The technical and procedural issues underlying social workers’ practice dominate much of the discourse in social science, while relatively less attention is directed towards understanding the ‘self’ or person of the social worker. This study draws attention to social workers’ personhood by examining possible relationships between their professional practices and their personal experiences, such as those that they might emulate from their family of origin. Within a qualitative paradigm, in-depth, repeated interviews were conducted with twenty Chinese social workers based in Hong Kong. Thematic analysis was employed, alongside member checks. Participants’ personal experiences were found to be associated with their motivation to work with certain clients, in the way they practise, as well as the intervention goals they pursue. Their experiences challenge the appropriateness of the technical–rational model and the dualist view of the personal–professional relationship. Findings suggest that social work practitioners not only should be concerned with making use of formal knowledge, but also encouraged to critically and reflectively examine personal knowledge.