First Advisor

Gita R. Mehrotra

Term of Graduation

Spring 2021

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work




Social service -- Moral and ethical aspects, Self-disclosure, Counselor and client, Social work with minorities



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 136 pages)


Use of self is defined as the social worker's instrument, and involves an intentional engagement of one's personhood in ways that facilitate client change (Heyt & Sherman, 2005). This dissertation argues that race is one component of the social worker's self that is visible, and that can affect how Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) social workers use self in their practice. Using Critical Race Theory, Social Identity Theory and an Interpretive Description methodology, this dissertation engages 27 BIPOC field instructors in semi-structured interviews in order to answer the following research questions: a) What are the components of use of self, as defined by BIPOC social workers?; b) How have they used self in practice and to what effect?; c) How do issues of race and racism affect their perceptions of using self in practice contexts? Findings indicate that for BIPOC social workers, self-disclosure, bringing one's whole self, and race are components of use of self, and they used these factors to model change, affirm the effects of race on the client experience, and to deepen their relationships with clients. Findings also show that race and racism affected perceptions of using self because participant bodies were stereotyped and they faced heightened scrutiny in their work. Lastly, agency culture affected use of self - when in an affirming agency participants felt comfortable using self but when in a non-inclusive environment, they were less likely to use self to the benefit of their practice. Study findings have implications for practice, research and social work education and highlight social work's need to: a) include race and other identity categories into conversations about use of self; b) include conversations about agency context as it informs how (and whether) social workers use self in practice; and lastly c) include lessons on self-disclosure as a tool to move the change process and worker-client relationship forward.


© 2021 Anita Reinette Gooding

In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier