Explaining the Experiences of Social Workers in Utilizing Professional Capital to Deal with Client Violence

Document Type : Original Article


1 PhD in Social Work, Department of Social Work, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences, Tehran, Iran

2 PhD in Educational Psychology, Associate Professor, Department of Social Work, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences, Tehran, Iran

3 PhD in Nursing, Associate Professor, Medical Ethics and Law Research Center, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran


Introduction: Establishing an appropriate and effective professional relationship in social work practices is always emphasized, but sometimes this relationship is likely to be exposed to violence. The purpose of this study was to explain the experiences of social workers in utilizing professional capital to deal with clients’ violence.
Methods: The present study was conducted using a conventional qualitative content analysis approach through 20 semi-structured interviews with 17 social workers selected via purposive sampling. The interviews continued until the data saturation and the identification of related themes and categories.
Results: Based on the findings from the data analysis, four main themes (knowledge, experiences, techniques, and commitment to professional principles and values) and 14 subthemes related to the professional capital were identified.
Conclusion: The results of this study showed that the social workers try to cope with the violence of clients by utilizing knowledge, experiences, professional techniques and their commitment to professional principles and values in such a way to cause the least possible harm to the clients and themselves. Promoting the education and learning of violence coping skills, especially during internship courses, is one of the issues that need to be addressed from a social, organizational, and academic perspective.


