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Becoming a Social Worker

Global Narratives, 2nd Edition

Edited by Viviene E. Cree

Routledge – 2013 – 228 pages

Series: Student Social Work

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    January 16th 2013
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    January 22nd 2013


This is a book about social workers and social work. It tells the story of the journey into and through social work of people from around the world living and working in social work today. We hear what has brought them into social work and what has kept them in it since. Their lively accounts demonstrate that commitment and passion remain at the heart of social work today.

This new edition of Becoming a Social Worker is made up of entirely new stories. It describes what it is like to be a social worker in a range of different practice settings in different countries. While many of the narratives are from practitioners and educators who either grew up in, or came as adults to, the UK, half of the narratives explores the experiences of social workers and educators working in different parts of the world in countries as diverse as Australia and New Zealand, India and Bangladesh, Ireland, Sweden and Eastern Europe, Nigeria, the USA and Canada. The book ends with a commentary, which argues that social work is truly a global profession.

Some of the contributors will be recognised as those who have played a key part in shaping social work over the years and they provide valuable insights into how the profession has developed over time. Other contributors, less well known but no less interesting, give a vivid account of the challenges that social work education and practice face, and the shared values that underpin social work wherever it is located. Social work is a demanding and difficult job that goes largely unseen within society. We only ever hear about social work and social workers when something goes wrong and a vulnerable adult or child is hurt. Becoming a Social Worker sets out to change that – to make social work visible, so that those considering a career in the caring professions across the world can make an informed choice about whether social work is the career for them.


‘Professor Cree has gathered together a fascinating collection of autobiographical accounts of how 23 people became social workers. It makes for an engrossing read, though neither the profession nor its administrative context emerge unscathed. As a piece of exploratory occupational sociology, it is unique and will prompt lively debate among its readers.’ – Martin Davies, Emeritus Professor, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK and author of ‘The Essential Social Worker

‘This book provides a fascinating introduction to social work in many different forms and in different places. It does so through the narratives of 23 social workers across a dozen countries and gives insights into the motivations and experiences of people involved in a wide variety of roles. Its emphasis is on the contemporary but authors also reflect on the social and professional issues which were significant in their early careers and the prospects for future developments in the profession.

Rather than presenting a systematic or comprehensive account of "social work around the world", this is a collection of autobiographical stories about social work "from the inside" and, as such, illustrates the unique paths into and through social work in a variety of national, socio-economic, cultural and organisational environments. Asked to describe a typical week some authors denied that there is any such thing and certainly the variety in day to day work is a major motivator for many social workers working in this complex and demanding field.

The extent to which social work is increasingly a global profession is illustrated by several authors who have themselves experienced international mobility or are working in international agencies and the relevance of cross-cultural understanding and communication is a common thread in many chapters. Equally notable is the emphasis given by some authors to the importance of professional values and working for change towards the goal of social justice. While some of the stories are rooted in the practice of social work, others emphasise the role of social workers in education, research, policy change and political activity.

Readers considering a career in social work will not find a blueprint for practice in any particular country or setting in these pages but they will get a glimpse of the challenges, variety and potential of work in this field, while experienced social workers will derive stimulus and may see alternative career opportunities from the narratives presented in this very readable book.’Karen Lyons, Emeritus Professor of International Social Work, London Metropolitan University, UK


Introduction Viviene E. Cree 1. ‘I Came To Live Out Loud’ Gary Bailey 2. Reflections on Mental Health Social Work Kenneth Bolger 3. A Journey from Belfast to London Jim Campbell 4. Social Work in Aotearoa New Zealand: An Experience of Cultural Change Marie Connolly 5. A Very Political Social Worker Hilton Dawson 6. Social Work: A Profession That Happened My Way Lena Dominelli 7. Diverse Strokes in Social Work Merlyn D’Souza 8. They Call Me ‘Mum’ Gudrun Elvhage and Pernilla Liedgren Dobronravoff 9. An Indigenous Social Work Experience in Aotearoa New Zealand Moana Eruera 10. Working with HIV Bill Foley 11. The Accidental Social Worker Jan Fook 12. From London to California: A Journey in Social Work Education Mekada J. Graham 13. Becoming a Careful Gardener Md. Tuhinul Islam 14. A Journey Towards Emerging Coherence Robyn Kemp 15. From the Classroom to the Community Petra Matuvi 16. From Harare to Edinburgh Carla Nzombe 17. Can We Do it Better? Sally Paul 18. Social Work with Adults: Risks and Relationships Richard Pearl 19. Trends and Challenges of Social Work Practice in Nigeria Uzoma Odera Okoye 20. Steel Tempered by Fire June Sadd 21. My Life’s Journey: A Journey into Social Work Gaylene Stevens 22. Becoming a Reflective Social Work Practitioner: A Story of a Hong-Kong Born Chinese Woman Pauline Sung-Chan 23. Social Work across Four Continents Neil Whettham 24. Social Work: a Global Profession Viviene E. Cree

Author Bio

Viviene Cree is Professor of Social Work Studies in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, UK. She previously worked as a social worker and practice teacher in statutory and voluntary agencies for 16 years. She has researched and written extensively on social work and social work education, including publishing numerous journal articles and chapters in edited collections and nine books. She is co-editor of the book series, ‘Social Work in Practice’, BASW/Policy Press.

Related Subjects

  1. Social Work

Name: Becoming a Social Worker: Global Narratives, 2nd Edition (Paperback)Routledge 
Description: Edited by Viviene E. Cree. This is a book about social workers and social work. It tells the story of the journey into and through social work of people from around the world living and working in social work today. We hear what has brought them into social work and what has kept...
Categories: Social Work