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Compiled by

S.Rengasamy
Madurai Institute of Social Sciences
S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

Contents
INTRODUCTION TO THEORIES OF SOCIAL WORK .......................................................................................... 3
Box: Why social work /Why help people to help themselves ............................................................................. 4
Diagram: Two Feet of Social Work ................................................................................................................. 5
Diagram: Two Feet of Social Work ................................................................................................................. 5
Box: What is theory ..................................................................................................................................... 6
What is theory?............................................................................................................................................ 7
Box: Is social work a teachable? .................................................................................................................... 7
What is theory?............................................................................................................................................ 8
Models ........................................................................................................................................................ 8
Box: Why do we need theories in social work? ................................................................................................ 9
Perspectives ................................................................................................................................................ 9
Explanatory theory ....................................................................................................................................... 9
Table: Types of theory ............................................................................................................................... 10
Different kinds of theory: ............................................................................................................................ 10
What do we mean by theory in social work? ................................................................................................. 10
Why should Social Workers be concerned about theory? ................................................................................ 11
Conceptual Framework of Social Work Theories ............................................................................................ 11
Theories of social work ............................................................................................................................... 11
Theories for social work .............................................................................................................................. 12
Box: Framework for Social Work Practice ..................................................................................................... 12
Practice frameworks ................................................................................................................................... 12
Framework for Social Work Practice ................................................................................................................. 12
The Ecosystem Perspective ......................................................................................................................... 12
The Strengths Perspective .......................................................................................................................... 12
The Cultural Competence Perspective .......................................................................................................... 12
1. Practice Perspective: ........................................................................................................................... 13
2. Practice Theory: ................................................................................................................................. 13
3. Practice Model:................................................................................................................................... 13
Box: Social Disorganization Theory .............................................................................................................. 14
Social Disorganization Theory .......................................................................................................................... 14
Table: Theories used by Social Workers ....................................................................................................... 21
Systems Theory of Social Work ........................................................................................................................ 23
Box: Crisis Theory and Crisis Intervention ................................................................................................... 24
Crisis Theory and Crisis Intervention ................................................................................................................ 24
Box: Social Work Critical Theory & Practice ................................................................................................... 25
Social Work Critical Theory & Practice .............................................................................................................. 25
Box: Theory of social Darwinism and General Systems Theory in Social Work .................................................. 26
Theory of social Darwinism .............................................................................................................................. 26
General Systems Theory in Social Work ............................................................................................................ 26
Box: Modern Social Work Theory ................................................................................................................. 27
Modern Social Work Theory ............................................................................................................................. 27
Box: Limitations of theory ........................................................................................................................... 28
Dia: Need to apply social work theory in practice .......................................................................................... 28
Box: Personality Psychology ....................................................................................................................... 29
Tab: Levels & Definitions of Social Economic Development Practice in Social Work ........................................... 30
Dia: Models of Social Work Practice ............................................................................................................. 31
Tab: Models of (International) Social Work Practice ....................................................................................... 32
Tab: Ecological Systems /Strengths /Empowerment Perspective ..................................................................... 34
Dia: Undestanding Social Work Theories in general ....................................................................................... 35
Dia: Theories of Human Behaviour .............................................................................................................. 36
Table: Theories of Human Behaviour ........................................................................................................... 37
Box: Empowerment Theory ......................................................................................................................... 38
Box: Conflict Theory ................................................................................................................................... 39

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INTRODUCTION TO THEORIES OF SOCIAL WORK

Social Work is a practical job. It is about protecting people and changing their lives, not about being
able to give fluent and theoretical explanations of why they got into difficulties …
Social work is about social change at the individual as well as at community level. Change is complex,
diversified and risk prone. To understand it, social worker need knowledge and imagination,
comprehension & creativity….in short, a radical shift in understanding “Knowledge as process” as
opposed to “Knowledge as product” is needed.
But our understanding of social work (especially with the faculty and students of social work colleges
in non metropolitan cities of India and students with low level mastery of English language) is frozen
with the simple definition of social work ...it is the art and science of helping the people to help
themselves.
Compilation and interpretation of social work definition accessible to the students (PD Mishra 1994)
conveys a meaning that social work is a “helping” “assisting” „enabling” activity, which in turn
suggests social work is seen as a benign and uncontentious activity, willingly accepted. This
understanding fails to reflect the major transformations social work discipline has undergone as well
as its global outlook. There is nothing wrong in simplifying a concept, but if it ignores the complexities
associated with the concept, that will end our further seeking.
Whatever may be a definition of social work, it is normally based on certain perspectives and
understanding of that perspective / theory will help us to appreciate that definition. It is this clarity
that normally make one to commit in his/ her professional responsibilities.

To answer these questions one


need to know why people are
What is the need of social suffering. What is our responsibility
work or Why Social work? towards fellow human beings? How
we gain knowledge about the
human problems? What makes us
perceive the human problems in a
Definition of social work particular way? Why we subscribe
How social work is carried to certain methods of solving
generally convey out? problems? ….
Social workers need to answer
these questions before addressing
To whom social work is going others problems. Theories &
perspectives of social work may
to serve? or characteristics
provide some answers to these
of its cliens
questions

Students of social work can be intimidated by the word 'theory'. This immediately inhibits
effective learning about theory. Theory in In social work there are actually more
social work is about how we relate to others perspectives than models and theories. Some
and how we make sure that we are providing of these perspectives include - Conflict,
effective services. It is important that theory is functional, ecological, systems and
not seen as the preserve of academics or senior empowerment, strengths-based.
social workers. Through understanding and
applying theory to social work practice our work with service users can become far more
effective and person centered.

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Box: Why social work / Why help people to help themselves

Why social work


Life means to face the demands of day to day life and realize the self. By life tasks we mean the
responses people make as they face the demands made upon them in various life situations, such is
growing up in a family, entering school or work, raising a family, earning their daily bread, working in
the industry, adjusting themselves to work environment, establishing relationship with co workers,
problems relating to job or earning, facing illness, accidents and death.
People are dependent on social systems for help in obtaining the material, emotional or spiritual
resources and the service and opportunities they need to realize their aspirations and help them to
cope with their life tasks.
In order to realize their life tasks people have to interact with three kinds of resource systems in the
social environment
1. Informal or natural resource system consists of family, friends, neighbors, co workers, etc
2. Formal resource system consists of membership in organizations, trade union organizations or any
other socio cultural organizations
3. Social resource system such as schools, hospitals, housing societies, police, banks etc
Why people are unable to obtain the resources, services or opportunities in the resource systems,
they need to cope with their life tasks and realize their aspirations?
1. A needed resource or service may be scarce or may not exist or may not provide appropriate help
to people who need it.
2. People may not know the existence of a resource system or may be hesitant to turn it for help for
several reasons like distance, corruption, delay or poor quality etc
3. The polices and procedures of the resource system may inhibit / prevent it access (eg. eligibility
criteria, gender, etc)
4. Several resource system may be working at cross purposes
The purpose of social work is to enable the people to use the social resources to meet their life tasks

What do we mean by helping people to help themselves?


1. Increased understanding of oneself or a situation. 2. Being able to make a
decision 3. Being able to confirm a decision. 4. Being able to get a support for
a decision. 5. Being able to change a situation 6. Adjusting to a situation that
is not going to change 7. Being able to examine options and choosing one
8. Being able to discharge feelings

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Diagram: Two Feet of Social Work

Charity
Direct Social
Services /
Personal Justice
Social Social Change
Services / Social
Model Development

Help individuals Correct long-term


meet their present problems in
needs: communities:
-provision of a range -Access to a basic
of services that standard of social
restore & as and economic well
possible, enhance being viewed as a
the capacity of basic "right" of
people to meet their citizenship or
social obligations. residency.
- Mentor and tutor - Participate in
relationship community self-
help projects
- Donate food,
clothing, money - Advocate for just
public policies
- Develop local
community
enterprises

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Box: What is theory

Lots of people think that theory is What is theory?


something purely academic, with no link It is important first to be clear what the term theory
to "real life". Many social work students means in an academic sense. Cottrell provides a useful
general definition:
cover theory at university, but begin their
A theory is a set of ideas that helps to explain
practice learning experience intimidated why something happens or happened in a
by the idea of how to apply theory to their particular way, and to predict likely outcomes in
practice and especially concerned about the future. Theories are based on evidence and
reasoning, but have not yet been conclusively
how to demonstrate the links they have proved.
made in their assignments and reflective Thompson‟s definition includes similar ideas:
accounts. An attempt to explain…a framework for
understanding…a set of ideas linked together to
help us make sense of a particular issue.
Practice learning is about relating the ideas Writing about social work theory, Beckett makes a
learned in University to the practice connection with practice:
setting. However, in order to link …a set of ideas or principles used to guide
theoretical knowledge to practice, practice which are sufficiently coherent that
they could if necessary be made explicit in a
student’s need a firm grasp of the fact that form which was open to challenge.
theory is something everybody uses every We can see then that theories are a grouping of
day in social work and that theory has a interrelated ideas which have been systematically
developed to explain not just how things happen and
clear link to common sense/what are connected but also why. They are used to
works/real life or whatever the phrase of illuminate, or throw light on, our understanding of
choice is. Without this, theory can become issues and help us to make sense of the world. They
something which seems abstract and this must explain the matter logically and clearly enough
for the ideas in the theory to be discussed, criticised or
develops the idea that theory is something challenged. Thompson explains that there are different
you learn at University and then forget levels of theories. These are:
when you enter the "real world" of work.  grand, macro-level or global theories
(sometimes known as meta-narratives), such as
marxism or psychoanalysis, which claim to be able to
The Requirements for Social Work explain everything in society, or all
Training state that all social work human behaviour;
programs must:  middle-range theories which focus on a
limited range of issues – for instance, labelling
"Ensure that the teaching of theoretical
theory, which from a social interactionist perspective
knowledge, skills and values is based on aims to explain deviance;
their application to practice." (Department  micro theories developed to explain very
of Health 2002) small-scale situations – for instance, relationships
between staff and patients on a hospital ward.
Theory is an “attempt to retrospectively
explain and to prospectively predict”
Whilst the basic aspects of social work theory will be
taught in the University setting, practice learning is about you transferring your knowledge and
applying theory to your practice, and you will need to demonstrate that you can make the links in
your written work.

