Overview of Social Work

Social work is one of the most common academic fields in higher learning. Accordingly, the concept of social work is well expounded on in its definition.

Social work is defined as:


A practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people”.


In this, social work is guided by the principles of human rights, social justice, respect for diversities, and collective responsibility.

As a professional, you have to learn the appropriate ways of applying social work theory to practice. This is for all categories of social workers, including.


1. Child, family, and school: Social worker in this category help children, family members, and school staff resolve their daily life problems.

The scope of social work in this area may cover issues like placing needy children in foster care, helping underprivileged parents access requisite resources for proper child care, and guiding teachers around cases of bullying and learning disabilities.


2. Mental health and substance abuse: Social workers in this area provide help to people with mental health and substance abuse problems.

The respective scope of social work covers long-term mental health care and financially affordable rehabilitative programs.


3. Medical and public health: Social workers under this category focus on helping individuals with chronic health problems and those who are seriously ill.

The entailed scope of social work in this category looks at helping affected persons secure adequate care through public resources like Medicaid and Medicare, in-home nursing care, and counseling services to such individuals and their families.



Social Work Theories List

In college, key assessments whether is writing an essay or research paper will require to you illustrate solid knowledge of social work theories.

Note that the concept of social work is defined through these theories. The theories also outline the objectives of social work.

That said, the social work theories list may include:


1. Systems Theory

This theory tops the social work theories list. It posits that behavior is shaped by numerous factors that together work as a system.

Accordingly, when applying social work theory to practice, you have to consider the role of an individual’s economic class, friends, parents, school, and the neighborhood in shaping behavior in order to determine the reasons why they act in a particular way.

Since one of the objectives of social work is to facilitate change in behavior, this theory is critical in studying the ineffective or missing parts of a system as a way of identifying the cause of a particular behavior and devising ways to address the problem.

Based on the systems theory, the social worker is required to study and analyze all systems that influence a person’s behavior and welfare.

The primary objective is to strengthen these systems through means such as offering therapy, providing role models, and creating supportive systems.


2. Psychodynamic Theory

This also features prominently in the social work theories list. It is mostly attributed to Sigmund Freud and is one of the key social work theories used in child welfare.  The theory focuses on the inner world as a major influence of an individual’s behavior.

According the psychodynamic theory, an individual’s world encompasses the id, the ego, and the superego.

While the id entails the primitive drive to derive pleasure and evade pain, the superego involves the social mores, societal expectations, and a person’s conscience.

On the other hand, the ego seeks realistic ways to derive pleasure and evade pain, and thereby balancing between id and superego.

The theory advances that the unconscious mind that comprise the superego and the id combined together is constantly in conflict with the conscious mind that comprises the ego.

This conflict creates anxiety and makes the individual develop defense mechanisms to deal with the resulting pressure and inner conflict.

Being at the center of the social work theories used in child welfare, it requires the social worker to find the conflict causing a particular behavior. This should be done through a proper assessment of a child’s needs.


3. Psychosocial Theory

This is another theory that should be included in the social work theories list. It is associated with Erik Erikson and evaluates the ways in which individuals are molded by and react to their respective social environment.

It is among the social work theories used in child welfare and focuses on the individual’s sense of self. The theory posits that the sense of self develops and changes as an individual comes across different social crises in their lives.

These crises forces the individual to respond and adapt. The social crises may include trust versus mistrust that occurs during infancy, industry versus inferiority that influences individual’s work ethic, etc.

Note that the social crises influence individual’s reaction to the world and people as well their personal skills. They define a “maturation timetable”, which could be used by social workers to determine treatment and services for each individual client.


4. Social Learning/ Social Cognitive Theory

This theory is very central to the social work theories list. The social learning theory is attributed to the works of Albert Bandura and advances that mediating processes occur between stimulus and response, and people can acquire behavior through learning.

Further, the social learning theory argues that individuals usually model behavior they see in their environment. This is more so in the case when such behavior is observed in individuals similar to them, and where the particular behavior is reinforced.

In this, applying social work theory to practice requires the social worker to understand the implications of rewarding particular behavior, and the opposite. The rewarded behavior becomes reinforced and easily repeated.

Social workers should use the social learning theory to identify the person a client could be using to model their behavior against and then use the acquired information to redress the destructive behavior.


5. Transpersonal Theory

Although not much recognized in the scientific domain, the transpersonal theory is at the core of social work theories list. It pays attention to aspiration and healing, which makes it quite useful in the realization of objectives of social work.

This theory focuses on the positive influences instead of individual defenses and ailing human psyche in modeling behavior aimed at enhancing human potential.  Particularly, individuals with strong ego identities are used to model behavior.

The affected individuals are required to emulate people like heroes, saints, achievers, and artists as examples of positive behavior. Its primary objective is to enable individuals develop stronger ego identities as they progress along the course of their lives.

This theory helps social workers and their clients explore other aspects of healing like religion. It is spiritual and psychological at the same time and would play a key role in addressing adversities and developing positive habits.


6. Humanistic Theory

The humanistic theory is equally considered quite central to the social work theories list. It is much pivotal in advancing the concept of social work. The theory suggests that all human beings are always in a state of continuous “becoming”.

In this, every individual is always working towards self-actualization, where people pay emphasis on improvement of personal strengths and realization of greater mindfulness. This theory is considered a reaction to behavioral and psychodynamic theories.

Based on the humanistic theory, a social worker should focus on more personal interests such as creativity, individuality, and search for meaning in the treatment of mental health issues.

The theory also advances that supporting individuals in their personal development could benefit them in areas like individual goals, relationships, and communities.

These benefits are realized through personal identity exploration, development of connectedness, and flexibility in individual and their view about meaning in the world.


7. Rational Choice Theory

This theory features significantly in the social work theories list. It provides a good framework for understanding human behavior as well as economic systems’ behavior. The theory reflects an important aspect of the concept of social work.

In this, the theory advances that social behavior is a result of behaviors by individual actors who are making personal choices. It proposes that individual choices are usually informed by rational preferences.

As such, rational individuals use available information, probability, as well as cost benefits analysis in determining the best course of action. The theory can therefore be used to predict the most likely choice patterns of an individual and the entailed outcomes.

For social workers, this theory encompasses a good context for understanding motives leading to certain individual behavior, particularly within the personal relationships context.

It recognizes the influence of factors like goal-orientation, fairness, and self-interest in individual decision making.


8. Family Life-Cycle Theory

This is another of the critical ones in the social work theories list. It examines the different changes that usually occur in family and individual dynamics, and how respective changes function as a development series over the lifespan.

Some of the key stages in the life cycle may include gaining independence, living together as couples, parenting, releasing adult children to the world, and living in old age years. Accordingly, key rituals in this life cycle may entail life, marriage, and death.

For social workers, the family life-cycle theory plays an important role in helping understand the formative and continuous impact of family dynamics on individual outlook, life opportunities, and mental health issues.

Social workers will therefore look at the possibility of life cycle disruptions like abuse, imprisonment, divorce, or death of a loved one as a cause of personal crises.

A team of expert writers from different fields and disciplines.

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