What characterizes expertise in mental health social work? This article attempts to answer this question by reporting on the findings of a cross-national Australian and American study of social work practice expertise in mental health settings, particularly in working with people with long-term serious mental illness. The study identified expert practitioners through a peer-nomination process and asked each of them to describe a memorable practice situation in focus groups. These group interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using a constant comparative method. In the face of often complex and demanding work situations, these social workers demonstrated qualities specific to mental health social work that were designated as belief, optimism and caring. These three qualities are delineated and discussed in this article, as well as the implications for social work practice and education.
- mental health social work