The relational gaze in Social work. Four vertical levels of professional observation

Fabio Folgheraiter -

The article is a theoretical reflection on professional observation in social work. Practitioners which deal with social problem must take account of the complexity of the system that observes those social problems and should be aware that they are part of the system. The paper invites social workers to take account of three levels of social observation: the level one is related to distinct observers seeing an external physical reality or a problem correlated to it; the level two involves some observers seeing a de facto reality which includes other observers of it and the level three is related to some observers which see a reality which compromises possible observers of further observers. To ascertain the range of possible perception is a social workers’ task in every situation. Moreover social workers must see themselves as they observe the entire observing system arrayed below them. This entails that social helping work has the formal structure of supervision.


Professional Observation – Social Work – Social Problem – Observer System