Our primary purpose in this book is to introduce a contextually informed approach to social work practice. We provide social work practitioners, students and educators with frameworks for understanding the diverse and often perplexing contexts of, and theories for, practice. By understanding the ideas that underpin our practice contexts and formal theory base, we enhance our capacity to achieve the values and goals to which we are committed. In this chapter, we explain the importance of discourse and discourse analysis for thinking about professional practice, and briefly outline the three sets of discourses that are most influential for social work (considered in more detail in Part 2). This will form an important preparation for Chapter 2, where we introduce a dynamic model of practice, which proposes that our professional purpose is constructed through interaction between various components of our institutional contexts, professional practice base, professional purpose and practice framework. Here, three approaches to theory use are introduced, which will be drawn on in the analysis of theories for practice in Part 3.
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