Special Issue "Mindfulness in Social Work: Special Issue Exploring Current Application and Potential in Social Work Practice and Education"

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 March 2024 | Viewed by 376

Special Issue Editors

School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH1 2QL, UK
Interests: mental health, mental distress and wellbeing; self-care/mindfulness for social workers and social work students; ethical use of mental health law, adult protection and supported decision-making; anti-oppressive practice; participatory research
School of Social Work and Social Policy, University College Dublin, D02 PN40 Dublin, Ireland
Interests: mental health and wellbeing; mindfulness for social workers and social work students; research on mental health of under-served and under-researched populations; research and mechanisms of mindfulness-based programmes; mixed methods research

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue aims to explore and capture research and practice innovations on the subject of mindfulness in social work. The past twenty years have seen a burgeoning interest in mindfulness in the West as an approach to managing stress and improving wellbeing. Mindfulness is also perceived as offering something of a refuge against the demands of the ‘attention economy’ and a space to engage in existential reflection on the experience of being alive (Doran, 2017). The transition of mindfulness from the periphery to the mainstream is reflected both in its visibility as a cultural artifact, with the word ‘mindful’ entering everyday usage, and in the volume and variety of types of research conducted internationally and across sectors. The ubiquity of mindfulness has also generated considerable critique, which has centred on its appropriation to neoliberal goals related to productivity, and its use to divert from, or act as a sticking plaster for, the structural causes of stress and distress in modern societies (Purser, 2019).  

Increased attention towards mindfulness is also visible within social work as a subject of academic research, as an approach within social work education and in professional social work practice. Social work typically features among the professions with the highest levels of work-related stress (Health and Safety Executive, 2022), and within this context, mindfulness has emerged as a key area of exploration, with a developing body of research investigating its efficacy and potential for helping reduce stress and improve wellbeing. Some of this potential relates to mindfulness’ capacity to support greater self-awareness for social workers regarding habits of thoughts and behaviours, as well as their interaction with the body and emotions, which has been shown to engender personal insight and more adaptive ways of responding to work-related challenges. Its potential is also linked to the facility mindfulness appears to provide as a restorative space, where social workers may experience nurture, care and compassion, resourcing them to engage with service users’ stories of trauma and mitigate the potential for such ‘emotional labour’ to become overwhelming. Here, work is also being carried out in social work education, cognisant of the need to equip students with the resources they will require to navigate the post-qualifying practice world. Attention is also being paid to mindfulness as a method of social work practice, and how it may support service users to better understand and respond to the difficulties they face, for example, in relation to mental health difficulties and problematic substance use. 

Encouragingly, the literature on mindfulness within social work is beginning to engage with the above-mentioned critique and to examine ways in which mindfulness can support challenge of the organisational and systemic factors that precipitate work-related stress. In doing so, research is indicating how mindfulness may facilitate more critical insight into the nature of social work and align with its social justice aims (e.g., by supporting reflexivity and anti-oppressive practice). These developments are exciting illustrations of the potential mindfulness offers social work, but the body of work exploring this is still relatively limited. In seeking to build on the current knowledge base and stimulate debate, research and scholarship, this Special Issue aims to collate research activity to provide a repository of practical, methodological, theoretical and ethical innovations that investigate the interplay between mindfulness and social work. Submissions are welcomed that engage with a diversity of practice and academic contexts and themes, examples of which may include, but are not limited to:

  • Theoretical/conceptual considerations on the use of mindfulness within social work—for example, questions about the nature of mindfulness as a personal, professional, political, philosophical, secular, spiritual, or religious activity.
  • Reflection on the use of mindfulness within global social work contexts and diverse cultures—for example, with economically/socially disadvantaged people, including BAME populations.
  • Exploration of forms of ‘critical mindfulness’ and their potential to support reflexive and intersectional understandings, anti-oppressive practice and social change.
  • The use of mindfulness by social workers as a form of professional ‘self-care’.
  • Applications of mindfulness that go beyond individual contexts (e.g., those that are supported by organisations or adopt collective approaches).
  • The use of mindfulness in particular social work contexts—for example, working with adults with intellectual and mental impairment, people with trauma, working with children, working with people in the criminal justice system.
  • Methodological innovations in undertaking mindfulness research—for example, employing co-production between social workers and service users.
  • The ethical, political and resource challenges of undertaking mindfulness research.

Dr. Pearse McCusker
Dr. Alan Maddock
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Social Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • mindfulness and critical mindfulness
  • social work practice
  • social work education
  • social work research
  • self-care in social work
  • anti-oppressive practice
  • mindfulness for social change

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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