Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Altruism, Psychotherapists-Psychology, Qualitative research, Prosocial behavior, Service, Egoism, Social work, Clinical values, Psychotherapy, Therapeutic, Healing, Directive, Non-directive, Psychodynamic, Positive psychology, Empathy, Ehtics, Well-being, Intervention, Volunteering


While engaging in altruism has been found to be therapeutic in many settings including mutual aid groups, there is a lack of empirical data regarding altruism in the context of clinical social work with individuals. Using qualitative methods, this study gathered perspectives on the current state of altruism in clinical social work, and inquired specifically about the use of altruism as a clinical tool. Semi-structured interviews were completed with 13 licensed clinical social workers. Participants varied in their perspectives about engaging in conversations about altruism with clients and the therapeutic use of participating in altruistic acts. Clinicians expressed being guided in these matters by their own principles, theoretical backgrounds, and use of "clinical judgment". Participants also spoke about the impact of altruistic acts on their clients and the factors that prevented clients from engaging in altruistic acts. The findings call for increased consciousness regarding altruism in the field of clinical social work and for future research, including the incorporation of the client's voice. The study also prompts the clinical social workers to consider the construction of egoistic clinical practices and their participation in the splitting of the needs of individuals and the needs of the greater community.




v, 78 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 66-70)