Social work

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Social workers are concerned with social problems, their causes, their solutions and their human impacts. Social workers work with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities, as members of a profession which is committed to social justice and human rights.

The Social Work Profession

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Social work is a human service profession that emerged early in the twentieth century. Today the profession of social work covers a wide variety of social and human service related fields. The primary connection between various forms of social work are the social work code of ethics. This code of ethics seeks to improve human and social conditions and alleviate human distress, suffering, and social problems. Social work is a caring profession that is both client-centered and grounded in sociological, psychological, and ecological approaches to social problems. Social Work seeks to mediate problems between individuals and their environment.

The Goals of Social Work

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Social work seeks to enhance social functioning of individuals, groups, families, organizations, communities,and nations.

Social work as a profession focuses on improving service delivery through networking and resource developement. Clinical social workers provide therapeutic and psychiatric services, as well as linkages to resources that bridge the gap between success and failure of clients.

Social workers promote social and economic justice through development of social policy and programs.

Social Work seeks to satisfy basic human needs that are necessary for human physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, and identity growth.

The Definition of Social Work Practice

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From Working Definition of Social Work Practice (1958) National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Commission on Practice:

"The social work method is the responsible, conscious, disciplined use of self in relationship with an individual or group. Through this relationship the practitioner facilitates interaction between the individual and his social environment with a continuing awareness of the reciprocal effects of one upon the other. It facilitates change: (1) within the individual in relation to his social environment; (2) of the social environment in its effect upon the individual; (3) of both the individual and social environment in their interaction." (p. 7)

Basic Theoretical Approaches

Empowerment Model - the "Process of increasing personal , interpersonal, and political power so that individuals, families, and communities can take action to improve their situations." (Gutierrez 1994 p. 209)

Strength Based Perspective - Social Work seeks to focus on individual, family, and community strengths and competency. This is in contrast to other professions which focus on deficits or maladaptive functioning (pathology). Focusing on strengths gives people the power to build on what resources they already posses, what skills and competencies they have already mastered to overcome the obstacles they are faced with. (Saleebey, 1992)

Working Collaboratively - Collaborative work requires Social Work to recognize that each client is the expert in their own life. That clients have the most knowlege as to what their needs are, and what resources they need to access. Collaborative work ensures that clients are invested in the outcomes of interventions, by giving them joint responsibility and recognizing their abilities and potential to succeed.

Client Centered Approach - Client Center approach seeks to focus on the needs of clients and to let their needs and abilities guide social work practice. Client centered approach ensures that interventions are collaborative and individualized. Client Centered Approach seeks to empower the individual to direct the invervention and assess what resources they need.

Person-In-Environment - Social Work seeks to recognize both the client (person), their environment, and the interaction between them. Coined by Florence Hollis (1964) Person-In-Environment (PIE) or "the person-in-the situation" stresses a person's physical, social, and psychological realities as well as the social realities that both define and limit that person. Social Workers seek to examine both the personal, and the social aspects of all 'Problems' be they social problems, or personal ones. Most intervention happens at the individual level, while system approaches to problem solving seek mainly to improve individual functioning.

EcoSystems Approach - Similar to Person-in Environment Ecosystems approach seeks to intervene at a level of systems. Developed in the 1970's and 1980's Ecosystems approach seeks to identify and improve ecological conditions. This approach was developed by Meyer, Germain and Gitterman, and Maluccio.

Meyer (1988): The paradigm on ecosystems "considers environmental variables as interrelated and reciprocal with the person variables, and therefore environmental intervention must be included among the treatments of choice." (p.287)

Germain (1979): "In an ecological view, [social work]practice is directed at improving transactions beweeen people and environments in order to enhance adaptive capacities and improve environments for all who function within them" (pp. 7-8)


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Clinical/Direct Practice

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  • Aged care - referral to aged care services, including community services or residential aged care placements
  • Assessment and diagnosis
  • Brief therapies
  • Case management
  • Clinical supervision
  • Counselling
  • Crisis intervention
  • Family therapy/Family interventions
  • Group work/group therapy
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Psychosocial and psychoeducational interventions
  • Psychotherapy
  • Relationship/interpersonal counseling

Community practice

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  • Community organizing
  • Community development
  • Community economic development
  • Community education
  • International development
  • Management
  • Mediation
  • Neighborhood development
  • Policy advocacy
  • Policy analysis
  • Political social work
  • Program development
  • Program evaluation
  • Research
  • Social planning


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  • Aging or gerontology
  • Anti-poverty
    • Income assistance
    • Job training/placement
  • Child welfare
  • Disability services
  • Family planning
  • Food bank programs
  • Health and wellness
    • Hospital social work
  • Housing and homelessness
  • Immigrant and refugee services and supports
  • Juvenile and criminal justice
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered supports
  • Mental Health
  • Religious and spiritual settings
  • Substance abuse
  • School social worker
  • Violence prevention
  • Women's Issues
  • Slums

See also

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  • British Association of Social Workers
  • Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS)
  • National Association of Social Workers [1]