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What is theory?
It is our view that social workers in the field and social work students on placement are applying
theory every day. However, they may not realize it, and they may not be able to describe the
theory or name it. What aspects of social work might theory be
used to explain?
Theories in social work are nothing more than Social workers might use theory to understand and
an attempt to explain situations and social explain three main aspects of social work
relationships. Theories have been developed  the task and purpose of social work – the role
of social work in society;
since it became clear that there were similar  practice theories: sometimes called social
patterns or repeating cycles of behavior both work approaches or methods – how to go about
in an individual's life and in the lives of lots of doing social work;
different people. Since theories have been  the world of service users, including the
internal (psychological) world and the external
expressed by academics and social scientists, (social) world
they often use an academic language. Don't let How might theory be of use to social workers?
that put you off. Theories are life dressed up! Social work, like all professions, uses theory to guide
practice.
Many theories actually have a very
 Observation: theory provides guidance
straightforward, accessible message even if on what a social worker might need to look out for
you sometimes have to look beyond the when meeting people who use services or carers and
jargon. their families.
 Description: theory provides a
There has been some debate about what generally understood and shared language in which
actually constitutes a theory. Generally, a these observations can be organised and recorded.
theory helps to explain a situation and perhaps  Explanation: theory can suggest how
how it came about. In science, a theory is seen different observations might be linked in a framework
that explains them.
as helping to:  Prediction: theory can indicate what
** describe (e.g.: what is happening?) might happen in the future.
** explain (e.g.: why is it happening?)  Intervention: theory can provide ideas
** predict (e.g.: what is likely to happen about what might bring about a change in the
situation.
next?) The importance of theory
Sometimes theories are also seen as Theory is important, in social work and social work
helping to control a situation and bring about education, for a number of reasons because it:
 is the mark of a profession;
changes.  can ensure accountability;
Box: Is social work a teachable?
 can help avoid discrimination;
 provides a way of making sense of complexity and
uncertainty

Is social work a teachable practice? Or does it come from experience and creativity?
Some argue that Social work is less technical, more creative and intuitive. Both client and social
worker are important when dealing with issues as the client is the expert of his own personal life. The
ideal theory for social work would therefore be one that encourages deep thinking and questioning,
one that respects the inherent dignity of the client and complexity of social problems... not one that
categorizes
People believe that science can furnish means, but not ends. Methods but not goals. So, Social
workers must achieve something other than technical proficiency, i.e. Understanding the human
condition, not science.
Social workers use contextual knowledge. Synthesis of knowledge from many sources, including
personal experience. Common sense and wisdom on the job

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What is theory?
A theory is an organized statement of ideas about the world. Fook (2002) argues that even
putting names to things helps to provide explanation and understanding in practice.

Professional Research Knowledge from


Values Methodology other Disciplines

Recognition & Knowledge about Raising Awareness


Analyze of Different about Life Long Learning
Social Processes Theories regard to (Professional /Personal
Different Development)
Social Work Fields

Knowledge & Skills to Work


Understanding of with Clients
Legal & administration Learning about
Procedures & Social Care Different Theoretical
Institutions Approaches
Functioning

In social work, the term ‘theory’ covers three different possibilities:


 Provable explanations why something happens (Explanatory Theory)
 Organized description of activity in a structured form (Models)
 Ways of conceptualizing the world or a particular subject (Perspective)

Social Work Practice Social Policy as theory


Encounters pressing need Seeks cultural Change
Needs personally left Requires social action
Requires immediate action Calla for long term strategy
Focuses on interpersonal practice Stress on strategic planning/analysis

Models
Models describe what happens during practice in a general way, in a wide range of situations and
in a structured form, so that they extract certain principles and patterns of activity which give
practice consistency. Models help you to structure and organize how you approach a complicated
situation. A good example is task-centered practice.

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Box: Why do we need theories in social work?

Why do we need theories in social work?


In order to see the beauty of one theory,
The use of theories makes Social it’s important to learn about many
Workers feel more safe & competent theories. This is how we can prevent
in their practice, reduces feelings of
making an ideology out of one theory
helplessness & fear of unknown

For social workers theory is important


because it teaches social workers how to The more social workers use theories,
perceive people through their resources, not less they use intuition, and it makes
to classify them according to their social work practice more professional
problems...it’s a shift from control to help. and efficient

Theory, together with intuition is a way to develop


personal style of professional practice...without
theory, just with intuition, social workers would feel
like a puppet on strings.

Perspectives
Perspectives express values or views of the world which allow participants to order their minds
sufficiently to be able to manage themselves while
participating. Perspectives help you to think about what is From Unfaithful Angels- How
happening in an organized way. Applying different Social Work Has Abandoned Its
Mission
perspectives can help you see situations from different
Social work, having adopted
points of view. Examples of perspectives are feminist or values of individualism and
systems theories. having been socialized to
organizational norms, along with
Explanatory theory
mainstream society has
Explanatory theory accounts for why an action results in or abandoned in large part its
causes particular consequences and identifies the understanding of the social and
circumstances in which it does so. Some writers reserve the communal.
word ‘theory’ to ideas that offer this causal explanation. To They come to the people of the
them, theories have to tell you ‘what works’. Cognitive- slums not to help them rebel
behavioral theory is an example of explanatory theory. and fight their way out of the
muck..most social work does not
even reach the submerged
Perspective, theory and model are all necessary in a theory
masses. Social work is largely a
that is to be useful in practice. Because social work is middle class activity and guided
practical action in a complex world, a theory or perspective by a middle class psychology.
must offer a model of explicit guidance. Saul Alinsky

Sibeon (1990) distinguishes between formal and informal theory, as shown in the table below.
Formal theory is written down and debated within the profession and academic work. Informal

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theory consists of wider theories and values that exist in society and constructions from practical
experience; those everyday practices that I mentioned at the outset of this chapter. This may
include ideas from formal theory.

You may need an explanation of the mention of informal theories ‘inductively derived’.
Induction means generalizing from particular examples, deduction means arriving at conclusions
about the particular instance from a general theory
Table: Types of theory
Types of theory
Theories of what Formal written accounts defining Moral, political, cultural values
social work is the nature and purposes of welfare drawn upon by practitioners for
(e.g. upon by practitioners for defining ‘functions’ of social work
defining personal pathology, liberal
reform, Marxist, feminist)
Theories of how to Formal written theories of practice Theories inductively derived from
do social work (e.g. casework, family therapy, group particular situations; can be tested
work); applied deductively; general to see if they apply to particular
ideas may be applied to particular situations; also unwritten practice
situations theories constructed from
experience
Theories of the Formal written social science Practitioners’ use of experience
client world theories and empirical data (e.g. on and general cultural meanings (e.g.
personality, (e.g. the marriage, the the family as an institution, normal
family, race, class, gender) behavior, good parenting)

Practice theories may, therefore, be seen as a device for transferring knowledge from other
purposes to the purpose of assisting social work practice

Different kinds of theory:


Grand theory - comprehensive conceptual scheme (e.g. Marxist theories of class conflict)
example: Grand theory - Postmodernism
Theories of Practice – for undertaking practice (e.g. anti-oppressive practice, crisis intervention)
example: Practice theory - Narrative
Practice Wisdom or Working Concepts – to guide understanding and practice
(E.g. generally help belief that you should not challenge who are under alcohol intoxication)
example: Working concepts -dominant and alternative stories deconstruction

What do we mean by theory in social work?


Payne (1991: 52) helps us by distinguishing four types of theory:
1. theories about social work explain the nature and role of social work in society
2. theories of social work describe which activities constitute social work, set aims for social
work activities and explain why those activities are relevant and effective in meeting the aims
3. theories contributing to social work are the psychological, sociological and other theories
which explain or describe personal and social behaviour and are used to make theories of
social work systematic, related to general social science explanations and to give supporting
evidence for the social work theory’s prescriptions
4. theories of social work practice and method prescribe in detail how the other theories so far
outlined may be applied in the interaction between workers and clients

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Why should Social Workers be concerned about theory?

Observation: it tells us what to see, what to look out for

Description: it provides a conceptual vocabulary


and framework within which observations can be
arranged and organized.
A clear theoretical
perspective guides and Explanation: it suggests how different observations
influences social work might be linked and connected; it offers possible
practice in five key areas causal relationships between one event and another

Prediction: it indicates what might happen next

Intervention: it suggests things to do to bring about


change
Of course, different theories lead to different
Social work theories are concerned with understanding
observations the person in their context and promoting
and explanations.
change with the individual and/or their context.

- the purpose of social work: what social workers do and what they should do
- the methods of social work practice
- the principles of social work practice

Conceptual Framework of Social Work Theories

Conceptual Frameworks

Theories OF Social Work Theories FOR Social Work

Orienting Theories Practice Frameworks

Practice Perspectives Practice Theories Practice Models

Perspectives, theories and models are often referred to as theory. However, it is useful to make some
distinctions. Howe (1987) differentiates between theories of social work and theories for social work.

Theories of social work


Focus on the profession and explain its purpose, domain, and character within the society. They describe
what the profession is all about and why it functions as it does.

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Theories for social work


Focus on clients and helping activities. They explain human behaviours, the social environment, how
change occurs and how change can be facilitated by the social worker in order to benefit clients.
What Is A Theoretical/ Practice Framework?
One’s theoretical/practice framework is grounded in a
 PERSPECTIVE (may be narrow, broad, or multidimensional)
based on a
 THEORY OR GROUP OF INTEGRATED THEORIES (set of assumptions or beliefs or explanations
about human behaviour and which may include guidelines for interventions
which guides the selection of a
 MODEL (a way of acting, treating or intervening in order to enable a resolution of a
problem and/or enhancement of social functioning)

Orienting theories
Orienting theories describe and explain behaviour and how and why certain problems develop. They
provide important background knowledge and are usually borrowed from other disciplines such as
biology, psychology, sociology, economics, cultural anthropology, and the like. Examples include the
various theories related to human development, personality, family systems, socialization, organizational
functioning, and political power, as well as theories related to specific types of problems such as poverty,
family violence, mental illness, teen pregnancy, crime and racial discrimination.
Box: Framework for Social Work Practice

Framework for Social Work Practice


Social work draws from many frameworks for practice, but some of these frameworks have had more
influence on the profession of social work than others. We would like to highlight three that we think
have been particularly influential:
The Ecosystem Perspective
This perspective focuses on the interplay between the person and his or her environment. To
understand the functioning of the individual, we must understand his or her environmental context:
 Individuals exist within families
 Families exist within communities and neighborhoods
 Individuals, families, and neighborhoods exist in a political, economic, and cultural environment
 The environment impacts the actions, beliefs, and choices of the individual
The Strengths Perspective
This perspective is built on the assumption that every individual, family, group and community has
strengths and focusing on these strengths leads to growth and overcoming difficulties.
Under this perspective, clients are generally the best experts about what types of helping strategies
will be effective or ineffective.
The Cultural Competence Perspective
This perspective is the understanding and approval of cultural distinctions, taking into account the
beliefs, values, activities, and customs of distinctive population groups.
Many cultures have prescribed ways of talking about health and the human body and these factors
impact a person's reaction and acceptance of health services.
These perspectives are consistent with a Family-Centered or Client-Centered approach, which is
central to the standards of best practice with persons with disabilities and consistent with social work's
central values and framework.

