The Public and the Profession’s Perception of Social Work


The social work profession has long been concerned about its mission and perception. The two interests go hand in hand, because to have an effect on how we as social workers are viewed, we must be self-aware about who we are and what we do. This paper will address how social work periodically reflects upon and re-assesses its purpose because of internal considerations, such as the profession’’s ethics, and external forces, including the job market and public perception. Some of the research con- ducted over the years into public perception of social work——as well as that of our clients——will be presented and compared. In addition, I review how the media have portrayed the field, and how we as professionals have marketed ourselves. Finally, some suggestions will be offered, which can be applied at various levels, including direct practice, program development and evaluation, administration, and branding of the profession as a whole.

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