Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Roy Cain




As professionals in helping relationships, social workers must often balance themselves between the construction of caring relationships with the individuals with whom they work, the maintenance of boundaries which restrict their personal emotions in the relationship, and the prevailing agency and professional expectations of such interactions. This study aims to understand how social workers manage their emotions relating to their practice, given the many discourses that inform and guide them. I also examine some of the disparity between social worker training, socialization, and workplace realities.

The research involved qualitative interviews with four individuals in social work roles in Southern Ontario. Discussions with research participants encompassed an examination of how they saw their reactions to distressing events and how they perceived managing these responses in order to navigate their emotions in the context of their varying roles. Analysis of these nanatives is interpreted through a framework of literature on emotion management and information relevant to social work practice today. A critical perspective is taken up as I explore how our emotions and intuition are being impacted through political, economic or organisational ideologies and ask whose interests are served by these prevailing discourses. How this translates towards individuals and families in need is of significance to the core social work values of social justice.

McMaster University Library

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