Practice frameworks
Orienting theories, by themselves, provide little guidance on how to bring about change. For such
guidance one must look to practice frameworks. There are three types:

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1. Practice Perspective:
This is a particular way of viewing and thinking about practice. It is a conceptual lens through which one
views social functioning and it offers very broad guidance on what may be important considerations in a
practice situation. Like a camera lens, a perspective serves to focus on or magnify a particular feature.
Two perspectives, the general systems perspective and the ecosystems
perspective, are commonly used in assessing relationships between
people and their environment. The generalist perspective focuses a
worker‟s attention on the importance of considering several practice roles
and various levels of intervention. Others, such as the feminist and the
ethnic-sensitive perspectives, remind the worker of special challenges
faced by certain groups in society.

2. Practice Theory:
It offers both an explanation of certain behaviours or situations and guidance on how they can be
changed. A practice theory serves as a road map for bringing about a certain type of change. Most
practice theories are rooted in one or more orienting theories. An example is psychosocial
therapy, which is based primarily on psychodynamic theory and ego psychology. Another is behaviour
therapy, which is derived from the psychology of learning.

3. Practice Model:
Practice Model is a set of concepts and principles used to guide intervention activities. However, in
contrast to practice theory, a model is not tied to a particular explanation of behaviour. For example,
crisis intervention is viewed as a practice model rather than a practice theory because it does not rest on
a single explanation of crisis situations. For the same reason, task-centered practice is termed a model.
Most often, a model develops out of experience and experimentation rather than as a derivation from a
theory of human behaviour. The term model is also used when referring to a conceptual framework that
is borrowed from one field and applied in another, for example, the medical model (study, diagnose,
treat) and the legal model (an approach to social action and client advocacy, involving competition and
conflict among adversaries).

It is rare for a social worker to use a single orienting theory or a single practice framework. Most social
workers utilize a variety of orienting theories and a set of compatible and complementary perspectives,
theories and models. Such a combination can be termed one‟s theoretical frame of reference or
theoretical orientation to practice. Social workers use many of the same techniques and skills and
guidelines regardless of practice perspective, theory, or model.

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Box: Social Disorganization Theory

Social Disorganization Theory


History
Social disorganization was put forth in the 1920s by professors at the University of Chicago. At
the time, Chicago was racked by violent mobs, Prohibition and the rule of gangster Al Capone.
The theory remained popular through the 1940s, but it fell out of favor, until it was rejuvenated
in the late 1970s. The original concepts have been expanded upon by Harvard professor Robert
Sampson and others.
Theories
Individuals personalize public conflict between social classes, groups and institutions. One
assumption of the Chicago School is that lower classes are the most volatile because. having less,
any loss of their possessions is painful. This vulnerability pushes some poor people toward crime
as a way of protecting what they have left. While crime occurs in the upper and middle classes, it
is frequently, though not always, categorized as white collar or nonviolent crime. A basic premise
of social disorganization is that people are basically good, but are vulnerable to temptation.
Sampson argues that friends, family and strong community ties are the best way for a society to
maintain public order. People invested in a community are less likely to disrupt it.
Place Instead of People
Sociologists at the University of Chicago noticed that violent crime tends to occur more in certain
neighborhoods than others. For instance, less violent crime occurs in business districts or
residential areas, while more is likely to happen in what they term transient areas. Transient
areas are neighborhoods marked by large populations of renters living among dilapidated
buildings, abandoned vehicles, graffiti, litter and other signs of social unrest. These sociologists
did not see the residents as inherently criminal, but rather that criminals were drawn to these
area by the breakdown of social organization.
Effects
Gangs substitute for family and community. They offer members support, identity, discipline,
shared experiences and money. This gang mentality often becomes popular in certain regions or
subcultures, often along ethnic or racial lines. This was the case in Chicago in the 1920s when
Italian-Americans dominated organized crime, and has remained popular in inner cities, prisons,
and parts of the South.
Solutions
The greatest successes in improving neighborhoods and turning individuals away from violent
activities have come from community-based organizations like athletic leagues, youth centers,
citizen watch groups, tenant committees and sanitation programs. Many of the programs that
have failed often had initial success, but collapsed after interest and participation waned.

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Meaning of Social Meaning of Work
1. Pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly 1. Physical or mental effort or
companionship or relations: a social club. activity directed toward the
2. Seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; production or accomplishment of
friendly; sociable; gregarious. something.
3. Living or disposed to live in companionship with others 2. A job; employment: looking for
or in a community, rather than in isolation: People are work- A trade, profession, or other
social beings. means of livelihood.
4. Pertaining to human society, esp. as a body divided into 3. Something that one is doing,
classes according to status: social rank. making, or performing, especially as
5. involved in many activities: We're so busy working; we an occupation or undertaking; a
have to be a little less social now. duty or task:
6. Pertaining to the life, welfare, and relations of human 4. One's place of employment:
beings in a community: social problems. Should I call you at home or at
7. Pertaining to activities designed to remedy or alleviate work?
certain unfavorable conditions of life in a community, esp. 5. Something that has been
among the poor. produced or accomplished through
8. Pertaining to non economic/ non commercial activities the effort, activity, or agency of a
9. Pertaining to or advocating socialism. person or thing:
10. In biology it means living habitually together in 6. Full action or effect of an agency:
communities, as bees or ants. Compare solitary An act; a deed:
.
Theories used in Social Work
Theories widely used in Diagnostic & Theories with social / Concepts/ Theories /
Clinical Social Work Sociological thrust in Social Work Philosophies (Lesser Used)

Psychoanalytic Theory Gestalt Theory Existential Social Work


Sigmund Freud Fritz and Laura Pearls, Paul Goodman (Compared with the book of
Ego Psychology Role Theory Ecclesiasts in Old Testament – Zen
Ruth Benedict, Kingsly Davis Buddhism in the East)
Post Freudians -Anna Freud, Heinz Hartman,
In Social Work Jean Paul Satre and others
Erik Erikson
Pearlman, H.S. Stream etc Transactional Analysis
Psycho Social Therapy Behaviour Modification Therapy (social Treatment Model)
Began with Mary Richmond’s recognition of ( Action Therapy) Eric Berne
social factors & later given a thrust by BF Skinner etc Meditation and Social Work
Gordon Hamilton, Annette Garrett, Austin & Family Therapy Treatment
Hollis (Structural Family Therapy – Strategic Arose from psycho philosophical
Problem Solving Theory Family Therapy or Systems Therapy) systems of American Indians,
Helen Harris Perlman, Barbara Betz Task Centered Treatment Central Asian Sufi Tradition,
Crisis Theory Chinese Taoism, Hindu Yoga, Zen
Functional Theories
Harvard School of Psychiatry & Public Buddhism, Catholic Christian
Widely influenced by the philosophy of Tradition and Jewish Mysticism
Health
Herbert Mead, John Dewey & Otto Rank General Systems Theory The Life Model of Social Work
The Client Centered Therapy (Also referred L. von Bertalanffy and others Practice
as Relationship Therapy, Group centered Communication Concepts and
therapy, Person centered therapy Practice
Carl Rogers, Virginia Axlines (Play therapy)
Cognitive theory
Also known as Rational psychotherapy,
cognitive case work -Use in social work by
Harold Weiner, Alfred Adler

15
S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

Table: Theories used in Social Work

Theories widely used in Diagnostic & Clinical Social Work


No Theory & Theorist Nature &Discipline Usage in Social Work Other usage
1 Psychoanalytic Theory Interpretative & Therapeutic Widely used in case work No application for
Sigmund Freud Diagnosis &Therapy Individual Therapy group & community
Psychiatry problems
2 Ego Psychology Theory of Personality Used in case work No application in group
Post Freudians Recognizes ego’s autonomous roots, Individual Therapy malfunctioning &
Anna Freud development & functions -Therapeutic oriented community conflicts
Heinz Hartman Psychiatry
Erik Erikson
3 Psycho Social Therapy More an approach & a thought system Largely individual oriented Limited application for
Began with Mary than a theory - Influenced by Used in case work family & other
Richmond’s recognition Psychoanalytic theory, ego psychology, problems
of social factors & later sociological theories of Robert No use for community
given a thrust by Merton, Talcott Parsons, & work
Gordon Hamilton, Anthropological theories of Clyde
Annette Garrett, Kluckholn -Therapeutic
Austin & Hollis Psychology
4 Problem Solving Theory Not a theory –rather it is derived from Individual oriented Focus on family
Helen Harris Perlman many theoretical constructs - intervention - Focus on Not applied on other
Barbara Betz Concerned with individual’s discrete problem diagnosis, crisis groups and community
problems - Such problems are intervention, correction of problems
consciously brought by the client & disparities, assertive
affirmed by the case worker - It is a counselling -Specific
conscious focussed & goal directed problem solving - Used in
activity -Leans on social psychological case work
concepts
5 Functional theories Therapeutic – opposed to diagnostic Individual oriented Not of any
Widely influenced by school & ego psychology - Treatment intervention consequential
the philosophy of is replaced by the concept of service. Diagnosis is inextricably application to the
Herbert Mead, John Client / individual is perceived as an woven in the therapeutic myriad problems of
Dewey & Otto Rank active agent rather merely reactive in process but the group malfunctioning &
his own development conceptualization of community disorders
Use of agency & agency function in practice is seen in the
service rendering being important broader perspective taking
It is not theory in strict scientific 1. Psychological factors
sense, but a plan of action 2. Social bases of the client
Psychology & Sociology 3. Functions of the social
agency under whose aegis
the services are rendered
Used again case work
6 The client centered Personal counseling & Psychotherapy Psychiatric social workers May be applied in
therapy (Also referred as basic components use it teaching, training &
as Relationship Influence of psychiatry It takes holistic & education in non
Therapy, Group Non directive, client centered - humanitarian view of man therapy situations
centered therapy, Reference to present situation with - Individual based but helps
Person centered no refernce to past reactions individuals in groups
therapy Clinical psychology Marital maladjustments
Carl Rogers also included
Virginia Axlines (Play
therapy)

