Experience with Participation in Social Work with People Who Use Drugs

Marketa Ctvrteckova, Jakub Cerny


OBJECTIVES: The article focuses on the experience of participation in the context of social work with people who use drugs. The key question of the study is: “What is the participation experience of various actors of participatory projects that employ/involve people with a history of drug use?” THEORETICAL BASE: We introduced various models of participation (Arnstein, 1969; Shuringa, 2015) and discussed their use in the context of social work with people who use drugs. Specifically we focused on the concept of peer work in the context of drug and addiction social services METHODS: In our study, we employed a qualitative research strategy and used methods of in-depth interview and focus group across 4 participatory projects and 18 research participants. OUTCOMES: The awareness of experiential knowledge by peer workers themselves showed up as a key element in the experience of participation and was accompanied by positive self-esteem transformation. We identified a specific kind of supportive behaviour (“organic support”) in the work of peer workers. We outlined three types of peer involvement in the drug services. Two of them stem from traditional concepts of roles and power in social work practice and one allows a different kind of power setting. SOCIAL WORK IMPLICATIONS: We suggest possible further directions and limits for participatory projects based on experiential knowledge and we outline possible ways for peer work support in social services.


participation, peer work, power, experiential knowledge, harm reduction, allyship, organic support

p. 53-68

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