Thursday, August 18, 2011

More on my treatise of "why" social work. (An exploration of interdisciplinary studies)

In my last post I talked a little about how social work found me. My relationship with social work is not so one sided, I am drawn to social work and continue to have a great passion for the discipline. I have most days my mind is a sponge for all topics, I just enjoy taking in information, whether it be formal education, learning about new people and their passions or out learning how to do something practically. Social work however, really gets me fired up. Working with people from unique backgrounds and circumstance from a respectful and social justice perspective just makes sense to me and the way I look at the world. What really intrigues me about the practical side of social work is the potential to take part in interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary teams.

I want to take a moment and make a clear distinction between interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary. One of my favourite books on this subject is Tanya Augsburg's Becoming Interdisciplinary. It's a textbook but a darn good one and easy to read. I actually really, really enjoyed it during an undergraduate methodology class and draw upon it on the regular. In her text, is a detailed history, description and delineation of interdisciplinary studies. Interdisciplinarity is a product of the twentieth century and involves the combination of disciplines. This is more than just an understanding of let's say law and economics. Two completely different discplines. Interdisciplinarity is an appreciation of each discipline, drawing upon them and being critical to assess the potential for solving problems or addressing questions. This gives, hopefully a deeper understanding of issues and allows interdisciplinary perspectives to overtake a single discipline.

Multidisciplinary work would look very different from the above. Yes, more than one discipline is being used at a time but they exist in parallel to each other. Meaning an eclectic insight won't be established, the disciplines may interact with one another but remain untouched and still mutually exclusive. I can see the value of multidisciplinary work in professional settings as interdisciplinarity doesn't bode well with command and control type situations where individuals with authority are trained in one discipline working with individuals who have less power in other disciplines. For example, a medical doctor who oversees, supervises or has the final word in a multidisciplinary team that includes nurses, support workers, social workers and other healthcare professionals.

Participating in an environment that allows me to research, come up with new ideas, think creatively and critically about what I'm working on, like the aforementioned studies into interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary work really appeals to me. I would love to hear from social workers practicing in these teams to hear about their experiences.

Other areas I see an intersection of interdiscplinarity and social work. Well, specifically in my studies of sociological theories, social learning theory or symbolic interactionism for example. Taking these theories and applying them to an understanding of clients experiences could be valuable. Further to this studies in philosophy lend to being a better researcher, thinking critically about epistemological questions and asking myself, how do I know what I know? Are my beliefs correct? Philosophy may also offer insights into answering metaphysical questions, what does it mean to be a person? Do I have a soul? Is there meaning in life? What does it mean for me to be conscious and mindful?

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