• Jens Bødker
  • Janne Hjort
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
Summary This paper is about the involvement of relatives in the rehabilitation process concerning people with acquired brain injuries. Our focus concerns the involvement of relatives within social work and how social work can support this involvement. It is increasingly recognized that relatives become the primary support for individuals after an acquired brain injury. The purpose of this survey is to bring the professionals’ attention to the relatives of injured persons in order to create options of action in social work practice which involve them. The theoretical perspective is inspired by two different approaches. The primary theoretical and analytical approach is the field theory approach by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, and constitutes the overall theoretical perspective of the study. The second approach is the perspective of everyday life, which draws on the Danish sociologist Birte Bech-Jørgensen. The theoretical field theory perspective emphasizes a contextualization of the field of rehabilitation and the struggle between the different positions in the field. The concept of “options of action” indicates that social workers have options to involve the relatives in the rehabilitation of the brain injured client. It indicates as well the options for the relatives to acquire a position in the field of rehabilitation. The everyday life perspective emphasizes to visualize the logic of the family, and how they conduct their everyday life. The method is qualitative and consists of interviews with 6 relatives, a focus group interview with relatives, a focus group interview with social workers and an interview with 1 social worker. The method chosen is motivated by the intention to examine the relatives’ and the social workers’ experiences in the involvement of relatives in social work practice. The results of the theoretical analyses of the historical development within the field of rehabilitation show that there are 3 main positions in the field: “The position of the health field”, “the position of the social field” and “the position of the family field”. Each position acts from a logic that makes sense to them and each position struggles to get their specific logic appreciated by the other positions in the field. We found that the dominating position in the field of rehabilitation is “the field of health”. Research in the field of brain injuries had a scientific breakthrough, which resulted in the fact that more injured people could survive an acquired brain injury. As a result of that, the social system entered the field of rehabilitation. “A life saved – must also be lived” was the parole. At the same time the relatives subsequently also entered the field. The results of the empirical analyses show that relatives struggle to make ends meet. Their everyday life changes radically because the person they used to know has changed as a result of the acquired brain injury. The cause of the brain injury not only affects the person injured, but affects the family as a whole. The relatives become distressed - they don’t know how to help the injured person to recover and they lack knowledge of brain injury. The impact of the brain injury on relatives shows that the relatives become distresses to the point, where they themselves are at risk and need help. Everyday life becomes difficult, mainly because the help from the social system is given “only” to compensate for the reduction of the injured persons functions and not to the family as a whole. At the same time the relatives are forced to reduce working hours in order to be able to take care of the injured person. The relatives struggle against the social system in order to be recognized 1) for the huge responsibility they take for the injured person’s rehabilitation; 2) as equal partners with the professionals; 3) for their profound knowledge of the injured person and the knowledge of everyday life, i.e. struggle to get the logic of the family position recognized by the professionals. The analysis of social work shows that social workers have options for action in order to involve the relatives. It is a question of whether they have an eye for the options and a question of how much symbolic power they possess. The analyses shows how different objective structural conditions, such as economy, the law, time and the professional doxa can impede the social workers’ efforts to, not alone involve the relatives, but also in effectuating the support services, they have granted. The study concludes that relatives can be an important source to a successful rehabilitation and can play an important role throughout the rehabilitation process. Relatives can in different ways challenge the professional doxas’ in the field and take part in creating heterodoxy. Some battles lead to a discussion that creates orthodoxy in the field of social work. Social workers contribute to construct the objective structural conditions and in some cases also contribute to change the structural conditions.
Publication date2010
Number of pages123
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 19686298