Discourse Analysis

Priorities to be addressed by DAUPR

Social Worker Key Competences: “Starting where your client is at” is one of the most important tenets of professional social work – developing an attitude of nonjudgmental acceptance is one of the first, yet arguably most difficult, tasks of becoming a social worker (http://work.chron.com/acceptance-important-social-worker-11329.html). Acceptance in social work is often referred to as “unconditional positive regard” a term penned by Carl Rogers (1902-1987 one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology). The person-centred approach has found wide application psychotherapy, counselling and other settings.

Acceptance and Countertransference:

Countertransference refers to the unconscious feelings a client invokes in you due to their personality traits and projections. Acceptance is important on a personal level because it helps you avoid subconsciously superimposing your own needs on the client. Sometimes, social workers who have not successfully dealt with their own issues may try to force clients to change based on their own internal, unmet needs. For example, a social worker who has been unable to forgive her cheating spouse may have extreme difficulty working with a client who is cheating on his partner.

Acceptance means that you don’t try to change your clients to suit your own needs. You avoid imposing your own wants or beliefs on them — even if you dislike or disapprove of their actions or behaviours.

The DAUPR project will look at discourse analysis and its application to unconditional positive regard (UPR) to strengthen key competences of those working with vulnerable adults.


Carolyn Taylor and Susan White make a distinction between reflection and reflexivity where the latter adds a critical dimension by calling taken-for-granted assumptions into questions (Taylor & White, 2000). Further, they suggest that reflexivity is not simply an augmentation of practice by individual professionals, but a profession-wide responsibility. Understanding our constructed place in social work depends on identifying how language creates templates of shared understandings. Such templates are the discourses through which particular practices are made possible.

Self-reflexivity is another key competence: In social theory, reflexivity may occur when theories in a discipline should apply equally forcefully to the discipline itself, for example in the case that the theories of knowledge construction in the field of sociology of scientific knowledge should apply equally to knowledge construction by sociology of scientific knowledge practitioners, or when the subject matter of a discipline should apply equally well to the individual practitioners of that discipline, for example when psychological theory should explain the psychological mental processes of psychologists.

DAUPR will explore reflexivity as a key competence for those working with vulnerable adults. The project will hold a 5 day short term staff training event to deliver continued professional development (CPD; C-VET) in UPR, Discourse Analysis and Reflexivity. Partners will review the training received and share best practice during the course of the project, to establish the 5-day training event as “fit for purpose”.

Social Inclusion: All partners work with isolated vulnerable adults. Improved competences amongst practitioners will result in provision of enhanced levels of support to empower their target groups and promote their social inclusion.

social inclusion discourse analysis

Bruges Communique (http://ec.europa.eu/education/policy/vocational-policy/doc/brugescom_en.pdf, Europe 2020): “Easily accessible and career-oriented continuing VET (C-VET) for employees, employers, independent entrepreneurs and unemployed people, which facilitates both competence development and career changes.”

Aims/Objectives of the project

The aim of this project is to create a continuous professional development (CPD) training programme to improve competences of those (social workers, psychologists, therapists, trainers) working with vulnerable adults. DAUPR will create a training programme specifically designed to improve the workers’ competences in key areas: discourse analysis, unconditional positive regard and self-reflexivity. DAUPR will look at social constructs in general that can lead to stigmatisation and social exclusion of those that practitioners most seek to help.

For example, being a prostitute may be considered a matter of choice, whereas sex trafficking is depicted as a modern slave, without any control. This bipolar distinction between sex trafficking and sex work has specific implication in how to approach sex trafficking survivors and people who are working in the sex industry. “Victimizing” the victim of sexual exploitation affect her/his psychosocial rehabilitation and her/his ability to control her/his future. Gender identity is also salient independently of whether we talk about prostitution or sex trafficking victims. It is to be remembered that there are increasing numbers of boys and men that are sex trafficked. Similar preconceived constructs about refugees, migrants, mental illness and disability also apply, where the practitioner does not work from a position of unconditional positive regard (UPR).

People who work in the psychological field, in general, act as the key actors in working with trauma, stigma, sex trafficking (or abused prostitutes) and mental health crises. For this reason, this project is designed to examine the whole issue of discourse construction, UPR and self-reflexivity of workers who support vulnerable adults whatever the background. One key element of DAUPR is self-reflexivity. The goal is to examine practitioner constructions about vulnerable adults in general and also investigate how gender identities might come into play when we examine these issues. Self-reflexivity must be a constant tool when we approach our vulnerable adult client base because it affects practitioner everyday interventions with them.

A prime objective will be the development of a CPD training programme and “Best Practice Guide” to inform those working with vulnerable adults. These resources will be based on the analysis of the short term staff training event (C1) and transnational meeting workshops and will mirror the interaction of the project’s team as they share their experiences regarding working with vulnerable adults in general.

unconditional positive regard

We have chosen discourse analysis and discursive psychology as basic methodological tools. Discourse analysis provides the chance to examine political and ideological aspects of language. Discourse is an analytical tool that provides the chance to examine practitioner constructions exactly when they are formed in speech. It is therefore important that not only will the members of the team be able to be self-reflective on their own constructions about their client groups but they also have the chance to interact with the team and share their own experiences.

5 Day DAUPR Training Event Plymouth November 2017

Conversations with partners prior to this application suggest that the 5 day short term staff training event will be crucial to the project in order to have all partner staff (practitioners) “on the same page”. They also recognise that how they talk (and/or approach) their client group has a huge impact on any chances of achieving positive outcomes and empowering the client to self determine their future, breaking down the barriers of stigma and thus promoting positive social inclusion. The 5 day event will cover:

  • Social constructionism & Political theory
  • Feminist theory /gender identity
  • Working with vulnerable people
  • Working with survivors of sexual violence
  • Safeguarding adults
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorders
  • Application of discourse analysis
  • Self reflexivity
  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • Unconditional Positive Regard

Trauma survival, stigma in all its forms, mental health and social exclusion is a global issue – hence the transnational approach to finding a common intervention in terms of discourse constructs of practitioners who support vulnerable adults.

The 5 day training event will be evaluated by 145* practitioners and stakeholders in order to examine fitness for purpose for practitioners and can lead to post project creation of an accredited vocational training benchmark for all who work with vulnerable adults, and mapped to EQF at an appropriate level.

stakeholder groups for discourse analysis

During the course of the project, partners will create local stakeholder committees to steer local delivery – these local focus groups will examine the training needs of those working in their field to inform training delivery and present results at local dissemination conferences at the end of the project. The feedback from these local focus groups will be discussed in the transnational meetings of the team prior to the final CPD training programme being presented at end of project.

*20 attendees from partners at the 5-day training event in Plymouth, UK, 20-24 November 2017; 5 partners recruit 5 stakeholders each to evaluate the project (5×5=25); Pilot training programme will be delivered to 20+ professionals by each partner (5×20=100); 20+25+100=145

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