Mental Health Social Work — A Case in Point



Social work occurs in a variety of settings, disparate agencies and in notably distinct contexts and domains which inform to varying degrees its nature and function. In the next two chapters, I use two specialist areas of practice — mental health social work and work with offenders in the probation service — as exemplars of areas of practice at different positions on the care-control continuum. Here the former is positioned as a generally ‘caring’ form of social work and the latter as a generally controlling approach to practice. This is, of course, an overly simplified distinction which does justice to neither the complexity of social work’s foci nor the diversity of approaches and perspectives within particular domains (see, for example, Burnham 2012, Vanstone 2004). Nevertheless, as we shall see, mental health social work emerged in response to a perceived need within the mental health system for a less coercive and more socially oriented counterpoint to the dominance of medical psychiatry and asylums. The probation service, meanwhile, has always found it difficult to straightforwardly represent its roles and functions as unproblematically ‘caring’, given its clientele. Consequently, these two domains of practice usefully function as loosely comparative counterpoints, albeit mainly for heuristic purposes.


Mental Health National Health Service Service User Mental Health System Community Care 
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Copyright information

© Mark Hardy 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of YorkUK

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