Developing Anti-Oppressive Social Work Practice through Reflexivity

Stan Houston, Gerry Marshall

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Not much has been written on the subject of reflexivity in social work practice. Taking a definition of reflexivity that encourages the inquirer to consider how various psycho-social positions and power-saturated social spheres have shaped individual meaning and narrative, this article outlines a reflexive model that can be applied by social workers to enhance their understanding and implementation of anti-oppressive practice. The model builds on earlier theoretical work and evaluation carried out by the lead author but updates it by including new theoretical insights from both authors. The conceptualisation centres on five imbricated and power-saturated domains of understanding: the domains of ‘psycho-biography’, ‘relationship’, ‘culture’, ‘organisations’ and ‘political-economy’. The relevance of the model for social work practice in the Republic of Ireland is further considered charting how oppression is manifested within each of the five domains. The article concludes with a consideration of how social workers can practically apply the model within their day-to-day work practice. Here, a reflexive process, starting with the elucidation of a critical incident, is suggested. It is contended that social workers within Ireland can enhance their perceptual awareness of discrimination and oppression by embracing the model noting how their own positionality may be a contributory factor in realising anti-oppressive interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-16
JournalIrish Journal Of Applied Social Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2020


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