paper will achieve its aims in several ways. First, a discussion of historical paradigms that have guided the profession will be presented. Second, the nature of poetry and the poet will be addressed. Third, a historical account of poetry and the poetic in social work practice and education will provide an additional historical context to the discussion. Fourth, a new paradigm for the profession, the poet/practitioner, is proposed.

Historical Paradigms For Social Work Practice

Proponents have advanced various paradigms for the profession of social work (van Wormer, 1997). According to Goldstein (1990), social work has traveled down two distinct epistemological tracks, the positivist and the humanistic. These two worldviews are apparent in the different paradigms that social workers have adopted as guides to professional action. …

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