Conceptualizing Social Work Theory

Conceptualizing Social Work Theory

The role of theory in social work 

We need to draw on theories that help to explain all levels of personal and social experience and the role of social work in relation to these issues:

  •  Interpersonal (micro) level: how loss and grief and stress  impact on the individual and family (the traditional domain of psychology and psychiatry)
  • Social (structural/macro) level: how can we understand the community and societal response to the needs of the careers of children and young people with disability? (the traditional domains of sociology, economics, etc)
  • Organisational (institutional/meso level) how various organisational policies and structures influence service delivery in the disability services (organisational studies, management, etc)

Another way of conceptualizing Social Work Theory

  • Ecosystem theories – General systems theory (started in the 50’s) focus on the here and now, critical changes that are required for systems to maintain equilibrium. Second wave of systems thinking, the ecosystems approach overtook general systems thinking – more emphasis on the fit or lack of fit between the individual and the community.
  • Onion-peeling theories – theories that seek to reveal and explore the inner-self of the client. “Role of social worker is to facilitate change by enhancing the client’s understanding of the inner –self”.  Attachment and person centered theories
  • Faulty-engine theories – Theories such as cognitive behavioural theories which explain the links between emotion and behaviour are influenced by thought patterns and beliefs. Role of worker is to help the client to develop awareness and insights into these aspects of their behaviour and how it impacts on their lives.
  • Storytelling theories –narrative approaches to practice underpinned by postmodern theory. Assumption that objective truth does not exist, it is created by individuals in their own context. These individual truths that people have constructed may or may not be helpful for the person’s sense of self. Narrative practice is focused on exploring these stories.
  • Mountain – moving theories – anti-oppressive practice and empowerment model of social work, giving attention to multiple and varied forms of oppression within society and how this can impact on individual lives. Radical, structural, feminist and critical theories.

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