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Just Practice

A Social Justice Approach to Social Work

Fourth Edition

Janet L. Finn

Publication Date - 15 December 2020

ISBN: 9780197507520

432 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

Challenges students to recognize and address the forms and mechanisms of oppression and privilege that shape the world


Just Practice: A Social Justice Approach to Social Work provides a foundation for critical and creative social work that integrates theory, history, ethics, skills, and rights to respond to the complex terrain of 21st century social work. Just Practice puts the field of social work's expressed commitment to social justice at center stage with a framework that builds upon five key concepts: meaning, context, power, history, and possibility. How do we give meaning to the experiences and conditions that shape our lives? What are the contexts in which those experiences and conditions occur? How do structures and relations of power shape people's lives and the practice of social work? How might a historical perspective help us to grasp the ways in which struggles over meaning and power have played out and to better appreciate the human consequences of those struggles? Taken together, these concepts provide a guide for integrative social work that bridges direct practice and community building.

The text prepares readers with the theoretical knowledge and practice skills to address the complex challenges of contemporary social work from direct practice with individuals and families, to group work, organizational and community change, and policy analysis and advocacy. Each chapter includes learning activities, reflection moments, practice examples, and the stories and voices of practitioners and service users to engage students as critical thinkers and practitioners. The author encourages teachers and students alike to take risks, move from safe, familiar, pedagogical spaces and practices, challenge assumptions, and embrace uncertainty.

New to this Edition

  • New chapter, "Critical Reflection," pays particular attention to the embeddedness of racism in the U.S. and prepares readers to engage in critical self-reflection.
  • An expanded discussion of ways in which white privilege clouded the perspectives of early reformers and of the contributions of African Americans, American Indians, and other people of color deepens students' understanding of social work history.
  • New content on psychodynamic theory, neuroscience, and trauma, with an expanded discussion of historical trauma and tribal critical theory, expands the book's range of social theories.
  • Listening and communication skills for acknowledgement of and engagement with racial trauma, counter narratives, and narratives of resistance speak to prevalent and ongoing issues in today's world.


  • Unique framework builds upon five key concepts - meaning, context, power, history, and possibility - to provide students a cohesive schema for connecting social work to social justice
  • Seven core processes - engagement, teaching/learning, action, accompaniment, evaluation, reflection, and celebration - expand upon the traditional assessment-intervention-evaluation model of practice by re-conceptualizing social work's approach to planned change
  • Critical reflection on social work history provides readers a rich understanding of the promise and problems in social work history and of the contributions of Black, American Indian, and other people of color to social work
  • Reflection moments and learning activities encourage critical thinking and engage students in the application of key concepts
  • Accompanied by a robust set of instructor resources

About the Author(s)

Janet L. Finn, MSW, PhD, is Professor of Social Work at the University of Montana-Missoula. She is the author, editor, or co-editor of numerous books and articles about social justice, community, women, and youth and childhood issues including Gender Oppression and Globalization: Challenges for Social Work (2013), Mining Childhood: Growing Up in Butte Montana, 1900-1960 (2012), and Childhood, Youth and Social Work in Transformation (2009).


"I have taught introductory courses on social work practice for 30 years and continue to think of Just Practice as the finest text I have ever used. It is full, deep, and rich. The author introduces an integrative framework that joins conceptions of social justice and the core activities of everyday practice, challenging instructors and students to negotiate the irreducible ambiguities and complexities of help and care. I so appreciate the clarity of mind, the moral energy, and the pragmatic sensibility that shapes her accounts of the history of the profession and the range of concerns we have come to encompass in the field." -- William Borden, University of Chicago

"The emphasis on the Just Practice concepts provides exceptional opportunities for students to reflect on their life experiences and often find 'possibility' when it seems improbable." -- Paula M. Sheridan, Whittier College

"Just Practice pushes beyond the mainstream (white) conceptualization of social work in the US and abroad and works to expand practicing definitions of social justice into new frameworks and models that disavow the medical model and patronizing practices. It doesn't just present content and knowledge but encourages the reader to critically think about the implications for their own personal and professional development by using a series of reflections, activities and the posing of excellent questions. I can honestly say for the first time in years I am actually excited about a textbook not just because it speaks to me and us about the way we define social justice work but also because I learned more than a few things in reading this that has already strengthened my perspective." -- Donna McIntosh, Sienna College

"Finn's text is an exceptional choice for advanced BSW and foundation MSW students. The book's format grounds the student in the meaning of social work history and its social justice mission. Throughout the text, Finn invites readers to engage in a process of personal and professional exploration that potentially fuels the students' desire to return to the roots of social work to inform their practice. Students won't just read this textbook — they will experience it." -- Ann Trettin, University of Chicago

Table of Contents

    1. Imagining Social Work and Social Justice
    Meaning of Social Work
    Meanings of Social Justice
    Linking Social Work and Social Justice
    Justice Practice Framework: Meaning, Context, Power, History, and Possibility
    Questions for Discussion
    Suggested Readings

    2. Critical Reflection: A Starting Place for Understanding Difference, Oppression, and Privilege
    The Daunting Realities of Injustice
    Meanings of Critical Reflection
    Skills and Practices of Critical Reflection
    Difference, Oppression, and Privilege
    White Privilege, Racism, and White Supremacy
    Questions for Discussion
    Suggested Readings

    3. Looking Back
    Claiming a Historical Perspective for Social Work
    The Roots of Social Work
    The Emergence of Social Work
    Social Work in the Twentieth Century: Snapshots of History
    Questions for Discussion
    Suggested Readings

    4. Values, Ethics, and Visions
    What Do We Mean by Values?
    Values in Context
    The Practice of Valuing
    Valuing and Social Justice Work
    The Concept of Ethics
    Ethical Theories
    Values, Ethics, and Social Work
    Social Work Ethics in the Twenty-first Century
    Frameworks for Ethical Decision Making in Social Work Practice
    Expanding the Possibilities for Ethical Decision Making
    Questions for Discussion
    Suggested Readings

    5. Just Thinking: Theoretical Perspectives on Social-Justice-Oriented Practice
    What Is Theory?
    Theory and Contemporary Social Work
    Expanding the Theoretical Possibilities
    Just Practice Framework: An Integrated Approach
    Questions for Discussion
    Suggested Readings

    6. Just Get Started: Engagement
    The Meaning of Engagement
    The Context of Engagement
    Skills and Practice of Engagement
    Challenges of Engagement: Power, Difference, and Resistance
    Expanding the Possibilities: Engaging Groups
    Popular Education
    Questions for Discussion
    Suggested Readings

    7. Teaching-Learning: Reframing the Assessment Process
    Problematizing Assessment
    Shifting Our Approach: From Assessment to Teaching-Learning
    Power and the Teaching-Learning Process
    Teaching-Learning and Human Rights
    The Skills and Practice of Teaching-Learning
    Questions for Discussion
    Suggested Readings

    8. Action and Accompaniment
    Concept and Process of Action
    Concept and Process of Accompaniment
    Action and Accompaniment in Context
    Rethinking Social Work Roles
    Skills and Practice of Action and Accompaniment
    Expanding the Possibilities
    Questions for Discussion
    Suggested Readings

    9. Evaluating, Reflecting On, and Celebrating Our Efforts
    Participatory Approaches to Evaluation
    Participatory Evaluation in Action
    Resources and Possibilities
    Coming Full Circle: Summarizing Principles of Social Justice Work
    Questions for Discussion
    Suggested Readings
    Epilogue: Just Futures

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