22. august 2016

Expertise and Ambivalence in User-Focused Human Service Work

Inspired by classical texts within The Sociology of Ambivalence this chapter looks at new forms of treatment and social work inspired by narrative and other constructivist approaches. In these forms of treatment, professionals no longer act as “experts” who know what is best for their clients but rather as coaches and facilitators. Although human service relationships have always been characterized by ambivalent feelings on part of the clients, user-focused human service work faces specific challenges. Clients express ambivalent feelings when they feel that professional authority is suspended  without staff members offering them alternative understandings and directions in problem solving. Ambivalence also arises when clients define themselves as more knowledgeable than staff members and when they put themselves in the position as monitors and evaluators of their therapists’ practice. Finally, ambivalence builds up when the treatments centers’ constructivist treatment approaches are confronted with the demands of bureaucracy and with more traditional, objectivist ways of thinking about human problems.

Margaretha Järvinen: Expertise and Ambivalence in User-Focused Human Service Work. In: Reimagining the Human Service Relationship, ed. by J.F. Gubrium et al. New York:
Columbia University Press 2016.