Book review: Mindfulness and Social Work

Almost anywhere you go in mental health these days, somebody will mention mindfulness, writes Peter Gilbert.

Mindfulness and Social Work


by Steven F Hick (ed)

Chicago: Lyceum Books, 2009

ISBN: 9781933478609

Almost anywhere you go in mental health these days, somebody will mention mindfulness, writes Peter Gilbert.

Mindfulness encourages us to live in the present moment and become aware of our surroundings. This concept seems like some ancient wisdom, stemming from Buddhism, and is brought up to the present day to help us deal with stress. Just as the workplace is becoming increasingly stressful with pressure to hit performance indicators with less resources, there is a need to be able to find some space in the present moment.

Steven Hick, from the school for social work at Carleton University, Ottawa, writes persuasively.

The book includes work by his colleagues on: mindfulness practices for everyday life; mindfulness in social work practice; reflexivity; social work practice with immigrants; communities for social change; mindfulness in activism; and ecological issues.

Not only is it good to have a social work practitioner at the forefront of this new work, but it also isn’t purely about a practitioner looking after his or herself and simply focusing on one-to-one or family group practice, important as that is. The book really is about social work going back to its roots in community approaches and community activism – a good antidote to the tick box approach.

Hick has some good advice on mindfulness practice – including mindful eating, which does not entail rushing around the office with a half-eaten sandwich and a foam container of coffee.

On a personal note, I am particularly grateful to him for suggesting that, when I have a shower I actually concentrate on the experience of having a shower, rather than planning the rest of my day.

For those of us who are very good at thinking about the past and projecting into the future, being adjured to concentrate on the present is a very sensible path to well-being.

Peter Gilbert is professor of social work and spirituality at Staffordshire University

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