• Lone Munkeskov Hansen
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
Use of self in social works seems to be unavoidable because it also includes the social worker's appearance, use of humor and personal way of being. However, use of self by self-disclosure, is looked upon as being unprofessional in the practice of social work. My hypothesis is however, that the use of self and self-disclosure is present in social work, which is the basis of this master thesis. I examine how social workers use themselves in relations with clients, and how they make sense of the use of self.
The thesis is based upon a qualitative study of five social workers, who all use themselves in their practice, and the interviews are partly exploratory to examine how they use themselves.
The analysis consists of a descriptive analysis that shows that social workers use themselves through expressions of personal reflections, such as apologies for mistakes, feelings toward the client and observations regarding the client’s feelings. The social workers are hesitant towards the use of anger, and partly insecurity. The social workers use expressions of personal information such as values and opinions. Also, information about the social worker’s own limitations and difficult experiences especially, is shared with their clients. The analysis shows that social workers doesn’t ask the clients about their opinions about the use of self. In addition, most of the social workers choose clients in regard to their own preferences, which is problematic because the client’s needs are the starting point of the relationship.
By applying Scheff’s theory on bonds and shame, the social workers seem to make sense of their use of self by attuning with the client to create a more human relationship or in Scheff’s typology, a strong social bond. By expressing their own limitations and thereby shame they help their clients in doing the same, which they experience makes the clients feel better and strengthens the bond between them. The social workers make sense of their use of self by their experience, that it equalizes both the differences between them and the clients and the power balance in the relationship. By applying Clark’s theory about social space and You First and Me First-strategies it seems that the social workers use of self in most cases also can be perceived as a way of taking space, thereby an emphasis on the need for asking the clients how they perceive this. Also, the power relations does not seem to disappear but only to be more invisible.

The final analysis shows that the social worker learned to use them self during their every practice of social work. They also make sense of the use of self in their practice, because it brings them joy in their work, they can be authentic, and it helps them to avoid burnout.
The thesis demonstrates a need for further research on the topic, particularly by asking the clients how they experience and perceive social workers' use of self. It also demonstrates the importance of acknowledging the use of self in social work in order to educate social workers and to encourage social workers to critically examine their use of selves. An immediate action could be including the client in setting the boundaries for the social workers use of self.
Publication date31 May 2021
Number of pages69
ID: 413376519