Client aggression and the disenchantment process among Israeli social workers: Realizing the gap

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The professional habitus and values of social work, are challenged when social workers encounter client aggression. The current study was set up to understand the ways by which workers confront and cope with client aggression. In-depth interviews were conducted with 40 social workers in general municipal services. The participants included district managers, agency managers, supervisors, social workers and administrators. We identified a process consisting of four stages: (1) Rationalization, minimization, and denial of client aggression, including self-blame; (2) Emotional reactions, including hurt, anger, helplessness and shame; (3) Reevaluation of one’s beliefs, attitudes and values; (4) Behavioral transformation. The process of going through the four stages is not always linear, and workers may go back and forth between stages. The results are discussed in terms of the gaps between social workers’ values and the reality they are facing. Such gaps serve as an engine of change, explicated by theoretical concepts of social judgment theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-85
Number of pages21
JournalQualitative Social Work
Issue number1
StatePublished - 25 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors’ disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and or publication of this article: Research grant by the Israel Ministry of Industry, Trade & Labor, for the study of workplace security.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions:


  • Client aggression
  • service users
  • trust
  • value dilemmas
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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