Social worker shame: a scoping review

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    While shame has historically been neglected in emotion research, there is now a large body of research evidence by which to understand the concept and the phenomenology, which suggests shame can have a pervasive and negative effect on individuals’ lives and relationships. It can be considered to be an emotion that relates to a belief that the self is flawed and that one is not worthy of acceptance and belonging. This paper reports on a scoping review of shame experienced by social workers, identifying the nature and extent of the research evidence. Shame was operationalised through a working model provided by the seminal work of Lewis (1971). The search strategy sought to identify qualitative studies relating to social workers’ personal experiences of practice. Data were extracted that met the criteria in the working model for shame and a thematic analysis applied to the extracted data. The results suggest that while shame was unacknowledged in the research, it is a common experience for many social workers with indications that it influences practitioners’ job satisfaction, staff retention and an ability to practice ethically. Areas for future research are identified.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)549-565
    JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
    Issue number2
    Early online date1 Dec 2014
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


    • Social Work
    • Shame
    • scoping review
    • Practice
    • Child Protection


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