6. Oct 10-Social Work Theories.docx

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Western University
Media, Information and Technoculture
Media, Information and Technoculture 3375F/G
Nigmendra Narain

Social Work Theories October 10, 2012  Social work theory –an organized way of thinking about the world that guides the way we carry out social work practice o Modern social work theory emphasizes assessment and intervention o Traditionally, Social workers are influenced by the medical model o Stages of social work practice:  Intake stage  Assessment  Planning  Intervention  Evaluation  Limitations of the medical model o It runs under the assumption that everything can be fixed or treated o Professional is the expert? –not the expert of other people’s lives. Working with people instead. o Consideration of structural or systemic issues? o Objectification of experience? -very objective, not really subjective to the person  Foundation Theories –generalized ideas about the world that provide the basis for practice theories o Understanding the world around us o Ie. behaviour theory, developmental theory, etc  Practice Theories –build on foundation knowledge, making it specific and relevant to the way we practice social work o Individual-Level Practice Theories –focus on individuals and their actions; varied and complex o Structural-Level Practice Theories –emphasize social structures, processes, and systems and how they shape people’s experiences SPECIFIC THEORIES OF SOCIAL WORK  Broad theories that shape assessment and intervention, but often don’t provide detailed guidelines; not used for psychology or sociology, but useful for social workers  Functional Theory –problems come from negative experience and can be overcome using one’s personal power to effect change o Introduced by Taft and Robinson based off Otto Rank’s research o Goal is to enhance social functioning (in individuals, families, groups and communities) by assessing the problem and using one’s personal power to effect change in a structured way  Strengths-Based Perspective –therapeutic relationship between client and worker where they collaborate to understand the situation and draw on available strengths and resources to work towards change o Each person has unique strengths and abilities and a capacity of growth and change o Creates solid foundation for future growth o Individual level; focused on personal strengths and assets  Social Systems Theory –also referred to as ecological systems theory o Based on the idea that society consists of a series of interdependent systems (like ecosystems), and the individual exists within and is affected by these systems o People exist in a particular environment and problems arise when there is a lack of fit between people and their surroundings o Social workers look at what may be the cause of problems in different areas of a person’s life and shape solutions WITH the client  Structural Approach –focuses on the impact of wider social structures (patriarchy, racism, sexism) and personal problems o Considers secondary structures such as family and community o Draws on empathy, reflection, and belief in basic goodness of all people o Concerned with the individual but also with changing the overall cause of the problem (racism, sexism, etc) o Emphasizes links between a person’s feelings and behaviour and the larger society  Critical Social Work –similar to structural approach, critical social work focuses on the impact of social structures on personal problems o “critical” in that it critiques/unravels the societal relations underpinning personal problems o Empowerment at an operational level has 3 aspects 1. Worker relationship 2. Explicit experience of control by clients 3. Explicit support by social worker for client’s efforts to gain control over their lives and promote change  Feminist Social Work Practice –women-centered approach
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