Understanding Social Workers’ Well-Being through Their Valued Aspirations


  • Precious Mseba University of Missouri




Aspirations, capabilities, functionings, social workers, well-being


Recent studies across various contexts have shown that social workers’ well-being or lack thereof affects their ability to advance social well-being. This is even more marked in a context such as South Africa in which social workers often function with very few resources and in contexts of extreme poverty. Using the capability approach, this qualitative study deals with the question of social workers’ well-being. It focuses on social workers’ aspirations, the ideals to which they aspire as a window to understanding their well-being as professionals. Drawing from interviews with practising social workers and social work students from a South African university, the study (a) examines social workers’ understanding of professional well-being, (b) identifies social workers’ aspirations and their connection to well-being achievement, and (c) outlines the necessary opportunities for the achievement of social workers’ valued aspirations. By paying particular attention to social workers’ aspirations, this article proposes a much broader understanding of social workers’ well-being than is possible when we focus on individual aspects of professionals’ well-being such as physical health or positive psychological functioning. The findings suggest that, apart from physical and emotional wellness, social workers understand their well-being in terms of achieving their valued aspirations, namely, effective helping, professional growth, personal growth, and material achievements. The study identifies several capabilities necessary for social workers’ professional well-being.


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Author Biography

Precious Mseba, University of Missouri




How to Cite

Mseba, Precious. 2021. “Understanding Social Workers’ Well-Being through Their Valued Aspirations”. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development 33 (3):18 pages. https://doi.org/10.25159/2708-9355/8917.



Received 2020-12-30
Accepted 2021-08-31
Published 2021-11-22