Last updated July 7, 2015
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The Social Work Dictionary

6th Edition

Every profession has scholars who help define their field of practice, and, by so doing, advance that field. Without these committed individuals, our profession could not achieve as much, stay as current, or advance as quickly. In social work, Dr. Robert Barker is one of these luminaries. He first applied his scholarship to the task of creating The Social Work Dictionary in 1987, and, over a 25-year span, he has revised this important and essential reference five times. When taken together, this work reflects the evolution of the social work profession. This year NASW is proud to publish the sixth edition, which documents the language, the scope, and the opportunity for the field.

Those of us who have been in practice for the past several decades have witnessed a continually changing social work landscape, and our professional language has had to shift to capture this expansion of the field. Dr. Barker is the foremost expert in this endeavor; he helps us document our past efforts, our present reality, and our future path. The dictionary is a key element of our knowledge base.

Each edition of The Social Work Dictionary is a tremendous undertaking. Perhaps not since the original writing has the need for such a work been so critical. Today, social work methods and research have expanded; we are working with an unprecedented diversity and number of clients, and social workers can be found in settings from individual practice to Congress and every level in between. When we add to that the changes in social programs, especially health and mental health care reform, the numbers of veterans requiring services, the needs of the baby boom generation, and an increasing immigrant population, we recognize that social work is broader than ever before.

In this age of instant communication, technological shortcuts, and superficial information, Dr. Barker maintains the highest standards. This volume, while containing concise entries, is both comprehensive and thorough, and social workers can rely on the dictionary to obtain accurate information to specific practice questions. Like Black’s Law Dictionary for attorneys or the Physicians’ Desk Reference for doctors, The Social Work Dictionary is an essential tool for any social work student, social work educator or practitio- ner, or human services professional. It has much to offer, including thousands of entries, abbreviations and acronyms, and milestones for the profession.

Dr. Barker has called the dictionary a “labor of love.” We are grateful he has devoted his incredible skills to such a task, and we thank him for his efforts on behalf of the social work profession and especially on behalf of NASW.

We know you will find The Social Work Dictionary a valuable addition to your personal library and that you will turn to it frequently as a definitive resource of professional knowledge.

Elizabeth J. Clark, PhD, MPH, ACSW
Chief Executive Officer
National Association of Social Workers