By Dirk Felleman
Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics
The increasing preference for technological therapies in health care is perceived by many as a serious threat to the future of socially based therapies. While this concern is not without merit there is another more hopeful possibility to be found in recent adaptations in the ethical evolution of medical practices. In particular the inclusion of pragmatism into clinical ethics holds the possibility of a mutually beneficial relationship between clinical social workers and medical professionals.
Unlike other mental health professions, like medicine and clinical psychology, which gain their professional authority through their expert status as masters of scientifically based techniques of diagnosis and treatment, social work does not produce its own tools and so is not a ‘true’ profession in the classic sense. Social work has attempted to bolster its self-image by investing in academic ventures creating journals and doctoral programs but the standard in academia is still one of scientific knowledge and this leaves social work to imitate sociology and or psychology raising legitimate institutional questions of the value of such duplication. Likewise in the realm of professional practice, which is now almost exclusively run by corporate health conglomerates, the scientific techniques of medicine and psychology can be measured in terms of outcome equations, relating to statistical norms, which easily translate into the bookkeeping practices of the business sector, leaving social workers to serve these professions or find a new source of professional identity. This essay will offer social work an alternative vision for the future by calling on the resources of pragmatism, not to try and mimic or co-opt the applied sciences by creating an alternative and or inclusive foundation, but more like a work of art which allows one to appreciate a familiar scene in a new way.
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