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College of Social Work

MSW Summer Book Club

In a recent message to the college, Interim Dean Ronald Pitner, acknowledges the challenges our nation is facing with two pandemics. One of these, COVID-19, has claimed the lives of over 112,000 Americans and 406,000 people worldwide, many of whom are people of color. The other more long-standing pandemic is racism.

Interim Dean Pitner encourages us, stating that we as social workers must see and acknowledge the disparities created by these pandemics and engage one another in important conversations to advocate for social change. He urges us to continue addressing these major social problems and reflecting on ways we as a college can foster advocacy. He challenges us to work together now to fulfill the key values and ethics of the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics and our social work profession, which includes understanding and honoring the importance and centrality of human relationships.

In the spirit of calling social workers to action, I am encouraging all incoming and returning Master of Social Work students to join our faculty, staff and Ph.D. students in the first MSW Summer Book Club. Together, we will read and discuss a classic book by Ms. Helen Harris Perlman, one of our profession's greatest leaders in the art of human relationships. In Relationship: The Heart of Helping People, published in 1979, Perlman shares the very foundation for our most vital social work tool still today, the relationship.

Our doctoral students have read the book and rave of its relevance and timeliness during these unprecedented times. You will not want to miss out on this one-time opportunity to engage with your social work colleagues in meaningful discussions to better prepare and equip you to take positive action for social change.

We look forward to you joining us!

Rhonda DiNovo
MSW Program Coordinator


Utilizing the shared inquiry seminar discussion format, facilitators will meet weekly and guide a focused exploratory discussion with small groups of students to help them gain a deeper understanding of the author’s intent and purpose of the writing.

Book Information:

Relationship: The Heart of Helping People by Helen Harris Perlman -  The book can be purchased from Amazon. Used copies sell for approximately $7-$8; New copies for $23.

  • ISBN-13: 978-0226660363
  • ISBN-10: 0226660362

The book is also available for a free download through the University of South Carolina's Thomas Cooper Library.

About the Author:

Helen Harris Perlman (1905-2004) was the Samuel Deutsch Distinguished Service Professor, Emeritus, in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. She is the author of several books, including Social Casework: A Problem-Solving Process; and Persona: Social Role and Personality.

Distinguished scholars rave about Relationship: The Heart of Helping People

"Helen Perlman teaches us the art of caring, which in essence, encompasses the responsiveness to the feeling and the needs of the seeker. It is more than a systematized program of forming and maintaining a relationship; it is the heart of helping.” - Harold M. Visotsky, M.D.

“I am so excited to get started and make a difference. I hope to really focus on the importance of relationships in their various capacities and always think back on our readings by Perlman.” - College of Social Work MSW graduate

MSW Summer Book Club Information and Schedule:

All incoming Full-time and Part-time MSW students and returning advanced year MSW students.

Online through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

There will be weekly small group discussions lasting 30 to 45 minutes. Ten students will be assigned to a group with a faculty or staff advisor and an Ph.D. or MSW student co-facilitator. Students will read one chapter weekly and participate in a shared inquiry method of discussion.

The MSW Summer Book Club begins the week of June 29 and runs through August 10.

  • Meeting 1 (Week of June 29)
    • Chapter 1: Relationship Revisited - Explaining why the concept and experience of relationship is of vital and present concern to all of us for personal, but especially for help-giving efforts and help-using efficacy.
    • Chapter 2: What is Relationship? - Describing in qualities, dynamics, and uses in the development of humanness.
  • Meeting 2 (Week of July 13)
    • Chapter 3: The Helping Relationship - Setting for the purposes, attributes, powers, pit falls, and the principles that make for enabling transactions between helpers and those whose use of services they seek to promote.
    • Chapter 4: But Can You Love Everybody? - Facing up to some common difficulties that block relating to (and thus helping) “unlikable” people and some ways of dealing with one’s self. 
  • Meeting 3 (Week of July 27)
    • Chapter 5: Relating to the “Resister” - Suggesting and exemplifying some ways of forming relationships with people who seem to fear or reject the would-be helper and what he has to offer.
    • Chapter 6: Some Myths and Misconceptions - Examining a few common misapprehensions or ambiguities about professional relationships.
  • Meeting 4 (Week of Aug. 10)
    •  Chapter 7: Relating to More than One - Touching on working with small groups and families, with a focus upon the likeness and differences relating to individuals and groups.
    • Chapter 8: Relating to Significant Others - Examining why this is important, why helpers resist it; and how it may be managed better.
    • Week 9: - The Heart’s Reasons - Suggesting that all of the foregoing may hold potential rewards for the helper.

Expected Benefits

  • Staying connected with the College of Social Work over the summer

  • Getting to know your classmates, faculty and staff

  • Learning in an online environment

  • Engaging in meaningful discussions with social work colleagues

  • Gaining a deeper understanding of the author’s purpose

  • Preparing and equipping you to take positive action for social change

Small Group Facilitators


  • Brandi Anderson

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.