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Social Work Practice

A Critical Thinker's Guide

Third Edition

Eileen Gambrill

Publication Date - November 2012

ISBN: 9780199757251

704 pages
8-1/2 x 11 inches

The first textbook to emphasize the importance of critical thinking skills to practice, this third edition of the classic Social Work Practice retains its unique focus on thinking critically about decisions that social workers make daily.


The first textbook to emphasize the importance of critical thinking skills to practice, this third edition of the classic Social Work Practice retains its unique focus on thinking critically about decisions that social workers make daily. Organized around the phases of helping, this hands-on introduction highlights the decision points that social workers encounter during assessment, intervention, and evaluation. This text, together with its companion website, provides students with a wealth of hands-on exercises for developing and assessing their practice skills. Most importantly, it helps students enhance client well-being by becoming critical thinkers and evidence-informed practitioners.

New to this Edition

  • Provides more opportunities for self-assessment and hands-on skill development
  • Adds new content on exposing inequities, creating change, and managing scarce resources


  • Highlights the vital role that ethical obligations play in the decision-making process
  • Describes the process and philosophy of evidence-based practice and the importance of critical thinking at all stages of helping clients
  • Offers specific guidelines for selecting assessment methods, intervention plans, and outcome measures
  • Ideal for BSW and MSW programs

About the Author(s)

Eileen Gambrill, PhD, is the Hutto Patterson Charitable Foundation Professor in Child and Family Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.


"...essential reading for social work practitioners, students, and educators...conceptually rich...The book is so vital to our profession that every social worker should digest it themselves...We use this book in our undergraduate program as a very accessible foundation for ethical and informed practice. Any social worker at any level of training or practice would benefit from reading and contiously referring to this important work."--Research on Social Work Practice

"This book places service users at the centre of attention and Eileen Gambrill does not mince her words. I particularly liked the author's injunction in the preface where she reminds social workers that we have choice and need courage to ask hard questions of politicians and 'experts', rather than be, as she suggests, 'overwhelmed by seeing too much and doing too little'." --Isabel Martin, Journal of Social Work

Table of Contents

    Prologue: Social Workers at Work

    Part I. Getting Oriented
    1. Social Work: An Introduction
    2. Clients and Services
    3. Values, Ethics, and Obligations

    Part II. Thinking about Knowledge and How to Get it

    4. Different Views of Knowledge
    5. Critical Thinking: Integral to Evidence-Based Practice

    Part III. Thinking about Problems and Causes
    6. Competing Views of Personal and Social Problems and Their Causes
    7. Taking Advantage of Research Findings about Behavior and How it is Influenced by the Environment

    Part IV. A Decision-Focused Practice Model
    8. Problem Solving and Decision Making: Integral to Helping Clients
    9. Evidence-Based Practice: A Decision-Making Process and Philosophy
    10. Posing Questions and Searching for Answers
    11. Critically Appraising Research: Thinking for Yourself

    Part V. Getting Started
    12. A Contextual Assessment Framework
    13. Beginning: A Practice Guide
    14. Engaging Clients

    Part VI. Relationship Skills
    15. Interpersonal Helping Skills
    16. Creating and Handling Challenging Social Situations

    Part VII. Gathering and Organizing Information
    17. Where to Look: Deciding How to Gather Needed Information
    18. Observation: Learning to See
    19. Reviewing Resources and Obstacles
    20. Putting it All Together

    Part VIII. Selecting Plans and Assessing Progress
    21. Selecting and Implementing Service Plans
    22. Evaluating Outcomes as Integral to Problem Solving
    23. Planning for Endings

    Part IX. Intervention Options
    24. Empowering Clients: Providing Information and Skill Building
    25. Helping Clients Learn Positive Behavior Change Skills
    26. Working with Groups and Families
    27. Organizations and Communities

    Part X. The Long Run
    28. Maintaining Skills and Staying Happy in Your Work


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