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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The private practice of social work : Vancouver, B.C., 1987 Thompson, Gail Patricia


The private practice of social work has been either central or tangential to many historical and contemporary social work issues. Over the years it has been inherent in debates and discussions on professionalism, cause versus function (or macro versus micro), public versus private (or privatization), elitism, control of title, registration or licensing and vendorship (or third-party payments). Private practice has been debated and discussed at two different levels. Historically, it was mainly debated at a higher level—the level of ideologies and philosophies which reflected various deeply held value posititions. More recently a superficial shift has occurred that has moved the debate to a lower level and has focussed the discussions on descriptions of the characteristics of private practice. These descriptions are sometimes contradictory, sometimes inconclusive, and almost always, originate from the United States. Nonetheless, they too are used as arguments both against and in support of private practice. On the higher level, this paper researched private practice in the context of its relationship to professionalism and theories of professionalization. On the lower level, through a self-administered mailed questionnaire, private practitioners in Greater Vancouver were surveyed in order to obtain an accurate and current, description of private practice within the defined geographical area. Many of the descriptions reported in the private practice literature were supported by this sample and others were not. Due to the developing leadership role of professionals within society, professionalization was determined to be beneficial to the profession. Private practice was found to be the delivery model most consistent with early criteria of professionalization. However, recent authors (Austin, 1983; Popple, 1985) have rejected some of the criteria previously asserted as needing to be fulfilled in order to attain professional status. It was therefore concluded that while private practice historically advanced the professionalization of social work, the continuance or the expansion of private practice is not necessary in order to either attain further professional status or to retain that which has already been achieved.

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