Social work discourses and the social work interview
It will be argued that, in order to understand particular exchanges between social workers and clients, it is essential to go beyond the view that sees them simply in terms of interaction between unique persons, and locate them within the wider discursive settings within which they occur. Most of the talk which takes place in these interviews concerns problematic issues within family life, particularly in terms of the relationships between parents and children. Behind these apparently mundane conversations lie agendas of social work issues which have been constructed historically with the rise of the caring professions. The early part of the thesis is concerned with uncovering the historically constructed norms of acceptable motherhood which underpin social work strategies with families and which help set the agendas of interviews. Then the analysis focuses on how general norms and objectives are translated into operational, professional techniques. This theme is carried forward through a focus on the social settings in which interviews take place, the building up of subject positions within interviews, for social worker and client, and the implications of translating from a predominantly oral to a literate based, professional mode of discourse. Finally, the analysis is concerned with the tentative attempts, marked by ambiguity and resistance, to go beyond the mere monitoring of the life of the client, and draw her/him into a form of discourse which is openly committed to social work aims, where the client seems to want to present his or her life problems in terms which are intelligible to, and manageable within, the strategies open to the social worker.