16
S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

7 Cognitive theory Approaches included “rational” Individual therapy It is argued that


Also known as Rational “reality” or “phenomenological”- Used in case work cognitive theory is
psychotherapy, It is socially oriented - reality oriented, it can
cognitive case work Believes in emotions, motives, serve as a guide to all
Use in social work by behaviour and thinking is influenced forms of treatments,
Harold Weiner by society, immediate social individual, group &
Alfred Adler environment, Human relations & community
experience No evidence of its use
Discards elemnts of unconscious in group/ community
Psychology mal adjustments and
conflicts
Theories with social / Sociological thrust in Social Work
8 Gestalt Theory Inflienced by psycho analysis, With philosophical roots in It is argued that due to
Fritz and Laura Pearls Existenial Philosohy, Reichan Character phenomenology and organismic nature of
Paul Goodman Analysis, Gestalt Psychology and traces existentialism, Gestalt Gestalt theory there is a
of Eastern Religions therapy has offered a great close connection with
Central to Gestalt therapy is the use of deal to Social Work systems theory and
the flow of conscious contat with the Individual, Therapeutic, hence it can be of use
environment steeped in case work for macro or micro
Gestalt therapy orients the worker systems
toward encouraging the the fullest May be used in Group
expression of the client as a person Work and community
Psychiatry & Social Psychology Work but there is no
evidence of such use
9 Role Theory Role signifies Cultural Pattern- Social The notion of role Role theory emphasis
Ruth Benedict Norm. Basic factor in the process of prescription has been on social interaction
Knigsly Davis socilization – synonym as behaviour- used in case work hence the client is not
In Social Work participation in a specific group – treatment seen as a diseased
Pearlman, H.S. Stream carrying a status. It is individual oriented. entity- he is seen as a
etc Derived from sociology & Social It helps the worker also to stimulator.
Psychology. delineate his role as It is gainfully used in
It is largely used in conjuction with catalyst, neutralizer, work with deprived
social systems theory & also Behaviour advicate, stimulator etc groups & ethnnic
Modification Therapy. minorities.
Socilogy & Social Psychology Inter personal problems
in small groups &
communities are
examined.
Problem resolution is
viewed as group &
community task
10 Behaviour Modification An approach rather than a theory – Intervention with Environmental
Therapy ( Action promotes changes in client’s behaviour individuals. engineering as
Therapy) directly. Dyadic (Therapist-Client) secondary objective
BF Skinner etc Identify the target behaviour and Triadic (Therapist-
control the antecedent conditions. Mediator- Client)
Consequences of behaviour are Work for modification
assessed and interventions to avoid
harm may be planned.
Psychology ( Behaviourist School) &
Psychiatry

17
S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

11 Family Therapy Not a theory Family Case Work Although family is seen
(Structural Family Widely accepted in mental health & Using sub groups in family as a “ whole” but the
Therapy – Strategic social service arena for practice. diads & triads. individual person goes
Family Therapy or It is shift from atomized level of Ultimately it aims atr beyond the family in
Systems Therapy) individual to the level of family. improving social the interdependent sub
Focuses on family- centers attention functioning, restore system e.g.
on the social psychological linkage equilibrium, strengthen neighborhood,
between individual and larger social adaptation of individual community, ethnic sub
organization. persons culture .
Embedded in sociological theories and Other sub systems are
psychiatric approaches. not taken care of.
Sociology & Social Psychiatric
12 Task Centered Evolved from a model of brief time Help individuals The strategy may not be
Treatment limited Case Work Used in case work applied to work with
Psycho social case work for helping clients in families and
individuals & families with problems in ‘ Formed Groups’
family relations. assembled to help
Client define their psycho social individual members to
problems and have hope to solve solve their problems
these problems.
Reliance on tasks as a means of
problem resolution.
13 Crisis Theory Derived from case work practice of Medical situation, Applied to correct
Harvard School of social work. disasters, conflict lead to family role net works
Psychiatry & Public Crisis situations put persons in crisis where social workers Applied also to
Health vulnerable situations heightening take work on the front line friendship and common
anxiety, depression and deprivation may apply this approach. interest groups in crisis
call for crisis intervention. Immediate emotional first
Psychological models, sociological aid and strengthening
theories & Social Work practice individual coping capacity
influenced use of this approach. are its strategies
Roots in psychodynamic personality
theory, stress theory, learning theory
& ego psychology.
Psychology, Sociology & Social Work
14 General Systems It is more a way of thinking, a way of Used in practice methods – Social welfare policies
Theory viewing the world than a theory. improvement in human and services/ social
L. von Bertalanffy and Instead of focussing on a system at behaviour and the social work as a social
others one level, such a a group, it may take environment. institution, marital and
several levels, including the individual, The “core” (micro, mezzo, family therapy,
the group, the organizationand the macro) is important in this administration,
community sociology. theory organizational theory,
Physical Sciences field work
Concepts/ Theories / Philosophies (Lesser Used)
15 Existential Social Work More philosophical perspective rather Used for lessening More effective
(Compared with the than specific technique or theory. categorization of people. treatment of the poor &
book of Ecclesiasts in Impact on social work is unclear. Cuts the paternalistic minorities
Old Testament – Zen A philosophy of despair and attitudes of therapists.
Buddhism in the East) disillusionment More present focused,
Jean Paul Satre and Philosophy/ Religion/ Theology experiential, task oriented,
others short term work with
people

18
S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

16 Transactional Analysis People are OK/ I am OK. You are OK. It fits with ethics, goals of Ta can be taught to
(social Treatment People in social/ emotional stress are social work for advocacy, administrators,
Model) capable of understanding their stress. policy and systems change legislators and
Eric Berne They want to be part of healing towards social justice. executives so that they
process and must be so involved. In social work TA offers an make the clients/
All social/ emotional difficulties are approach to client beneficiaries the
curable. advocacy, policy planning participants in achieving
Modeled in Social Psychiatry and change. healthy state of mind
( Alternative Psychiatry) TA encourages self /action
management and
responsibility for the
enhancement of quality of
life.
17 Meditation and Social Borrowed from Theology/ Philosophy. In social work (also in Meditation may be
Work Treatment It is by and large development of psychotherapy) it is a used for release of
Arose from psycho consciousness independent of visual & method adjunctive to stress and relaxation of
philosophical systems verbal symbols. treatment. group of people
of American Indians, Deliberate effort to cultivate mental For those involved in social
Central Asian Sufi state conducive to intuition. work treatment, the
Tradition, Chinese It may be used for stress release. learnings transferred from
Taoism, Hindu Yoga, It is also used as a therapeutic aid in meditation practice into
Zen Buddhism, Catholic psychiatry and social work psycho social functioning
Christian Tradition and of the meditator.
Jewish Mysticism
18 The Life Model of Social Based on ecological theories Since these are not found having a place in the syllabi
Work Practice of Indian Social Work Schools, these are not dealt with
19 Communication Based on communication theories here
Concepts and Practice

19
S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

Box: Systems Theory –Dia Theories used by Social Workers

Systems Theory
The term "systems theory" refers to a host of theoretical and methodological practices ranging across
different disciplines. Those who study systems theory tend to view any system as the result of a
dynamic interrelationship between its component parts and its whole. They view the parts as mutually
determinate with the whole. Social workers utilizing systems theory view societies and social groups as
dynamic systems. They are concerned with bettering the conditions of the individuals who make up
such systems.
Research Methodology
1. As a research methodology, systems theory can help social workers understand How systems both
determine and are determined by those who make up the system. Once the dynamics of a system are
understood, social workers try to figure out how best to create positive change in that system in order
to bring about better standards of living.
Mental Health
2. Mental health professionals tend to use systems theory as a way of understanding how individuals
are both products of and complicit in their personal situations, as well as how these situations tend to
affect the people in them. They seek to help individuals understand their situation, and work to help
those individuals find healthy ways both to cope with their environments and to help instigate change
within their own lives.
Policymaking
3. Systems theory can be used to understand social dynamics on a large scale. Social workers who are
concerned with policymaking use systems theory to understand how public policy can be used to
improve living conditions and help bring about social equality for those living within large social systems
such as cities, nations, or even the world.
Advocacy
4. Advocates tend to focus on particular issues within a society and use systems theory as a means of
understanding the complex dynamics surrounding those particular issues. For instance, those working to
promote racial equality will use systems theory to understand how racism functions on a structural level
throughout a given system and determine ways to end racism.
Family
5. Family social workers and child advocates tend to use systems theory tounderstand family
dynamics, and try to use its insights to educate and promote healthy family structures. They try to
understand how hierarchies and parental responsibility in family structures work, and determine when
those hierarchies or responsibilities are not functioning properly, as well as when physical intervention
may be necessary to protect members of the family
Read more: General Systems Theory in Social Work | eHow.com

Ecological System Theory


3 Crisis Theory Empowerment Theory
4 Urie Bronfenbrenner
Kathleen Ell E. Cox & L. Gutierrez
B. Gilliland & R. James 8 J. Lee, E. Canada,
Family Life Cycle Theory
L.G. & H. J. Parad P. Chatterjee & S.P. Robbins
5

Cognitive Theories Psychodynamic Theory Humanistic (Existential/


6
Alfred Adler Sigmund Freud, Eric Erickson 9 Transpersonal)
2 Jean Piaget Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers
Family Systems Strategic Therapy
Carl Jung
Behavioral Theories (Model)
7 10
B.F. Skinner Object Relations Theory
1 Ivan Pavlov Social Work Theories Margaret Mahlen, Otto Kernberg

20
Social-Cultural Theory
Solution Focused Therapy (Model) Structural Family Therapy
Lev Vygotsky:
11 Thomas Scheff: 12 Murray Bowen, Virginia Satir
13
S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

Table: Theories used by Social Workers


Proponents Origin of Distress Major Assumptions/Change Major Techniques/ Role of
Theory

Concepts Help

 Behavior is learned through  Use reinforcement (positive


observing and modeling. and negative), systematic
1. BEHAVIORAL

 Ideas are formed on how new desensitization, flooding, skill


B.F. Skinner: behavior will be developed. building, token system
Ivan Pavlov: Maladaptive Behavior  Problems can be changed by contingencies, modeling and
addressing the antecedents and role playing.
consequences that surround the  Be empathetic towards
behavior. clients
 Distorted and painful  Think things through according  Identifies error in cognition.
thought processes to developmental stages.  Helps client reframe
2. COGNITIVE

Alfred Adler:  Error in thinking,  Thoughts behind something thoughts.


