Individuals embarking on their journey to become professional social workers often state they feel as if they know nothing upon entering their practice. Regardless of the number of years critical social workers have practiced, they are also thought to know nothing.
By utilizing a philosophical hermeneutic approach for my research I chose to recognize that new critical social work ideas, theories and practices come from something and somewhere (Moules, 2002). This research approach involved interviewing six social workers who graduated in the last three years from two social work schools in Canada with a declared critical orientation. I asked these budding new professionals to describe what happens when they begin working in organizations that may or may not support a critical ideology and how this impacts their practice.
Interpretations of the participant experiences suggest that this nothing is not an empty space. Instead, it is the in-between space where new critical social work graduates might feel abandoned and unsupported, scrambling for time and resources, and anxious to find the right words. This is the space where much of their practice involves the frustration of being dismissed because they are both new and unconventional in their thinking. However, it is also the space in which new critical social work graduates experience the joy of finding a language to express what they already knew before beginning their schooling. It is the space they sometimes create by insinuating themselves and their ideas into their agencies in a delicate curvilinear manner. Finally, this nothing is also where new graduates might find solace both in themselves and the Other.
Arguments are made on the need for critical social work practitioners and researchers to provide leadership to human service organizations, educational institutions, and the field in general by researching, supporting, and celebrating those critical practices that do embody the cultural mores and values of our work.