Key social work theories are tools social workers use to understand a client’s complex behaviors better to help them with therapeutic solutions. Social work aims to help people overcome their challenges and ease their problems. Its goal is to relieve children, families, and individuals needing further help through welfare. Social work can take on many forms, such as therapy, community work, family help, and healthcare.
What are the Key Theories used in Social Work?
While there are many theories that social work uses and practices, four common ones are discussed below. Not one approach is correct, but rather a combination of multiple theories. A social worker would look at each of these theories and see how best to overcome the client’s problem. The theory allows the social worker to use the most effective care approach for the child, family, or individual.
What is Social Systems Theory in Social Work?
This theory is founded on the principle that human behavior is influenced by a combination of things that create a system. A system can include families, organizations, businesses, or any group of people. If the individual encounters a problem with one of these systems, the other systems may be affected.
Effective systems involve individuals, the environment, families, and organizations that work together. For instance, an individual’s family goes to school, has a job, friends, exterior family members, and a church they go to; all these people and organizations make a person’s system.
The individual creates systems. So, it will not be the same for everyone. All the people and organizations in a person’s life will help dictate how they will act and think. A social worker looks to see where the problem lies in the system and make it work for the individual again. They analyze and see where to strengthen and alter the system to benefit the individual, for example, individual counseling in school.
Using a genogram is another common intervention in social systems theory. A genogram creates a visual representation of the individual’s family tree. It helps both the individual and the social worker see medical and psychological patterns, connections, and relationships within the family.
What is Social Learning Theory in Social Work?
Social learning theory is that you learn by observing others and following what they do. It also involves positive and negative reinforcement and how that affects human behavior. And behavior that is reinforced will continue. So people learn to behave through actions more than listening.
Albert Bandura was the inspiration behind this theory, along with B.F. Skinner. Skinner focused on the reinforcement part of behavior and how the environment shapes individuals. Bandura added to that by showing that people model the behavior they see in their environment. So, for example, when individuals imitate behavior they see in their home, they are more likely to repeat that particular behavior.
Social workers observe what is happening in the home and the individual’s environment to see what behaviors are being watched and then imitated. Then, they help the client fix the problem behaviors and reinforce the positive behaviors.
What is Psychosocial Development Theory?
The famous Psychosocial Development Theory by Erik Erikson explains a person’s identity and life develop in an eight-stage pattern. These stages change throughout an individual’s life, from birth to death. The overlying idea is the social environment shapes a person.
There are two paths a person can take in each stage, one being good and the other being worrisome. The eight stages are as follows: trust versus mistrust, autonomy versus shame and doubt, initiative versus guilt, industry versus inferiority, identity versus role confusion, intimacy versus isolation, generativity, and integrity versus despair.
Because of the stages from Erik Erikson, social workers need to look at how an individual’s social environment is affecting how the individual views themselves and the world around them. The stages also show a timeline and can see where their client falls and help them achieve more options for the stages.
What is Psychodynamic Theory?
Psychodynamic theory was introduced by Freud. Social work theory explains that people’s character has three different parts. They are the id, superego, and ego. First, the id refers to the individual’s pleasures and desires. But, the superego is the rule keeper and attempts to behave morally.
Furthermore, the ego is the mediator because it continually tries to balance the two. The id and superego are both the unconscious parts of our lives, and the ego is conscious. Therefore, there is a constant conflict between the three, while the ego tries to balance.
This theory shows how inner thought processes, either conscious or not, motivate human behavior. Social work focuses on the client’s feelings and how that drives their behaviors. They dissect the individual’s behaviors according to the id, superego, and ego.
Freud teaches us about how unconscious thoughts and desires often do as well. He also discussed how early childhood experiences play a role in an individual’s behavior throughout their lives.
Social Work and Multiple Theories
Even though people face the same types of challenges, there is no right or wrong way to help someone. Each will need specific help tailored to them. We outlined four theories social workers use frequently. However, there are many other theories to learn. Social workers trained to handle multiple approaches find what will best help you in your time of need.
People will always have struggles and need further assistance. Social workers are trying to find the reason behind the struggle and supply them with the services they need to become the best version of themselves and live happy lives.
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