Jean Piaget: irrational thinking and drive behavior to it.  Clarify internal
beliefs and unconscious  Change in feelings and behavior communication and give
cognitive schema which is a result in change in thinking homework to clarify thinking.
impact how we view the or cognitive restructuring.  Thought blocking
world and ourselves.
 Unexpected traumatic  A crisis lowers defenses and  Take action
events that disrupts the provides opportunity for  Rely on past coping.
Kathleen Ell balance of normal change.  Reduce individual’s feelings
B. Gilliland & psychosocial functioning.  Traumatic stress overwhelms or distress, helplessness and
3. CRISIS

R. James  capacity to cope. isolation; activate social


L.G. & H. J.  The more unresolved earlier resources and support
Parad crises the more vulnerable effective coping through
individuals are to being unable listening, validation,
to resolve new crisis. acceptance, education and
resource linkage.
Disruption or  Functioning improves when  Link
4. ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS

disconnection between a person is connected to  Broker


person and their supportive networks  Resources
environment  Functioning improves when  Transport
Urie person has access to resources.  Advocate
Bronfenbrenner  Functioning improves when
external systems are engaged
with the person.

Forces of discrimination  Problems arise as a result of  Encouragement


and oppression that society’s failure to adequately  Help provide sense of power
impact individuals and and equally meet the needs of and self efficacy
5. EMPOWERMENT

E. Cox and L. groups all of its members.


Gutierrez  Refers to individual and group’s
J. Lee ability to access and control
E. Canada, resources and people.
P. Chatterjee &  Requires developing a critical
S.P. Robbins awareness of forces of
discrimination and oppression
and engaging in effective action.

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S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

The family is an organism that


SYSTEMS LIFE CYCLE
7. FAMILY 6. FAMILY

develops through stages that have


? ? specific tasks to be completed. ?

 Absence of individual  Functioning improves when  Reframing


STRATEGIC
THERAPY
(MODEL)

systems that ultimately change in patterns of functioning  Paradox


? affects family function changes.  Prescribing relapse
 Error with the system of  Functioning changes when view
communication of interactions do.
 Lack of basic needs  Focuses on strengths and how  Clinician acts as a guide,
 Unclear about life humans are adaptable helps client develop
8. HUMANISTIC

 People are unique therefore


Transpersonal)

Abraham purpose resources/solutions for


(Existential/

Maslow:  Fear as a result of a treatment must be unique problems


Carl Rogers: defensively contracted  Humans are responsible for  Encouragement
Carl Jung state and an ego finding meaning in life.  Introspection
identified self that blocks  Individuals develop through pre-  Meditation
development egoic, mental egoic and  Guided Imagery
transegoic stages.
Problems with childhood  Emphasizes interpersonal  Clinician identifies patterns
Margaret relationship between the relations where focus is on the with other relationships
Mahlen: child and his/her primary family.  Helps client develop healthy
Otto caretaker (in most cases, a  Focuses on early stages of relationships
RELATIONS
9. OBJECT

Kernberg: female) development where initial


relationship with mother is
paramount.
 Stage fixation or being  Behavior is an end product of a  Analyze impact of behavior
stuck in a stage due to long contentious internal on others.
10. PSYCHODYNAMIC

Sigmund one’s environment discussion about one’s behavior.  Refers to the client’s
Freud:  Environment is not  Change comes through a childhood, where their story
Eric supportive of individuals corrective emotional becomes important.
Erickson: development relationship and insight into  Use of transference
patterns  Awareness of
 Strong emphasis on self countertransference
 Individuals develop through  Interpretation
stages with specific tasks to be
completed, crisis to manage
 Behavior is influenced by the Clinician acts as a risk agent
social environment and lobbies for change to occur
11. SOCIAL-CULTURAL

 Culture shapes a pattern of


Lev symptoms where disorders
Vygotsky: Social injustices develop
Thomas
Scheff:

22
S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

 There are exceptions for all  Help client identify


FOCUSED THERAPY

problems. exceptions
12. SOLUTION

 Emphasizes positive  Use miracle questions and


(MODEL)

envisioning. scaling questions


? ?  “It is easier to do more of what
one can already do than to
learn new adaptive behaviors
or unlearn maladaptive ones.”
 Family Dysfunction  Families are systems with  Boundary making
 Disengagement individual structures that impact  Realigning
 Enmeshment their functioning.  Enactments
 Functioning changes when  Spontaneous interactions
structure changes and 
13. STRUCTURAL FAMILY

Goal is to improve
Murray boundaries are realigned. communication
THERAPY (MODEL)

Bowen:  Focuses on individuals in the  Role playing and hand


Virginia context of their holding with client
Satir: multigenerational families,
encompassing 7 concepts
(Differential of self; emotional
triangles, nuclear family
emotional system, family
projection process,
multigenerational transmission,
emotional cutoff and sibling
position.

Major Theories – Used in Social Work Practice


Systems Theory Psychodynamic Theory Social Learning Theory Conflict Theory
Developmental Theories
 Theories of moral reasoning (Kohlberg, Gilligan)
 Theories of cognition (Piaget)
 Transpersonal theories of human development (Transpersonal – means beyond or through the
persona or mask. Going beyond identity rooted in the individual body or ego to include spiritual
experience or higher levels of consciousness.)
 Stage theories – Erikson
Primary Perspectives
 Strengths  Feminist  Eco-Systems
Current Social Work Practice Models
Problem Solving Task-Centered Solution – Focused Narrative Cognitive-Behavioral Crisis
In brief, social work practice models are like recipes. They are step-by-step guides for client sessions.
Perspectives represent what aspects of the session are emphasized or highlighted in a session (i.e.
questions asked or time spent). Theories are overall explanations of the person-in-environment
configuration. Theories help explain why the problem is occurring and where the most efficient
intervention should take place.

23
S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

Box: Crisis Theory and Crisis Intervention

Crisis Theory and Crisis Intervention


What do we mean by crisis?
Crisis is not stress – often these terms are used interchangeably
Crisis contains a growth-promoting possibility – it can be a catalyst
„Crisis disturbs old established patterns of responding‟ (Wright, 1991)
Crisis can be seen as:
 a hazardous event
 decision making (Greek word „krisis‟)
 danger and opportunity (Chinese symbols)
Thus, crisis is a time for decision-making in a situation presenting danger and opportunity.
Developmental vs Situational Crises
What happens in a crisis?
- habitual strengths and ways of coping do not work because the situation is new to us, or it has not been
anticipated, or a series of events become too overwhelming
Crisis theory is:
Based in psychodynamic ego psychology Looks at mental health implications of life crises
Assumptions:
 how one copes with current problems reflects how one coped with previous problems and how one will
cope with future problems
 everyone experiences hazardous (difficult or dangerous) life events
 vulnerable states exist when hazardous events cause people to lose their equilibrium (their capacity to
deal with things)
 all crises reach resolution in 6 to 8 weeks
 intervention during crisis can be more successful than at other times as people are more open to be
helped during this period than at other times
 new ways of solving concerns may lead to improved coping capacity in the future
 in the „reintegration‟ after the active crisis, people become set in newly learned ways of solving
problems, so learning effective problem-solving during the crisis improves their capacity in the future
Social worker role: Supportive, listening, empowering
Key authors:
Caplan, Golan, O‟Hagan, Parad, Rapoport, Tyhurst
Aspects of crisis work similar to other time-limited, brief or focused social work approaches:
 brief intervention
 structured
 „contracts‟ or other explicit agreements between worker and client are used
Crisis intervention
Strengths
 help is time-limited – and therefore effective in terms of effort and resources
 crisis intervention relates internal crisis to external changes (i.e. links people‟s internal and external
worlds)
 where people can develop new adaptive ways of coping, they can achieve better social functioning
 it is relevant and useful for a number of short-term crisis situations e.g. loss and bereavement,
depression, traumatic experiences such as accidents and other situations of sudden change
Limitations
 it can involve workers being highly intrusive and directive, which can raise a number of issues e.g.
ethical dilemmas and rights re: decision-making process
 term „crisis intervention‟ is often used to describe „stress‟ or people living in a chronic state of crisis.
This makes it difficult to differentiate between crisis intervention as a specific approach rather than as
an intervention used in crisis situations
 it may not be possible, given limited resources or time, to assemble all the elements necessary for
positive change to occur – consequently, this approach may not be viable in some social work settings
24
S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

Box: Social Work Critical Theory & Practice

Social Work Critical Theory & Practice


Social Work
Social workers attempt to use the insights of social theories such as Critical Theory to promote
equality and general improvements in the living conditions of underprivileged individuals and
communities. The demographics of these communities include minorities, socioeconomic groups and
people living in particular regions.
Critical Theory
Critical Theorists are concerned with the critique and alteration of industrial and post-industrial social
structures. Critical Theorists study societal influences, from cultural products to commercial structures.
Critical Theorists believe that by analyzing everything from literary works to social institutions they can
better understand how power is situated in society and work to systematically destabilize it.
The Frankfurt School
The term Critical Theory emerged from the work of a group of mostly German philosophers known as
the Frankfurt School. Important figures included Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno and Max
Horkheimer. The Frankfurt School philosophers were heavily influenced by the events of the first half
of the 20th century--particularly the first and second world wars, the failure of working-class Marxist
revolution, and the rise of Nazism. They sought, primarily through criticism, to undermine social
orthodoxy, whether it was communist or capitalist, in order to help bring about radical social change.
Theoretical Analysis and Application
Critical Theory is about contrasting the ideals of a society with its actual conditions. Social workers can
apply Critical Theory by carrying out such an analysis and then attempting to improve the actual
conditions of groups of people. They need not attempt to do this through revolutionary action; indeed,
they can affect a lot of change just by bringing to light that the actual conditions of a society do not
live up to its ideals, and then working to move those conditions to meet the society's ideals more
closely.
Practical Application
In practice, Critical Theory is perhaps best applied to policy initiatives and advocacy. By analyzing the
real conditions of underprivileged or marginalized groups, social workers can pinpoint things that need
to change in order to improve those conditions. They can then work through public action to endorse
and advocate change, through both democratic processes and grass-roots community involvement.

