SYMPOSIUM PRESENTATION (one of three): Decision Making in Social Work: Analytic, Moral and Emotional Dimensions: Troubling narratives - the emotional dimensions of practitioner decision-making in social work

Katherine Leonard, Louise O'Connor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


This paper will focus on the emotional dimensions of practitioner decision-making, drawing on a two-stage exploratory qualitative study. This study explores what informs, hinders and enhances practitioner decision-making in child and family social work, identifying similarities and differences between pre-qualifying students and qualified practitioners.
Stage 1 of the study explored the voice of frontline practitioners and students on placement. Four self-selecting focus groups were undertaken with participants at differing career stages, recruited from pre- and post-qualifying University cohorts. Stage 2 is in progress and aims to further illuminate practitioners' narratives regarding the complexities of decision-making. Participants for three further focus groups have been recruited from University cohorts and employing organisations. A grounded theory approach is used to analyse the data.
Findings at stage 1 highlighted the complex and multi-layered factors which influence decision-making processes. Six core categories emerged - the impact of emotions, passing of time, strength of voice, ownership, management and the developing role of a social worker. Ambivalence about professional voice is interwoven with developing expertise, levels of discretion and emotional responses. This paper will draw on stage 1 and stage 2 findings to focus on the troubling and troublesome emotional complexities which are illuminated in practitioners' narratives of day-to-day decision-making. Findings demonstrate the multi-faceted role and influences of practitioner emotions. We will explore these findings within the context of organisational and professional discourses regarding emotions and decision-making. This empirical study provides insight into the emotional dimensions involved for practitioners and how these interface with organisational, professional and personal factors. We will explore the implications for social work education and practice pre-and post-qualification.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Social Work Research Association Conference April 2015 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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