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Publication Date


Document Type



School for Social Work


Acting out (Psychology), Psychotherapy-Study and teaching (Graduate)-Psychological aspects, Social work education, Teacher-student relationships, Interpersonal relations, Intersubjectivity, Enactments, Clinical practice, Teacher/student interpersonal dynamics, Pedagogic impasse


Learning and teaching clinical practice can often evoke emotional reactions in both students and instructors that lead to intense, interesting, and complicated interactions. This study created and explored a theoretical application of the psychoanalytic / psychodynamic construct of enactment to a classroom setting. This study aimed to capture the ways that clinical social work practice instructors conceptualize and manage complex interpersonal events and conflicts in their classrooms. The design of this project was exploratory and qualitative, based on content analysis. Eighteen clinical practice instructors teaching at 10 different schools of social work were interviewed. Participants all taught from a psychodyanmically oriented perspective and all used case material in their teaching. One time qualitative in person and Skype interviews were conducted, and subsequently coded line by line for analysis. Three major themes emerged that characterize the nature of complicated interpersonal moments in the classroom; (1) how instructors handled enactments, (2) how instructors conceptualized the occurrence of enactments, and (3) how instructors think about the potential pedagogic use of enactments. The findings of this study reveal an effective application of the construct of enactment to interactions between clinical social work practice instructors and their students. This study opens the possibility for expounding upon a psychodynamically informed theory of pedagogy that has the potential to help instructors create useful ways of thinking about these inevitable, and potentially instructive classroom moments.




v, 110 p. Dissertation (Ph.D.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 87-93)