  1. Devries KM, Child JC, Bacchus LJ, Mak J, Falder G, Graham K, Watts C, Heise L. Intimate partner violence victimization and alcohol consumption in women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. 2014; 109(3):379-91. doi: 10.1111/add.12393.
  2. Holleran RS. Preventing staff injuries from violence. J Emerg Nurs. 2006 Dec;32(6):523-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jen.08.009.
  3. Aghjanloo A, Harririan H, Ghafurifard M. Violence during clinical training among nursing students of Zanjan universities of medical sciences. Iranian Journal of Nursing Research. 2010; 5‌(17):46-54. [In Persian].
  4. Newhill CE. Client violence toward social workers: A practice and policy concern for the 1990s. Social Work. 1995; 40(5):631-6. doi: 1093/sw/40.5.631.
  5. National Association of Social Workers. Center for workforce studies & center for health workforce studies licensed social workers in the United States. Washington, DC: NASW Press, 2004-2006(NY). https://naswpress.org/.
  6. Padyab M, Chelak HM, Nygren L, Ghazinour M. Client violence and mental health status among Iranian social workers: A national survey. British Journal of Social Work. 2012; 42(1):111-28. doi:1093/bjsw/bcr053
  7. Llewellyn A, Agu L, Mercer D. Sociology for social workers. Cambridge: Polity Press; 2008.
  8. Johnson LC, Yanca SJ. Social work practice: A generalist approach. Boston: Pearson; 2004.
  9. Abri S, Zahedi Asl M. Medical Social Workers: Current Roles and Tasks. J Qual Res Health Sci. 2019; 8(2):96-106. [In Persian].
  10. Bibby P, Lamplugh D. Personal safety for social workers. London: Taylor & Francis; 2017. doi: 10.4324/9781315247021.
  11. Florence LF. Developing a grounded theory for successful workplace violence prevention programs (Doctoral dissertation) Capella University, Capella Tower, United States; 2009.
  12. Tzafrir SS, Enosh G, Gur A. Client aggression and the disenchantment process among Israeli social workers: Realizing the gap. Qualitative Social Work. 2013; 14:65-85. doi: 10.1177/1473325013509827.
  13. Van Heugten K. Bullying of social workers: Outcomes of a grounded study into impacts and interventions. Br J Soc Work. 2010; 40(2):638-655. doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcp003.
  14. Kagan M, Itzick M. Work-related factors associated with psychological distress among social workers. Eur J Soc Work. 2019; 22(1):30-42. doi: 10.1080/13691457.2017.1357021.
  15. Elo S, Kyngas H. The qualitative content analysis process. J Adv Nurs. 2008 Apr;62(1):107-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04569.x.
  16. Burnard P. A method of analyzing interview transcripts in qualitative research. Nurse Education Today. 1991;11(6):461-6. doi: 1016/0260-6917(91)90009-Y.
  17. Yeasmin S, Rahman KF. Triangulation’ research method as the tool of social science research. BUP Journal. 2012; 1(1):154-63.
  18. Oskoeie F, Peyrovi H. Qualitative research in nursing. 1st ed. Tehran: Iran University of Medical Sciences; 2005. [In Persian].
  19. Roberts P, Priest H. Reliability and validity in research. Nurs Stand. 2006; 20(44):41-5. doi: 10.7748/ns2006.
  20. Anastas JW. The science of social work and its relationship to social work practice. Research on Social Work Practice. 2014;24(5):571-80. doi: 1177/1049731513511335.
  21. Glass N, Hanson GC, Anger WK, Laharnar N, Campbell JC, Weinstein M, Perrin N. Computer-based training (CBT) intervention reduces workplace violence and harassment for homecare workers. Am J Ind Med. 2017 Jul;60(7):635-643. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22728.
  22. Barling J, Rogers AG, Kelloway EK. Behind closed doors: in-home workers' experience of sexual harassment and workplace violence. J Occup Health Psychol. 2001; 6(3):255-69.
  23. Guay S, Goncalves J, Boyer R. Evaluation of an Education and Training Program to Prevent and Manage Patients' Violence in a Mental Health Setting: A Pretest-Posttest Intervention Study. Healthcare (Basel). 2016 Aug 1;4(3):49. doi: 10.3390/healthcare4030049.
  24. Wang S, O'Brien-Pallas L-L, Hayes L. A review and evaluation of workplace violence prevention programs in the health sector: Toronto, ON, Canada: Nursing Health Services Research Unit; 2008.
  25. Cournoyer BR. The social work skills workbook. Belmont, CA.: Cengage Learning; 2016.
  26. Moss B. Communication skills in health and social care. London: Sage.; 2017.
  27. Martin T, Daffern M. Clinician perceptions of personal safety and confidence to manage inpatient aggression in a forensic psychiatric setting. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2006 Feb;13(1):90-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2850.2006.00920.x.
  28. Abbaszade A, Borhani F, Sabzevari S. Nursing teachers´ perception of the challenges of clinical education and solutions: a qualitative study. J Qual Res Health Sci. 2013; 2(2):134-45. [In Persian].
  29. Hepworth DH, Rooney RH, Rooney GD, Strom-Gottfried K. Empowerment series: direct social work practice: theory and skills Standalone Book. Boston: Cengage Learning; 2016.
  30. Newhill CE, Safran JD, Muran JC. Client violence in social work practice: Prevention, intervention, and research. New York: Guilford Press; 2003.
  31. Eghlima M, Raheb G. Individual social work. Tehran: Danjeh; 2006. 480 p. [In Persian].
  32. Abbott AA. Measuring social work values: A cross-cultural challenge for global practice. International Social Work. 1999;42(4):455-70. doi:1177/002087289904200407.
  33. Daley JG. Military social work: A multi-country comparison. International Social Work. 2003; 46(4):437-48. doi: 10.1177/0020872803464002.
  34. Littlechild B. Values and cultural issues in social work. ERIS Web Journal. 2017; 1:62-76.
  35. Jackson J, Gouseti I. Threatened by violence: Affective and cognitive reactions to violent victimization. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2016; 31(18):2987-3016. org/10.1177/0886260515584336.
  36. Burry CL. Working with potentially violent clients in their homes. The Clinical Supervisor. 2003;21(1):145-53. doi: 1300/J001v21n01_12.
  37. Asadizaker M, Abed Saeedi Z, Abedi H. Development of the clinical teaching process of the fundamentals of nursing with the participatory approach: An action research. J Qual Res Health Sci. 2014; 3(2):175-89. [In Persian].
  38. Gajderowicz B, Fox MS, Gruninger M. Requirements for emulating homeless client behaviour. AAAI Workshop on Operations Research and Artificial Intelligence for Social Good at, San Francisco, USA; 2017.
  39. Yousefi Afrashteh m, ghazi Tabatabai M, Gharavi MJ, Bazargan A, Shokouhi Yekta M. The anticipated learning outcome of clinical laboratory sciences graduates from the point of view of employers: a qualitative study. J Qual Res Health Sci. 2014; 3(2):202-15. [In Persian].
  40. Kapoulitsas M, Corcoran T. Compassion fatigue and resilience: A qualitative analysis of social work practice. Qualitative Social Work: Research and Practice. 2015; 14(1):86-101. doi: 10.1177/1473325014528526.
  41. Virkki T. Habitual trust in encountering violence at work. Attitudes towards client violence among finish social workers and nurses. Journal of Social Work. 2008; 8(3):247-267. doi: 10.1177/1468017308091039.
  42. Ringstad R. Conflict in the workplace: social workers as victims and perpetrators. Soc Work. 2005; 50(4):305-13. doi: 10.1093/sw/50.4.305.
  43. El-Gilany AH, El-Wehady A, Amr M. Violence against primary health care workers in Al-Hassa, Saudi Arabia. J Interpers Violence. 2010; 25(4):716-34. doi: 10.1177/0886260509334395.
  44. Lee RM, Stanko E, Stanko EA. Researching violence: methodology and measurement. London: Routledge; 2003. doi: 10.4324/9781315824437.
  45. Biestek FP, Younghusband E. The casework relationship. London: Allen & Unwin; 1961.
  46. Hancock MR. Principles of social work practice: A generic practice approach. London: Routledge; 2012. doi: 10.4324/9780203052136
  47. Eskandari M, Abbaszadeh A, Borhani F. Social determinants of health care process in the rural society of Iran from the health care provider's experience. J Qual Res Health Sci. 2012; 1(3):159-69. [In Persian].
  48. Beckett C, Maynard A, Jordan P. Values and ethics in social work. London, UK: Sage; 2017.
  49. Parker J. Social work practice: Assessment, planning, intervention and review. London: Learning Matters; 2017.
  50. Hassankhani H, Soheili A. Zero-tolerance policy: the last way to curb workplace violence against nurses in the Iranian healthcare system. Journal of caring sciences. 2017; 6(1):1-3. doi: 15171/jcs.2017.001.
  51. Peterson C, Uhll AZ, Grossman S. Beginning with the social worker: yoga nidra meditation as a means for self-inquiry, growth, effectiveness and resiliency. In Northcut T. (ed) Cultivating Mindfulness in Clinical Social Work. Essential Clinical Social Work Series. Springer, Cham; 2017; 63-80. doi: 1007/978-3-319-43842-9_5.
  52. Wood GG, Roche SE. An emancipatory principle for social work with survivors of male violence. Affilia. 2001;16(1):66-79. doi: 10.1177/08861090122094145.