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The social work skills workbook Barry R Cournoyer

Authors:
This publication inevitably will become out dated but if the reasonable pricing is
maintained then updating your copy should be cost effective. I certainly learnt a lot
from my exploration of its wide ranging content, including terms that I have just
discovered such as McDonaldization ...look it up!
Barry R Cournoyer, The social work skills workbook. 6th edn, Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning:
Belmont, CA, 2011; 601 pp. ISBN 139-7-808-4003280-5, $57.99 (hbk)
Reviewed by: Tran Van Kham, University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National
University-Hanoi, Vietnam
When searching for books and materials on designing a training model on practical
skills for social work students in Vietnam, where social work is newly developed in
university education and in practice, I became very interested in this book title and
its contents. The book is widely used for undergraduate and graduate programs in
America. It was first published 20 years ago and its present sixth edition version is a
milestone for proving that the book content is significant for social work education
and practice.
This book attracted me with its logic and the structured flow of its chapter titles
and headings. Its content provides the basic knowledge and background on social
work practice with various clients (individuals, groups and communities). The first
part with five chapters indentifies general knowledge about professional social work,
the background of social welfare systems, and theories of individual, group and
community development, as well as the social work approaches to aspects of
social justice, rights and social welfare. I am very interested in such approaches to
social work in this book which includes eight close and related aspects as the sig-
nificant background for the professional character of social work. These approaches
also provide readers and learners with understanding of the requirements for doing
social work practice and the competencies of social workers. They are known as the
basics in identifying which social skills are applied in social work practice.
The second part of the core content of this book includes eight chapters. These
chapters are concerned with the consequent steps of the social work process, from
approaching (listening and talking about situations), beginning, exploring, assessing,
contracting, working, evaluating and ending the process. These steps are in common
with contemporary ideas on delivering social work process with various clients. I
found more interesting ideas on reading these chapters about each step of social
work process and the required skills for social workers are presented. The skills that
need building up are based on the standards of practicing and educating social
workers approved by American National Association of Social Workers. They are
comprehensive in relation to social work practice, in terms of interviewing, interper-
sonal communicating, interacting, practicing and helping. The outcomes of these
skills aim at satisfying 10 qualities for graduate social work students.
Besides the two main parts with 13 content chapters, this book also provides 16
clear and critical appendices and guidelines which encourage and provide great
Book reviews 545
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support for learners and readers on rechecking their general understandings of
professional social work, as well as providing them with practical tools for doing
fieldwork, delivering direct practice and reviewing supervision tasks.
The structure of each chapter is clear and systematic which flows from identify-
ing the aims, the required skills, the given standards, to the core knowledge and
presentation of various cases for practicing and reflecting. At the end of each
chapter, guidelines for consolidating the knowledge and skills are presented
which support not only the learners but also the trainers or lecturers on social
work programs, as well as providing the trainers and lecturers with a systematic
approach to the role of skills in learning and practicing social work.
As presented in its preface, this book aims at practice rather than at theories and
is a text on social work skills. The book is very practical and easy to apply to
various social and cultural contexts. I found this book to be a very useful resource
and it is highly recommended for social workers training at undergraduate and
graduated levels, especially in those countries where social work is a new profes-
sional area in education and in practice.
Wendy L Haight and Edward H Taylor, Human behaviour for social work practice:
A developmental – ecological framework. 2nd edn, Lyceum Books: Chicago, 2013; 425 pp.
ISBN 978-1-935-87125-5, $54.95 (pbk)
Reviewed by: Jayne Howie, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, Scotland
Human Behaviour for Social Work Practice comprehensively brings together examples
of knowledge and theory which synthesizes and integrates the international definition
of social work and links this to human behaviour across the life span. Given social
work is an ‘interrelated system of theory, practice and values’, this book ‘utilises
theories of human behavior and social systems’ to outline the ways in which ‘social
work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments’
(International Federation of Social Workers, 2002). In today’s world, the complexity
of social problems in modern society is challenging, and many students and newly
qualified practitioners require references which can bring together a variety of know-
ledge bases and link these in practical ways with their front line experiences. This book
facilitates this process and could be used as an analytical tool which can help those
who are grappling with these multifaceted issues, as it uses examples to depict the
ways that practitioners can ‘address the multiple and complex transactions between
people and their environments’ (International Federation of Social Workers, 2002).
The book provides the reader with an ecological perspective as a means of
illustrating the key themes and main points that significantly impact on individuals
throughout the life course. It can assist students, practitioners and educators to
understand the links between biological, psychological and social systems. It makes
connections between the required role of problem solving and change, while
demonstrating ways to achieve these tasks which takes a more analytical approach
into account. This work offers a macro and environmental systems perspective and
546 Journal of Social Work 14(5)
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Article
Over generations, social workers have borrowed theories from sociology. However, sociologists have generally avoided borrowing theory from social work. By beginning with social work practice wisdom, we can unfold the complex elements organizing social work practice and by extension ethnographic research. Complexity and resulting uncertainty are antidotes for theoretical purity. Practice as grounded in life, that of client’s and social workers is inherently “dirty”, i.e., messy, disorganized, confusing, unfolding, and uncertain. Understandings and practices are accomplished in a connection of self to a profession, agency/organization, mandate and purpose, and ethical orientation, in interaction with colleagues and clients. Social workers take sides as they are grounded in an ethic of care. The challenge of developing an ethical practice in the face of difference, disagreement, disjunction, and conflict lead social workers to bracket, and hence reflect on the putative coherence of a “life world.” Face-to-face work with individuals rather than being a liability provides a source of knowledge and wisdom to inform social science generally.
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