Psychotherapy, distributive justice, and social work revisited

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Harvey Dean (1998) rejects my (Wakefield, 1988a; 1988b) argument that minimal distributive justice is the essential mission of social work and that treatment of mental disorder is not part of the profession’s essential mission but rather a derived task. He argues that social work has broader ethical aims that encompass both pursuit of justice and treatment of mental disorder. In this article, 1 review my earlier position and respond to Dean’s objections. I argue that Dean’s narrativist account of the profession’s ethical aims is overly broad and that he confuses non-disordered psychological problems with mental disorders. I conclude that neither my “minimal distributive justice” view of social work’s mission nor my exclusion of treatment of mental disorder from the profession’s essential mission are disconfirmed by Dean’s arguments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-57
Number of pages33
JournalSmith College Studies in Social Work
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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