The Barefoot Helper: Mindfulness and Creativity in Social Work and the Helping Professions

 The Barefoot Helper: Mindfulness and Creativity in Social Work and the Helping Professions
 Mark Hamer,
 Russell House Publishing
 ISBN 9781905541034,

 Star rating: 4/5

This is a self-help book about how social workers feel about what they do, and the feelings they transmit to their clients, writes Trevor Carter.

Mark Hamer gathers from and synthesises various sources, attitudes, approaches and belief systems. His underpinning values are rooted in Buddhist philosophy and I suspect that, without a disposition towards this and a grasp of what may be termed “new agey” concepts, the reader may struggle to connect with the book’s message.

The personal anecdotes enhance the authenticity and integrity of the message and may have done so more effectively if they were in the introduction. Although the writing is passionate and works hard to engage, the structure is suspect. Conclusions and essential messages – such as the crucial importance of respectful relationships – are generally strong, but supporting argument is sometimes rambling.

The style is over-dependent on metaphors that obfuscate rather than promote the clarity of the message. The most evocative metaphor is one describing social workers as “caged dancers” given that their professional creativity is constrained by bureaucracy. The most accessible maxim is: “You don’t have to go to war every time someone farts in your direction.”

The book makes up in fervour and soundness of message what it lacks in structure and clarity. It may serve as a lifeline for those who have lost their bearings, and provide a useful reminder to the rest of us to be mindful of how we meddle with the lives of others. It’s worth a read to restore focus and passion.

Trevor Carter is an NVQ assessor for health and social care, children and young people in Bristol

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