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Perlman, Helen Harris


PERLMAN, HELEN HARRIS (1905–2004), U.S. social work educator. Perlman, who was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, received a B.A. in English literature from the University of Minnesota in 1926. She worked for family and child guidance agencies in Chicago and New York (1927 to 1940). In 1940 she became a lecturer and a student supervisor at the School of Social Work of Columbia University. During this period, she often gave lectures on the treatment of social and emotional problems in people's daily lives, speaking at the New York School of Social Work and other schools and conferences throughout the U.S. In 1943 she received her master's degree in social work from Columbia.

In 1945 she was appointed professor of social work at the University of Chicago's School of Social Administration. She was best known for her contributions to the theory of social casework and to training for social work practice.

In the 1950s she integrated her clinical experience and her studies with experts in the Freudian and Rankian schools of thought and developed the "Chicago School" of social service practice. Her work, together with later work by other colleagues, established the Chicago School's problem-solving approach, an influential approach that is still used in practice today.

For many years Perlman served on the editorial board of the Journal of American Orthopsychiatry. She also served on the editorial board of Social Work, the major publication of the National Association of Social Workers (nasw), as well as on the curriculum development committee of the Council on Social Work Education (cswe). The council named her a Pioneer of Social Work Education.

Her widely read book Social Casework: A Problem Solving Process (1957; 19582) has been translated into more than 10 languages. Her other publications include So You Want to Be a Social Worker (1962), Persona (1968), Relationship (1979), Looking Back to See Ahead (1989), and The Dancing Clock & Other Childhood Memories (1989).

[Joseph Neipris /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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