Shame and Social Work Students: A Qualitative Interview Study

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Erichsen, Cassandra




The high incidence of burnout in social work is well documented and research suggests that shame might play a contributing role (Zapf et al, 2001; Gibson, 2014). Findings consistently demonstrate the pervasive and harmful impact of shame (Gibson, 2014; Hahn, 2000). Using grounded theory and narrative inquiry methodologies; this thesis study presents the experiences, thoughts and perceptions of shame in 13 female social work students. Participants viewed shame as extremely painful and identified gendered societal and cultural expectations as significant shame triggers. They attributed the undervaluing of social work as a profession and negative stereotypes about the profession as contributing to shame about their professional identity. Participants provide insights into the challenges/strengths of attending Carleton University’s School of Social Work, including both the benefits and potential shame resulting from consistent reflection and awareness of their social location. Considerations for social work education programs and avenues for future research are discussed.


Social Work




Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

Master of Social Work: 

Thesis Degree Level: 


Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Social Work

Parent Collection: 

Theses and Dissertations

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