Private practice, is it worth it? : the experiences of social workers in private practice : challenges, opportunities and benefits.
The main aim of the study was the description of the experiences of opportunities, rewards and challenges faced by social workers in private practice in the Durban Metropolitan Area, Kwa Zulu Natal. This study used an exploratory design, which was qualitative in nature. The researcher administered interview schedules that contained both open–ended and close–ended questions. The findings of the study indicated that some of the challenges experienced are professional isolation, stress and burnout, difficulties of managing a business and role confusion and conflict between a social worker in private practice and a psychologist. Respondents indicated that some of the benefits of private practice were working with motivated clients, control over professional growth and work environment, financial rewards, escape from bureaucracy, flexibility and quality casework services. The opportunities offered to private practitioners were employee wellness programmes, legal work, training, work in schools and quality casework services that made private practice a lucrative business. In terms of support systems it was found that the South African Association of Social Workers in Private practice was supportive. Respondents regarded The South African Council for Social Services Professions and the Department of Social Development as unsupportive. Emanating from the findings, recommendations have been made with regards to making private practice a more viable option. The findings can also be used to inform future research on a national level as well as comparative studies on the experiences between social workers in private practice and those at an agency level. Some of the recommendations in relation to private practice are that the South African Council of Social Services Profession and the Government should acknowledge social workers in private practice, the community should become more responsive to private practitioners and tertiary institutions should offer training courses to prepare social workers for private practice.
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