Being a social worker as an existential commitment: From vulnerability to meaningful purpose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One's personal and professional dimensions complement each other in the practice of social work. In plying their trade, social workers construct a personal narrative that gives a sense of meaning to their commitment to clients who face suffering and distress. The study is based on in-depth interviews of twenty-five experienced female social workers. Two themes were identified: The first theme focuses on the construction of an existential vulnerability in the family-of-origin, which drives the choice of a helping profession. The interviewees perceived these difficulties as contributing to their sensitivity toward the suffering and turmoil of others, connecting them with clients, and giving them a sense of purpose, commitment, and meaning in their work. The second theme relates to the special meaning assigned to social values, such as giving and committing to others, in the family-of-origin and the profound effect of this socialization process on professional choices and practice. The discussion of the findings is from an existential perspective and has implications for the professional development of social workers and other helping professionals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-174
Number of pages14
JournalHumanistic Psychologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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