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Annette Garrett (1898-1957)

Annette Garrett, one of the foremost social work educators of her time, was a major influence, through both teaching and writing, on the development and definition of dynamic casework practice. Born on a Kansas farm in 1898, she was educated at the University of Kansas, did graduate work at the University of Chicago and in 1928 received an M.S.S. degree from Smith College School for Social Work. After a seven year period of practice culminating in the position of Chief of Social Service at Judge Baker Guidance Center in Boston, she joined the faculty of Smith College School of Social Work in 1935 and remained there until her death in 1957.

At Smith, she was responsible for the casework teaching and the coordination of field work. She shared with Florence Day, Director of the School, a vision of social work, particularly work with individuals, as a profession firmly based on a theoretical adherence to dynamic theory but with purpose and methods distinctly its own. Through her close contact with many leading analytic psychiatrists of the period, who held her in great respect, her understanding continually deepened. She was one of the early caseworkers to see the relevance of ego psychology to practice, and never confused understanding of psychoanalytic theory with practice appropriate to social work goals. As a teacher Garrett was memorable, as her students could attest. She had clarity, depth, the ability to penetrate directly to the central issues and the ability to make complex questions simple and comprehensible. Along with her forceful personality these qualities made her classes unforgettable.

Her writing was derived directly from her perception of the learning needs of students and supervisors. In 1942 she published the classic Interviewing--Its Principles and Methods which is still in use by instructors in various other fields as well as social work, and in countries all across the world. In 1954 she wrote "Learning through Supervision," a vivid, intimate picture of the professional growth, intellectual and emotional, of an individual student. It clarified the careful integration of academic learning, dynamically oriented field supervision and careful faculty liaison in accomplishing this task. Not a prolific writer, her various professional papers had a way of summing up in a convincing fashion, her views about appropriate practice at a given time. Along with sophisticated, theoretical understanding she always had a no-nonsense, practical approach derived, perhaps, from her early experience on the farm, so that her teaching was eminently usable in any setting.

Garrett's influence was spread widely by the students, her close agency connections and her writing. Her career coincided with the period when a young social work profession was eagerly borrowing from psychoanalytic psychiatry to illuminate practice. In attempting to adapt this new knowledge to its own professional aims and goals, there was inevitable borrowing and confusion. Garrett was a leader in clarifying how social work could make use of the exciting ideas from dynamic psychiatry without losing its identity. She was enthusiastic about the contribution of ego psychology because it seemed to her extremely compatible with a social work approach to human problems.