25
S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

Box: Theory of social Darwinism and General Systems Theory in Social Work

Theory of social Darwinism


Social Darwinism is in practice a political theory. It opposes welfare and generally favours
lassez faire. It sees the main role of government as the defence of property and the
provision of a legal system. However, there were many varieties of Social Darwinism with
differing emphases and views. It is less monolithic than is often thought.

General Systems Theory in Social Work


Research Methodology
As a research methodology, systems theory can help social workers understand how systems both
determine and are determined by those who make up the system. Once the dynamics of a system are
understood, social workers try to figure out how best to create positive change in that system in order
to bring about better standards of living.
Mental Health
Mental health professionals tend to use systems theory as a way of understanding how individuals are
both products of and complicit in their personal situations, as well as how these situations tend to
affect the people in them. They seek to help individuals understand their situation, and work to help
those individuals find healthy ways both to cope with their environments and to help instigate change
within their own lives.
Policymaking
Systems theory can be used to understand social dynamics on a large scale. Social workers who are
concerned with policymaking use systems theory to understand how public policy can be used to
improve living conditions and help bring about social equality for those living within large social
systems such as cities, nations, or even the world.
Advocacy
Advocates tend to focus on particular issues within a society and use systems theory as a means of
understanding the complex dynamics surrounding those particular issues. For instance, those working
to promote racial equality will use systems theory to understand how racism functions on a structural
level throughout a given system and determine ways to end racism.
Family
Family social workers and child advocates tend to use systems theory to understand family dynamics,
and try to use its insights to educate and promote healthy family structures. They try to understand
how hierarchies and parental responsibility in family structures work, and determine when those
hierarchies or responsibilities are not functioning properly, as well as when physical intervention may
be necessary to protect

26
S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

Box: Modern Social Work Theory

Modern Social Work Theory


The Importance of Theory
Theory refers to the structured set of assumptions, observations and statements that direct our
understanding of the world. In social work, theories help illuminate social structures, human
behavior, crisis and conflict, and provides insights into how to alleviate social and personal hardships.
Theories are used to guide the practice of social work.
Feminist Theory
One example of a theory used in social work is feminist theory. Feminist theory seeks to understand
how oppressed groups, and in particular women living in male-dominated societies, are affected by
their social position. When social workers use this theory, they might look at how power has been
exercised over women and how women have achieved greater equality and liberation over time.
Social Constructivist Theory
Social constructivist theory looks at how people's beliefs and actions shape and re-create their social
context, and how in turn that social context reflects upon people, re-creating itself or gradually
changing through their practices. From social constructivist theory, social workers can gain insights
into how societies reinforce themselves and change through the actions of individuals. They can then
go about using insights from social constructivist theory when they try to instigate social change in
their own societies.
Conflict Theory
Conflict theory is like feminist theory in that it observes hierarchical relations of people within society.
However, conflict theory posits a society in which groups compete over their collective interests.
Eventually, one or more of these groups are dominated by a particular group and marginalized.
Conflict theory attempts to emphasize solidarity among marginalized groups as they attempt to resist
the status quo created by the dominant social group. As such, it stresses people's ability to work
together to better their conditions. It is largely influenced by the works of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels
and other prominent Marxist theorists, such as Louis Althusser.
Social Cognitive Theory
Social cognitive theory is a psychological theory that describes the individual as a complex being
molded by personal factors, environment and learned behavior. It emphasizes a technique called self-
efficacy, whereby one can come to self-regulate antisocial behavior through an understanding of
one's environment and by developing certain expectations about the outcomes of certain behavior.
Social workers can use these insights in order to help counsel people suffering from antisocial
behavior.

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Box: Limitations of theory

While considering a theory or theories, social workers also understand its limitations too:

Recognise that no single theory can explain everything: When a person


engages in an action (or inaction) the reason for their behaviour can be
rooted in a range of causes or motives.
Limitations of Theories

Related to the first point, recognise that some theoretical approaches just
don't work with some people. Applying Brief Solution Focused Therapy can be
really effective with some people. For other people, it leaves them cold.

Always apply the value base to theory - much of the theory used in social
care practice and social work is drawn from outside of the profession. Theory
may have its roots in education, psychology or management. As such, it may
not incorporate social work values and you should take responsibility for
applying these

Never be intimidated by theory. You use it every day.

Dia: Need to apply social work theory in practice

Why do we need to apply social work theory to practice?

1 2
Whilst individual social work Theories can help us to Using theory can help to
theories have different purposes, make sense of a situation. justify actions and explain
using all kinds of theory in our Using theory, we can practice to service users,
work offers us, as social workers, generate ideas about what carers and society in
some important things. is going on, why things are general. The aim is that
as they are etc. For example this will lead to social
4 In work with individuals, making the information obtained as work becoming more
part of an assessment can widely accountable and
use of the theories which may
seem like a jumble of ultimately more
relate to their specific situation
information - applying respected.
will give us more direction in our
theory can help "make
work with them.
sense" of the information. It is clear then, that
theory is important in
Using theory can give an explanation about why an action resulted practice - both for work
in a particular consequence. This can help us review and possibly with service users and for
change our practice in an attempt to make the consequences social work to be more
more effective. valued in society.
5 6

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Box: Personality Psychology

Complexities associated with Personality


Personality Psychology
Personality can be defined as a dynamic and organized set of characteristics possessed by a person that
uniquely influences his or her cognitions, motivations, and behaviors in various situations
Why study personality?
* Constructing a coherent picture of a person and his or her major psychological processes
* Investigating individual differences, that is, how people can differ from one another.
* Investigating human nature, that is, how all people's behaviour is similar?
Philosophical assumptions about personality
1. Freedom versus Determinism
This is the debate over whether we have control over our own behavior and understand the motives
behind it (Freedom), or if our behavior is causally determined by forces beyond our control (Determinism).
2. Heredity versus Environment
Personality is thought to be determined largely by genetics and biology, by environment and experiences,
or by some combination resulting thereof.
3. Uniqueness versus Universality
The argument over whether we are all unique individuals (Uniqueness) or if humans are basically similar
in their nature (Universality). Humanist psychologists were all advocates of the uniqueness of individuals.
Behaviorists and cognitive theorists, in contrast, emphasized the importance of universal principles such as
reinforcement and self-efficacy.
4. Active versus Reactive
Do we primarily act through our own initiative (Active), or react to outside stimuli (Reactive)? Behavioral
theorists typically believe that humans are passively shaped by their environments, whereas humanistic
and cognitive theorists believe that humans are more active.
5. Optimistic versus Pessimistic
Personality theories differ on whether people can change their personalities (Optimism), or if they are
doomed to remain the same throughout their lives (Pessimism). Theories that place a great deal of
emphasis on learning are often, but not always, more optimistic than theories that do not emphasize
learning.
Trait theories
Traits are "enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself
that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal contexts
Type theories
Personality type refers to the psychological classification of different types of people.
Psychoanalytic theories
Psychoanalytic theories explain human behaviour in terms of the interaction of various components of
personality.
Behaviorist theories
Behaviorists explain personality in terms of the effects external stimuli have on behavior.
Classical (Classical conditioning (also Pavlovian or respondent conditioning)ian reinforcement)
is a form of associative learning) as well as operant conditioning (Operant conditioning (sometimes
referred to as instrumental conditioning) is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and
punishments for behavior.)
Social cognitive theories
In cognitivism, behavior is explained as guided by cognitions (e.g. expectations) about the world,
especially those about other people. Cognitive theories are theories of personality that emphasize
cognitive processes such as thinking and judging.
Humanistic theories
In humanistic psychology it is emphasized people have free will and they play an active role in
determining how they behave.

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Tab: Levels & Definitions of Social Economic Development Practice in Social Work

Levels of Major Purposes, Outcomes, or Processes


Practice Associated with Levels of Social Work Practice
Individual & Through "self help," "mutual aid," and "conscientization" strategies individuals and
Group groups learn how to perceive and act upon the contradictions that exist in the social,
Empowerment political, and economic structures intrinsic to all societies.
Conflict Efforts directed at reducing: (1) grievances between persons or groups; or, (2)
Resolution asymmetric power relationships between members of more powerful and less powerful
groups.
Institution- Refers both to the process of "humanizing" existing social institutions and that of
Building establishing new institutions that respond more effectively to new or emerg-ing social
needs.
Community- Through increased participation and "social animation" of the populace, the process
Building through which community's realize the fullness of their social, political, and economic
potential; the process through which communities respond more equitably to the social
and material needs of their populations.
Nation-Building The process of working toward the integration of a nation's social, political, economic,
and cultural institutions at all levels of political organization.
Region- The process of working toward the integration of a geo-political region's social, political,
Building economic, and cultural institutions at all levels of social organization.
World-Building The process of working toward the establishment of a new system of interna-tional
relationships guided by the quest for world peace, increased social jus-tice, the
universal satisfaction of basic human needs, and for the protection of the planet's
fragile eco-system.

Theory
A general statement about the real world whose essential truth can be supported by evidence obtained
through the scientific method. – Must explain in a provable way why something happens. Ex: Learning
theory explains behavior on the basis of what organisms have learned from the environment.
Model
Is a blueprint for action. It describes what happens in practice in a general way. Ex: The behavioral model
(based on learning theory) gives specific guidelines to for how to effect change. If a parent complains that
his child is having difficulty staying in his own bed at night and the parent has been allowing the child to
sleep in his/her bed( thereby reinforcing the child‟s difficulty) the practitioner would help the parent to
extinguish the behavior by removing the reinforcement.
Perspective
A way of perceiving the world flows from a value position. Note: The perspective will influence choice of
theory and model. Note: Payne (1997) argues that social work theory succeeds best when it contains all
three elements of perspective, theory and model.
Example: Men who batter their partners
Theory: Social learning theory – men learn their violent behavior in their family of origin, and from a culture that
rewards anger and violence in men; cognitive theory – what men say to themselves in situations of stress increases
their anger and their propensity to be violent. Model: Cognitive-behavioral Perspective: Feminist

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Dia: Models of Social Work Practice

The vast majority of Social Workers function within one of four basic models of practice: the Personal
Social Services Model (PSSM); the Social Welfare Model (SWM), the Social Development Model (SDM),
and the New World Order Model (NWOM).

M The Personal Social Services Model


The Personal Social Services Model (PSSM) of social development practice seeks to extend to
O people everywhere a range of basic social services that are needed to either restore or
D enhance their capacity for social functioning. The model's primary goals are: 1) to provide
remedial and preventive services to individuals, families, and groups whose optimal social
E
functioning is either temporarily impaired or inter-rupted; and 2) to extend social protection to
L population groups that are threatened by exploitation or degradation. The PSSM also seeks to
S ensure increased sensitivity and responsiveness on the part of human service providers to the
special service needs of culturally diverse population groups.

