State Definitions of Social Work Practice: Implications for our Professional Identity

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Social work definition, macro social work, professional identity

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For over a century, the social work profession has been concerned with describing the unique and specific characteristics that define its core functions in society; however, the profession has yet to agree to a single definition of social work. In the absence of a unifying definition, 51 different statutory definitions of social work have been created by each state and the District of Columbia. Methods: Using qualitative methods, each statutory definition of social work was analyzed to gain an understanding of how social work is defined and understood across the United States. Results: Findings indicate that 57% of the statutory language blend the full range of micro to macro social work practice skills into their definition. However, even within these and those remaining, there are vast differences in definitions. Discussion: Implications for state licensing laws, are considered, along with how this impacts education, the work force, and professional identity.

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Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work, v. 14, issue 4, p. 266-279