As social workers, our ultimate goal is to promote social justice and enhance the well-being of all individuals and communities. But, we need to work to acknowledge, address and ultimately dismantle the systemic oppression in our society to ensure our goal is achieved.
What is Anti-Oppressive Social Work Practice?
Anti-Oppressive Practice (AOP) in social work is a critical framework that guides us in challenging and dismantling oppressive structures and practices. It requires social workers to critically reflect on their values, beliefs, and biases and actively work to eliminate oppressive systems and practices.
5 things future social workers should know about anti-oppressive social work
1. Oppression is pervasive
Oppression exists in all aspects of society — even within the social work practice. Social workers must recognize and understand how oppression operates and affects their clients, colleagues, and communities.
2. Intersectionality matters
People hold multiple intersecting identities that shape their experiences of oppression and privilege. Social workers need to consider how different forms of oppression, such as racism, sexism, ableism, and heterosexism, intersect and compound to create unique experiences of marginalization.
3. Self-reflection is critical
Social workers must continuously self-reflect to identify and challenge their biases, assumptions, and privileges. They must be willing to examine how their identities and experiences shape their worldview and how they interact with clients.
4. Empowerment is key
Anti-oppressive social work aims to empower clients by recognizing and building on their strengths, skills, and knowledge. Social workers must collaborate with clients to identify their goals and support them in advocating for themselves and their communities.
5. Activism is necessary
Anti-oppressive social work involves challenging and changing oppressive structures and practices inside and outside the social work profession. Social workers must engage in activism and advocacy to create social change and promote equity and justice for marginalized communities.
By reflecting on their own biases and assumptions, empowering their clients, and engaging in activism and advocacy, social workers can create meaningful change in their communities. The Garland School of Social Work is dedicated to training future social workers that support diversity, equity, and inclusion, and offers valuable resources to students who seek to engage in anti-oppressive practice.
Want to know more about equity and social justice in social work? Explore our guide, How Social Workers Support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.