Re-conceptualising Mental Health Social Work Education and Practice in Australia: Toward a Critical-Emancipatory Approach.

Author:

Jarvis, Anne, 2017 Re-conceptualising Mental Health Social Work Education and Practice in Australia: Toward a Critical-Emancipatory Approach., Flinders University, School of Social and Policy Studies

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Abstract

The study presented in this thesis consisted of an exploration of significant policy documents specific to mental health social work education and practice in Australia. The author’s findings reveal that the origins of psychiatric social work, now known as “mental health social work”, lie in the dominant discourse and practices of a bio-psychiatric, disease-saturated (illness) paradigm; a paradigm inherent in university-based education curriculum and the Australian Association of Social Workers Practice Standards for Mental Health Social Workers. The author firmly believes that contemporary education and practice in mental health social work will benefit from knowledge and approaches that accord with social work’s core values of respect for persons, professional integrity and social justice. Therefore, during the study, she reconceptualised psychiatric social work education and practice, re-newing it through her development of a critical-emancipatory approach to mental health social work, underpinned by critical realist philosophy, for incorporation in the Australian Association of Social Workers mental health social work curriculum for education and the Practice Standards for Mental Health Social Workers. The findings from the author’s five stage critical discourse analysis demonstrate that a critical-emancipatory approach can benefit mental health social work practice through reclaiming and re-constructing older, non-medical concepts grounded in socially just humanitarian ethics; concepts based in valuing relationships, human rights and a trauma-informed paradigm. The study’s recommendations support this value-base and ethical stance. Thus, this thesis extends the knowledge base for mental health social work education and practice, offering an approach that benefits new learners to social work as well as established practitioners; a critical-emancipatory paradigm for mental health social work practice embedded in social work’s core values and ethics.

Keywords: mental health social work practice, mental health social work education, critical discourse analysis, critical-emancipatory approach, critical realism, trauma-informed, policy, Australian mental health social work history
Subject: Social Work thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2017
School: School of Social and Policy Studies
Supervisor: Associate Professor Lorna Hallahan