Narrative analysis and critical social work

Authored by: Sam Larsson

The Routledge Handbook of Critical Social Work

Print publication date:  January  2019
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138578432
eBook ISBN: 9781351264402
Adobe ISBN:


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Use of narrative research methods represents an interesting strategy for gaining knowledge and understanding of people’s lives in social work (Elliott, 2005; Larsson and Sjöblom, 2010). The aim of the chapter is to present a narrative analysis for critical social work. The critical discussion is illustrated by references to substance use-related dependency since it is a major research area in social work and many studies have used different forms of narrative strategies when investigating this issue (von Braun, 2013, von Braun et al., 2013a, 2013b; von Braun, in press; Denzin, 1987; Etherington, 2010). The narrative analysis presented in this chapter is based on narrative self-psychology (see Crossley, 2000; Larsson et al., 2001a; Larsson et al., 2013c; McAdams et al., 2007). Personal narratives can be said to represent people’s identities and are relevant for understanding the subjective experience of drug taking (Heyman 2009). In order to understand health issues such as addiction we need a narrative-inspired self-theoretical analysis, which in this chapter is integrated in a multidimensional model that considers the complex person by situation interaction. The dual focus on person and environment can be seen as a hallmark of the social work profession (Barber, 1995: 26). If we apply a critical social work perspective to addiction it is not only the addictive process that needs consideration; it is also important to view the users’ narratives of their lives, or life stories, in a more holistic or multidimensional perspective that considers the person by situation interaction (Barber, 1995: 26; Parrish, 2010). A self-theoretical and multidimensional understanding of use or misuse of alcohol and drugs is an important research topic in social work and psychology (see Amodeo and Lopez, 2011; Larsson, 1992; Larsson et al., 2001a, 2001b; Larsson et al., 2013a; Parrish, 2010).

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