Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This exploratory qualitative research study investigated clinical social workers' experiences negotiating agency and personal narrative in their clinical work in community mental health centers (CMHCs). Through three broad research questions, the researcher gathered narrative data which explored the influence of organizational context on clinical work. The study was informed theoretically by organizational systems literature and psychodynamic literature regarding functioning in organizations, and methodologically by narrative theory concepts. Open-ended, naturalistic interviews were conducted with twelve clinical social workers who worked in CMHCs. Three broad themes emerged in the findings: 1) participants' perceptions of agency narrative; 2) participants' narratives about themselves, their clients, and their work; and 3) participants' negotiations of the interplay between agency and personal narratives, and the influence of this negotiation on clinical work. The findings generally support the notion that social workers' experiences in CMHCs are complex and evocative, due in part to ideological and sociopolitical shifts in the mental health service context and wide splits between organizational subsystems. Generally, participants articulated that organizational context influences the way in which social work services are delivered in CMHCs, although factors such as experience level, the strength of the worker's personal narrative, and awareness of conflicting narratives mediated this influence to some extent.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. iii, 132 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 119-124)