O The Social Welfare Model


F The Social Welfare Model (SWM) of social work (development) practice is rooted in
comparative social policy and comparative social research. The goals associated with the SWM
include: 1) self help; 2) mutual aid; 3) humanitarianism; and 4) the establishment of effective,
S preferably universal, systems of formal social provision. The SWM also views developmental
social welfare practice as part of the worldwide movement that seek to promote social security
O and social justice for people everywhere (Elliott et al., 1990; Evers & Wintersberger, 1988;
C USDHHS, 1997).
.
I
The Social Development Model
A The Social Development Model (SDM) has its origins in community organization and
L community devel-opment practice and does, therefore, promote the fullest possible
participation of people in determining both the means and goals of social development. In
doing so, the model seeks to provide a framework for understanding the underlying causes of
W human degradation, powerlessness, and social inequality every-where in the world. The
O ultimate goal of the SDM, however, is to guide collective action toward the elimination of all
forms of violence and social oppression.
R .
K The New World Order Model
P The New World Order Model (NWOM) of social development practice is closely associated with
the writings of "visionary" economists, political scientists, legal scholars, and environmentalists
R (Brandt Commission, 1981). Major components of the NWOM are reflected in the fundamental
A social, political, and economic reforms in the existing international "order" that are being
sought by the United Nations (UN, 1990; UN/ESCAP, 1992b), the United Nations Development
C Programme (UNDP, 1997), World Bank 1997) and other leading international development
T assistance organizations. Elements of the NWOM also have been described by social work
I theoreticians.
The NWOM asserts that the most serious problems confronting humanity are rooted in the
C fundamental inequalities that exist in the present world "order," i.e., in the system of
E international social, political, and economic institutions that govern relationships between
nations and, within nations, be-tween groups of people. In promoting its social change
objectives, the NWOM calls for the creation of a "new world order" based on: 1) recognition of
and respect for the unity of life on earth; 2) the minimi-zation of violence; 3) the satisfaction
of basic human needs; 4) the primacy of human dignity; 5) the re-tention of diversity and
pluralism; and 6) the need for universal participation in the process of attaining worldwide
social transformation.
.

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Tab: Models of (International) Social Work Practice

PERSONAL SOCIAL SOCIAL WELFARE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT NEW WORLD


SERVICES MODEL MODEL MODEL ORDER MODEL
At various times in their Owing to the Dominant national & Existing social,
lives people require interdependent nature international systems political, and economic
BASIC ASSUMPTIONS REGARDING THE HUMAN CONDITION

limited assistance in of contemporary frustrate the efforts of "world order systems"


coping with problems of society, all people disenfranchised people are controlled by a
daily living (e.g., serious confront predictable (and countries) in their minority of rich and
illness, disability, family social "risks" for which efforts to achieve parity powerful countries
dysfunction, income formally organized with "social haves." that have a vested
insecurity, etc.). programs of social Persistent social, interest in maintaining
Others, owing to more protection are needed political, and economic the economic and
serious problems, are (e.g., loss of income, inequalities in political dependency of
unable to function serious illness, old age, developing countries poorer, less powerful,
independently and solitary survivor-ship, result from: 1) a legacy countries.
require more intensive etc.). of colonialism; 2) Persistent inequalities
assistance over the long- Other groups of people "victimization" by in- between rich and poor
term. owing to factors that ternational systems nations contribute
The personal social are largely beyond their that better serve the directly to recurrent
services seek to restore control are interests of rich and wars, civil strife, and
or enhance the social disadvantaged by powerful countries; 3) increasingly to more
functioning of people to stratification norms that internal corruption; and serious problems of
an optimal level of self- reward some, but 4) "accidents" of global poverty and
sufficiency. penalize many. geography that trap social injustice.
Social welfare is viewed resource poor countries
as the primary in conditions of
mechanism through perpetual deprivation.
which societies respond Within rich countries,
to the legitimate needs persistent inequalities
of dependent mirror patterns that
population groups. exist in the global
system
The protection of socially The establishment of The redistribution of Transformation of
vulnerable population effective and cost power and material existing world order
groups from exploitation efficient sys-tems of resources to historically systems to systems
SOCIAL CHANGE GOALS

and human degradation. social provision that disadvantaged that reflect: active
The provision of a range benefit the largest population groups, but participation of all
of services that restore & possible number of especially to the poor, people and all relevant
as possible, enhance people. landless persons, sectors in the
the capacity of people to Access to a basic women, minorities, and transformation pro-
meet their social standard of social and others. cess; the alleviation of
obligations. economic well being Fuller participation of human suffering
viewed as a basic people at all levels of everywhere;
"right" of citizenship or social organization in Increased social and
residency. the dominant political distributive justice;
and economic systems and the attainment of
of their countries. world peace and war
prevention.

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S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

PERSONAL SOCIAL SOCIAL WELFARE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT NEW WORLD


SERVICES MODEL MODEL MODEL ORDER MODEL
Individuals, families, and The broader society Groups, formal and People at all levels of
small groups with special emphasis informal organizations, social organization
on the social and communities, national including people's
TARGETS
CHANGE

economic well-being of sub-regions and nations movements, nations,


individuals and family world sub regions and
groups regions, and
international co-
operative movements.
Increased sensitivity and Social work and so-cial Through a sense of The model emphasizes
SPECIAL INTERNATIONAL

responsiveness to the welfare are viewed as identification with the need for new
special service needs of world-wide social oppressed people international systems
culturally diverse movements that seek everywhere, local based on: global
EMPHASIS

population groups. to promote peace, groups are assisted in sharing rather than
social justice, and social undertaking change squandering; global
security for people efforts that benefit cooperation rather
everywhere. themselves and others. than competition; and
global conservation
rather than
exploitation.
The provision of various The extension of basic A broad range of group Change activities are
forms of psycho-social social guarantees and and community building multifaceted and draw
BASIC CHANGE

treatment and protections to people methods are employed: from the full spectrum
STRATEGIES

rehabilitation. everywhere, i.e., to conscientization (i.-e., of governmental and


Limited financial minimal standards of social animation), self- non-governmental
assistance and other living and assured help, mutual aid, actors, practice
economic services to the access to at least basic conflict resolution, methods, and
poor based on eligibility health, education, and institution building, etc. organizational skills.
and established need. other essential social
services.
Professionals & Interdisciplinary Teams of trained People and
OF SOCIAL HANGE
PRIMARY AGENTS

Non professionals teams of human service professionals & governments working


employed by public or professionals working in development experts in cooperatively in
private human service various welfare related cooperation with creating new social
organizations. sectors (e.g., housing, governmental entities, systems that reflect
health care, education, people's organizations, dramatically altered
income security, etc.). & other collectivities. international realities.

Increasing numbers of Recognition of new or The social "animation" Recurrent crises


"dysfunctional" or socially emerging social needs of previously oppressed stemming from: 1) the
PRESSURES FOR SOCIAL

dependent people. coupled with a peoples. inability of existing


Deteriorating social willingness to respond International pressures world systems to cope
conditions that threaten to those needs. to respond more with mounting
CHANGE

the life style or economic Social conflicts arising equitably to the pressures for change;
security of more from a growing "under legitimate needs and or 2) the occurrence
advantaged population class" of people who rights of of serious global
groups. are unable to disenfranchised catastrophes such that
participate meaningfully populations. fundamental changes
in existing social order. to existing world
systems cannot be
avoided.

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Tab: Ecological Systems /Strengths /Empowerment Perspective


Ecological Systems Perspective
Understands human behavior within environmental contexts
Explores the transactional nature of human behavior
Assumes an evolutionary nature of human development
Seeks to achieve a ‘goodness of fit’ between individuals and their environments
Dimensions of human systems
The Strengths Perspective Practice Assumptions
Clients bring strengths to the helping process in the forms of resources and competencies
Clients have a capacity for growth and change
Client problems reside in the transaction between client systems and the environment
A collaborative approach and practice to augment strengths and resources
Clients are experts on their own lives
Interventionist holds a positive vision for future possibilities for the client
Practice Theories that Inform Social Work Practice
Psychosocial theory Casework
Psychodynamic theory Case management
Behavioral theory Crisis intervention
Cognitive behavioral theory Family preservation
Social learning theory Family therapies
Symbolic interactionism Organizational change
Moral development theory Community change
Problem solving
Empowerment Based Practice
Provides a relationship, climate and resources through which people can enrich their lives
Requires a collaborative relationship with clients
Personal power Develop critical consciousness
Interpersonal power Reflect and act
Sociopolitical power Take social action
Use group modalities

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Dia: Undestanding Social Work Theories in general


1 Basic Assumptions of Social Work Purpose of Social Work Practice 2
 The centrality of the human being  Enhance the problem - solving and coping capacity of people
 Personal familial & communal problems are  Link people with systems - resources, services & opportunities
the result of human interactions with others  Promote the system’s effective and human operations
 Problems can facilitated & enrich human life  Development & improvement of social policy

The Ecological Systems Theory Social Work Aims System & Ecological Theory
3 (Germain&Gitterman,1980) 4
 To strengthen the adaptive capacity of people - Problem
 People constantly adapting in an interchange with solving capacities, establishing linkages to resource systems
different aspects of the environment  To influence people environment towards more adaptive
 Reciprocal adaptation - developing through change and transactions
support by the environment
 Facilitating interactions with resource systems, influencing
 Social problems pollute the social environment reducing social policy
the possibility of reciprocal adaptation
 Living systems must maintain a good fit with the Problems in the fit between needs and capacities
environment 6
 Life Transitions (Developmental changes, status and role
 Appropriate inputs (information, food, resources etc.) changes)
are needed to maintain and develop ourselves
 Environmental pressures (Unequal opportunities, harsh
 Problems - arise from maladaptive life space of people organizations)
 Interpersonal processes (Inconsistent expectations,
The System Theory in Social Work exploitation)
(General System Theory) 5  Informal resource systems Family friends, neighbors etc.
Each system is compounded of:  Formal resource systems Organizations, union committee,
 Sub - systems associations etc.
 Boundaries - open & close  Societal resource systems Hospitals, schools, police,
 Feedback loops - input output occupational services etc.
 Homeostasis - change - preservation
 Non - summativity - the whole is more than the sum of Social Work’s Hierarchy of Solutions (Rosenfeld, 1985)
its parts 8
1. Help people to use their inner resources
 Reciprocity - change in one component affects the 2. Help people to use their informal social resources (family,
whole system friends etc.)
3. Activate formal and general social sources
Social Work Ideology Basic Values (NASW) 7 (Legislation, social & organizational policy)
1. The individual is the primary concern of society
2. There is interdependence between individuals in The Primary Values of Social Work 9
society 1. Society has an obligation to ensure that people have access
3. Individuals have social responsibility for one another to the resources, services and opportunities they need to
4. There are human needs common to each person, yet meet various life tasks, alleviate distress and realize their
each person is essentially unique and different from aspirations and values.
each other 2. In providing social resources, the dignity and individuality of
5. An essential attitude of democratic society is the people should be respected.
realization of the full potential of each individual, and Specific Values in Social Work Practice
the assumption of his social responsibility through Respect the client * Maximize clients’ self determination *Non
active participation in society judgmental attitude *Observe the confidenentiality of the client
6. Society has the responsibility to provide ways in which *Honesty in dealing with the client *Partnership in client – social
obstacles to the self realization can be overcome or worker relations *Respect cultural differences
prevented.

