Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Deena Mandell

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


This qualitative study explored MSW student perceptions of the concept of professional relationships. The research question was: “What does the concept of professional relationships mean to MSW students?” The study was epistemologically rooted in social constructionism and Foucauldian theories, which inform how meaning is created and the notion of “professionalism” is deconstructed, while two-person psychologies were utilized to conceptualize the worker/client relationship to which I refer. Utilizing a constructivist grounded theory modality, 15 participants were recruited from the student body at Wilfrid Laurier University in Kitchener, ON. Through the analysis of individual interview data, two overarching categories emerged: (a) the expression of an uncomfortable sense of “not knowing” what a beginning practitioner needs to know about professional relationships; and, (b) the inability to articulate an integrated conceptualization of the professional relationship in social work. The concept was, however, consistently bifurcated in a way that isolated being "professional" from the relational elements of the social work encounter. A third category focused on how relationships with professors, field supervisors and other social workers contributed (or failed to contribute) to the participants' learning regarding the professional relationship. This study contributes information for viewing the concept of professional relationships through threshold and performative theories, which may facilitate a shift in educational practices of graduate level social workers.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Social Work Commons