Barefoot social work

Barefoot social work is an approach to social work that emphasises that workers must be sensitive to the clients’ environment, understanding and feeling the client’s world and yet remaining detached - as if walking barefoot on rocky ground.

The theory is that this enables workers to be creative and so foster creativity in clients so that they can find their own way out of crisis situations. A variety of tools have been developed for practitioners to use with clients including card games which enable clients to explore their strengths and values and so build the confidence which is necessary to begin the process of change.


Mark Hamer, a social worker and therapist in the UK, wrote the book Preventing Breakdown, based on his work as a solution-focussed social worker with families in crisis. It is a synthesis of Solution-Focussed Brief Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and his own experiences of Taoism which unites all three intervention styles. This idea was developed in a later work, The Barefoot Helper.


  • Hamer, M. Preventing Breakdown – a manual for those working with families and the individuals within them. Russell House Publishing, UK, 2005.
  • Hamer, M. The Barefoot Helper – mindfulness and creativity in social work and the helping professions. Russell House Publishing, 2006.

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