Promoting systemic thinking, and therapeutic and relationship based approaches in social work


Promoting systemic thinking, and therapeutic and relationship-based approaches in Social Work

The First Editorial from the Journal of Social Work Practice

Resource: Editorial

Author: Journal Editors

Published: Journal of Social Work Practice, Volume 1, Issue 1 (1983)

Below is a reproduction of the first ever editorial of the Journal of Social Work Practice. Written in 1983, it asks some questions of the coming decades. Are these questions still relevant today? 



The creation of a new social work journal at a time of retrenchment may seem like behaving like the proverbial ostrich, but to many social workers the need for a practice-based journal has been urgent ever since the demise of the excellent British Journal of Psychiatric Social Work in 1970. Our new journal aims to provide a forum for social work practitioners, supervisors, students, teachers and managers to present detailed analyses of their case material.  It is our belief that social work theory can only emerge out of a precise description of social work practice.

The social work profession is going through trying times facing the uncertainties of the future as this century draws to a close. What will be the shape of social work in the 1980’s and 1990’s? Can we hold on to the well-tried essentials of good social work practice and simultaneously adjust to and control our challenging environment?  Need the arguments always be practice vs. management? theory vs. practice? casework vs. community?

GAPS has shown great courage in taking the initiative (and the risks) in launching a journal intended for the whole profession. In giving complete editorial independence to the Editor and his Board, GAPS ensures that the journal will be an area of expression and debate for the profession as a whole.  The Editorial Board, the Panel of Assessors and the Corresponding Editors abroad have been selected to reflect the broadest range of social work interest.  The journal will not be an academic journal, nor primarily a research journal, although articles from these felids will be welcome.  The journal is concerned with practice and therefore articles will receive favourable attention, which include good descriptions of case material.

Vol. 1, No. 1  November 1983

1 Comment

  1. What an interesting Editorial. For those of us who were practising in 1983, it takes us back to those years; to those who have joined the profession since then, it reveals the enduring nature of the pressures that swirl around social work, including the sense of ‘retrenchment’ that seems so often to afflict the profession. But what of the questions posed in the Editorial? Unhappily, casework vs. community seems to have been resolved in the UK at the expense of community: a damaging loss to social work but community work as part of social work thrives in many other countries. Personally, I feel the sting has gone out of theory vs. practice and that a healthy balance has been achieved: in no small part, perhaps, by the way the JSWP brings the two together so seamlessly in its articles. But practice vs. management rages and now we talk of managerialism, at the expense of relationship-based practice. Time and again the JSWP has taken up the case for the importance of building sustained relationships in our practice.

    And what of the Journal itself? Of course, it has matured hugely and is now internationally a leading academic and research social work journal. But it has never lost sight of its practice-centred origins; its achievement has been to blend the two so that it is relevant across academia and front-line practice settings, as also shown in the spread of GAPS membership. Detailed descriptions of case material are much less common now than in 1983; in part, this feels to me like a loss but it is good that we are all much more aware of issues of confidentiality and anonymity when writing about real-life cases and the presentation of case material needs to be done in a more guarded way than I think it was back in the 1980s. And, of course, there are so many other ways to write in a way that is revealing about and directly relevant to achieving good practice standards. To achieve this and thereby enrich and progress the profession has always been the desire of the Editors and Editorial Board in their commitment to the Journal of Social Work Practice.

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