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Professional Boundaries in Social Work Practice: Managing Ethical Distress when Resisting Organisational and Systemic Oppression

Blundell, P (2023) Professional Boundaries in Social Work Practice: Managing Ethical Distress when Resisting Organisational and Systemic Oppression. In: Sajid, SM, Baikady, R and Islam, MR, (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Power, Politics and Social Work. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 978-0197650899

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Abstract

Professional boundaries are an integral part of social work praxis and a key component of ethical decision making. Social workers often acknowledge their value but struggle to articulate what they are or how they are used. Essentially, professional boundaries are about the protection and safety of clients and service users, therefore it is important that we understand both their impact and their influence on practice. Despite this necessity, there is a paucity of research that explores how this concept is understood, experienced, and used by social workers. This chapter explores a variety of themes relating to the management of professional boundaries in social work practice. These themes are partly based on a study completed between 2013 – 2016 that explored the concept of professional boundaries from the perspective of UK social workers. Participants often identified feelings of ethical distress when faced with boundary challenges or dilemmas. However, participants were often willing to break or blur boundaries if that decision meant building better relationships with, or delivering better services for, the people they were supporting. These actions were often an act of resistance against what participants felt were examples of organisational or systemic oppression. This resistance often led to tensions between participants and the organisation they worked for, with some participants feeling the need to ultimately leave their role. This chapter argues that social workers need greater access to independent supervisory spaces, to ensure that they have opportunities to reflect and process difficult and challenging professional boundary experiences, especially when these involve challenging oppressive systems.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: This is a draft of a chapter/article that has been accepted for publication by Oxford University Press, USA in The Oxford Handbook of Power, Politics and Social Work.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Psychology (from Sep 2019)
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2023 10:51
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2024 13:48
Editors: Sajid, SM, Baikady, R and Islam, MR
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/19378
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