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In Response to Need: An Analysis of Social Work Roles Over Time

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“The title sort of sums it up, “In Response to Need”. It means that’s the way social workers shape the work. They didn’t think about, “Well, what will really further the profession? What will make sure that it’s a very exclusive group that no one can join?” They just thought about, “What do people need?” and “How can we get to these people?” and “How can we get permission to work with these people?””

Dr. Toba Kerson &
Dr. Judith McCoyd

In social work, it is sometimes easy to focus our attention on identifying present strengths that can be used to bring about solutions to social problems. However, it is also true that looking back on where we, as a profession, have come from can provide valuable insight into who we are and what we do, as well as provide guidance for where we are going.

In this podcast, based on a research article published in Social Work in 2013, Dr. Toba Kerson and Dr. Judith McCoyd discuss the themes that emerged from their review of interviews with social work leaders who practiced in the early decades of the 20thCentury. They share lessons learned from the profession’s history and the relevance of those lessons for social workers and students of social work practicing today. Among those lessons are the importance of being inspired by our profession’s ethical foundation of service to vulnerable persons, the need for creative interventions that go beyond pre-planned recipes, and the value of being able to adapt to new and changing circumstances. Their insights also highlight the ways that social work’s values, strengths perspective, and ecological model make it a unique and valuable profession.

Dr.Toba Kerson

Toba Schwaber Kerson, D.S.W., Ph.D. is Professor in the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research and Mary Hale Chase Professor Emeritus in Social Sciences at Bryn Mawr College. Author of many books and articles, she serves on the editorial boards of several social work journals and is Book Review Editor of Social Work in Health Care. Her research is in two areas: broadly defined social work practice and depictions of epilepsy in mass media. Professor Kerson was recently named a Fulbright Specialist.

Dr. Judie McCoyd

Judie McCoyd is Associate Professor at Rutgers University-School of Social Work, teaching in the Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice curriculum and working with both the PhD in Social Work and DSW doctoral programs. She worked in perinatal, emergency room and oncology settings during her active practice life before academia and continues to maintain a small private practice with perinatal and end-of-life care as specialties. She is co-author (with Carolyn Walter) of Grief and Loss Across the Lifespan: A Biopsychosocial Perspective (2009) and co-editor (with Toba S. Kerson) of Social Work in Health Settings: Practice in Context(3rded. -2010). She presents at national and international conferences such as CSWE, NAPSW, and the Interdisciplinary Conference of Social Sciences, and publishes in journals about perinatal decision-making, technology and health care, societal aspects of bereavement, and social work education. Her research agenda involves exploration of the ways advancing technologies impact the experience of child-bearing and bereavement.

Interviewer: Laura Lewis, PhD

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