10 Social Work Primary Roles


Rehabilitation * Resources provision *Prevention of inadequate social functioning *Broker *Enabler *Empowerment *Educator
*Mediator *Advocator
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Dia: Theories of Human Behaviour

SYSTEMS HEORY BEHAVIORISM & PSYCHODYNAMIC THEORY


Includes: SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY Includes:
Ecological Systems Includes: Classical psychodynamic theory,
[Systems Perspective] Cognitive theory, Ego-psychology, Object-
Includes: Behavioral theory, relations theory, Self-
Family Systems Social Learning theory [Social psychology
[Systems Perspective] Behavioral perspective] [Psychodynamic Perspective]

PSYCHOSOCIAL TRANSPERSONAL THEORY


DEVELOPMENTAL THEORY [Developmental Perspective; built
[Developmental Perspective] upon Humanistic Perspective]
Theories of
Human
SOCIAL EXCHANGE THEORY Behavior SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM
[Rational Choice Perspective] [Social Constructionist Perspective]

SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM CONTINGENCY THEORY


[Social Constructionist Perspective] CONFLICT THEORY [Systems Perspective]
[Conflict Perspective]

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S.Rengasamy - Theories of Social Work

Table: Theories of Human Behaviour

Theory of Focus of Theory Main Concepts Regarding Human Behavior


Human Behavior
SYSTEMS THEORY How persons *Persons are in continual transaction with their environment
Includes: interact with their *Systems are interrelated parts or subsystems constituting an ordered whole
Ecological Systems environment. *Each subsystem impacts all other parts and whole system
[Systems Perspective] How the family *Systems can have closed or open boundaries
Includes: system affects the *Systems tend toward equilibrium
Family Systems individual and *Individual functioning shapes family functioning and family systems can create
[Systems Perspective] family functioning pathology within the individual
across the life- *Boundaries, roles, communication, family structure influence family functioning
span
BEHAVIORISM & How individuals develop *Imitation & reaction to stimulation shape behavioral learning
SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY cognitive functioning and *Knowledge is constructed through children physically and
Includes: learn through acting on their mentally acting on objects
Cognitive theory, environment *Intelligence is an evolutionary, biological adaptation to
Behavioral theory, environment
Social Learning theory [Social *Cognitive structures enable adaptation & organization
Behavioral perspective]
PSYCHODYNAMIC How inner *Unconscious and conscious mental activity motivate human behavior
THEORY energies and *Ego functions mediate between individual and environment
Includes: external forces *Ego defense mechanisms protect individuals from becoming
Classical psychodynamic theory, interact to overwhelmed by unacceptable impulses and threats
Ego-psychology, Object- impact *Internalized experiences shape personality development and
relations theory, emotional functioning
Self-psychology development *Healing occurs through attention to transferences and the treatment
[Psychodynamic Perspective] relationship
PSYCHOSOCIAL How internal & external *Human development occurs in defined & qualitatively different stages
DEVELOPMENTAL forces shape life that are sequential & may be universal
THEORY development, generally by *Individual stages of development include specific tasks to be completed &
[Developmental life stages crises to be managed
Perspective] *Time & social context shape & individualize the meaning of life stages
TRANSPERSONAL How the spiritual and religious *Focuses on meaning, connection, and purpose
THEORY aspects of human existence can *Some people achieve developmental level beyond the personal (ego-
[Developmental be understood based) level into transpersonal (beyond self or ego) levels of
Perspective; built How spiritual consciousness and functioning.
upon development builds upon and *There is an inherent tendency to express innate potentials for love,
Humanistic goes beyond bio-psychosocial creativity, and spirituality
Perspective] development *There is a difference between psychopathological phenomena and
spiritual growth experiences
SOCIAL How persons *Antecedents, consequences, personal expectations, and interpretation shape and
EXCHANGE minimize costs maintain behavior in the present
THEORY and maximize *Self-interest determines social exchange
[Rational Choice rewards *Unequal resources determine power inequities and reciprocity is essential
Perspective] through social *Six propositions:
exchange --Success proposition --Stimulus proposition --Value proposition --Deprivation-satiation --
proposition --Aggression-approval proposition --Rationality proposition
SOCIAL How socio cultural *All experience is subjective and human beings recreate themselves through an
CONSTRUCTIONISM and historical on-going, never static process
[Social Constructionist contexts shape *Knowledge is created through an interplay of multiple social and historical forces
Perspective] individuals and the *Social interaction is grounded in language, customs, cultural and historical
creation of contexts
knowledge *All phenomenon, including the sciences, must be approached with doubt in
How individuals order to understand how people construct reality
create themselves *Humans are self-interpreting beings

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SYMBOLIC How the “self” is *Human action is caused by complex interaction between and within individuals
INTERACTIONISM influenced and *Dynamic social activities take place among persons and we act according to how
[Social Constructionist shaped by social we define our situation
Perspective] processes and the *We act in the present, not the past
capacity to *Individuals are actors on the stage and take on roles, interacting with the
symbolize environment
CONFLICT How power *All societies perpetuate some forms of oppression & injustice and structural inequity
THEORY structures & *Power is unequally divided & some groups dominate others
[Conflict power disparities *Social order is based on manipulation and control by dominant groups
Perspective] impact people‟s *Social change is driven by conflict, with periods of change interrupting periods of stability
lives *Life is characterized by conflict not consensus
CONTINGENCY How *Groups are open, dynamic systems with both change and conflict present
THEORY individuals & *Groups are stratified, with different and unequal levels of power and control
[Systems groups gain *High discrimination and low privilege equals low opportunity
Perspective] power, access *Oppression occurs when upward mobility is systematically denied
to resources, *The social context must be critiqued and deconstructed
& control over *Assumptions for analyzing organizations:
their lives, --there is no best way to manage organizations
often through --there must be a match between the environment and internal resources
collective --the design of the organization must fit with the environment
action

Box: Empowerment Theory

Empowerment refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social, or economic strength of individuals
and communities. It often involves the empowered developing confidence in their own capacities.
The process of empowerment
The process which enables individuals/groups to fully access personal/collective power, authority and
influence, and to employ that strength when engaging with other people, institutions or society.
In other words, “Empowerment is not giving people power, people already have plenty of power, in
the wealth of their knowledge and motivation, to do their jobs magnificently We define empowerment
as letting this power out (Blanchard, K)." It encourages people to gain the skills and knowledge that
will allow them to overcome obstacles in life or work environment and ultimately, help them develop
within themselves or in the society.
Empowerment includes the following, or similar, capabilities:-
 The ability to make decisions about personal/collective circumstances
 The ability to access information and resources for decision-making
 Ability to consider a range of options from which to choose (not just yes/no, either/or.)
 Ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision making
 Having positive-thinking about the ability to make change
 Ability to learn and access skills for improving personal/collective circumstance.
 Ability to inform others‟ perceptions though exchange, education and engagement.
 Involving in the growth process and changes that is never ending and self-initiated
 Increasing one's positive self-image and overcoming stigma
 Increasing one's ability in discreet thinking to sort out right and wrong

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Box: Conflict Theory

Conflict theory •Postcolonial theory


Conflict theory states that •Queer theory
the society or organization functions so that each •World systems theory
individual and its groups struggle to maximize In sociology and biology, conflict theory states
their benefits, which inevitably contributes that the society or organization functions so that
to social change such as changes each individual participant and its groups
in politics and revolutions. The theory is mostly struggle to maximize their benefits, which
applied to explain conflict between social inevitably contributes to social change such as
classes, proletarian versus bourgeoisie; and changes in politics and revolutions. The theory is
in ideologies such as capitalism versus socialism. mostly applied to explain conflict between social
It is the theory that a continual struggle exists classes in ideologies such as socialism and
between all different aspects of a particular communism. The theory refutes functionalism,
society. The struggle that occurs does not always which considers that societies and organization
have to involve physical violence. It can pertain function so that each individual and group plays
to an underlying struggle for each group or a specific role, like organs in the body. There are
individual within a society to maximize its own radical basic assumptions (it is only conflict,
benefits. The theory was founded by Karl Marx, which might explain social change), or moderate
and later developed by theorists such as Max ones (custom and conflict are always mixed).
Weber, etc. The theory attempts to In understanding conflict theory, competition
refute functionalism, which considers that plays a key part. The following are four primary
societies and organizations function so that each assumptions of modern conflict theory:
individual and group plays a specific role, like 1. Competition. Competition over scarce
organs in the body. There are radical basic resources (money, leisure, sexual partners,
assumptions (society is eternally in conflict, and so on) is at the heart of all social
which might explain social change), or moderate relationships. Competition rather than
ones (custom and conflict are always mixed). The consensus is characteristic of human
moderate version allows for functionalism to as relationships.
an equally acceptable theory since it would 2. Structural inequality. Inequalities in power
accept that even negative social institutions play and reward are built into all social structures.
a part in society's self-perpetuation. Individuals and groups that benefit from any
Types of conflict theory particular structure strive to see it
Conflict theory is most commonly associated maintained.
with Marxism, but as a reaction to functionalism 3. Revolution. Change occurs as a result of
and the positivist method may also be associated conflict between competing interests rather
with number of other perspectives, including: than through adaptation. It is often abrupt
•Critical theory and revolutionary rather than evolutionary.
•Feminist theory 4. War. Even war is a unifier of the societies
•Postmodern theory involved, as well as war may set an end to
•Post-structural theory whole societies.

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