Case study

profileSalman Wahid

Engaging with individuals and families

SWK 313 Module 2

Week 4

Module 2: Online Learning Activity

Review the theories explored in Module 2

Briefly outline two theories for practice that appeal to you, reflecting on the factors that have shaped your decision and including a critical analysis of each theory. 

Week 3 Recap

We covered some theories that inform practice

We explored how and why practitioners use theory

Our journey includes…

Psychodynamic Approaches

Task Centred

Crisis Intervention

Cognitive Behavioural Practice

Humanistic, existential approaches and spirituality

Strengths, narrative & solution practice*

Systems & Ecological Approaches*

Community Development

Critical perspectives

Feminist perspectives

Anti-Oppressive & Anti-Discriminatory Practice*

Empowerment and Advocacy


Strengths, Narrative & Solution Practice

Strengths, Narrative & Solution Practice

Social psychology – how relationships between and within groups create/maintain social identity (roles)

Constructivist theory – how we process reality through perceptions, rational thinking and cognition (internal focus)

Social Construction theory – focus on meaning made through shared language and interactions with others (internal & external focus)

Contrast with traditional ‘problem’ oriented practice & diagnostic approaches

Post modernist – challenges “rational scientific” knowledge based on one “truth” – many perspectives & alternatives

Used in range of practice contexts – individuals, groups, community work

General Practice Issues and Concepts

Incorporates both social and psychological perspectives

Strengths-based practice (Saleeby)

Narrative Therapy (White & Epston)

Solution-focused Brief Therapy (de Shazer)

Non-judgemental, avoids blame

Client directed goals


Builds resilience

Change through change in understanding of social experience

Allows for broad definition of resources (e.g. social)

Attends to client’s language, interpretation and meaning-making (deconstruction)

Historical context of interactions is significant


Solution-focused Brief Therapy - index.html

Narrative therapy - /

Critical analysis

Focuses on the individual and ignores structural factors

Constraints in statutory practice contexts

Unstructured model for practice

“Strengths” defined in superficial terms and can lead to lack of resources or support for clients that address the real issues

Emphasis on worker competence and ‘manipulation of client’

Systems & Ecological Perspectives

Systems and Ecological Perspectives

1960s & 70s – grew from sociological perspectives



Systems interact in complex ways

Links to social development, family therapy…

New approaches include the environmental sustainability of social work - global focus

Broadens thinking beyond the individual person to see them in context

General Practice Issues and Concepts

Psychosocial casework & assessment

Systems – open vs. closed

Identify systems which can be a target for change

Life stressors & changes in one area can affect other areas of the ‘system’

“Adaptation”, “transition”, “equilibrium”, “input/throughput/output”…

Networks – social networks, support networks, “connectedness”, resources (e.g. emotional, financial)

Family Therapy – treatment does not focus on one person, no one person is the ‘issue’ (lots of variables and complexity)

Critical analysis

More emphasis on changing environments but does not account for power

Assumes systems are interdependent – are they?

Descriptive rather than explanatory

Non prescriptive and generalist (this can be a positive too)

Slow and manageable change – focus on adaption

Complexity of system analysis can be a barrier to clear action

Resources ecomaps.html

Community Development

Community Development

Seeks to incorporate social progress with economic development

Community work is a practice helping people come together to identify issues and concerns and take action to resolve them.

Poverty and social exclusion are important targets of social development

Individualist strategies focus on self-actualization, self determination and self improvement

Collectivist strategies emphasize building organizations as the basis for developing new approaches to action

General Practice Issues and Concepts


Capacity building

Developing social capital

Social inclusion

Consultation, social planning, partnerships

Sustainable development

Worker as catalyst

Provides a wider focus than client-focused use of systems theory


Examples of Community Development jobs in Australia: jobs

Critical Practice

Critical Practice

Many different strands and variations

Transformational – change rejects capitalist, economic rationalist approaches

Emancipatory – freeing people from existing social order

Radical Social Work (1970’s) has developed into the critical perspective (1990’s)

Challenges social policy and decisions based on economic rationalism

Structural focus – how power operates is important for how people experience their world

Focus on consciousness raising

Anti-Oppressive Practice is part of this tradition

General Practice Issues and Concepts

Social problems are created by social structure and culture that is shaped by dominant groups who actively oppress others

Focus on structural issues and factors (macro) rather than individual (micro)

Examines and challenges the cause of inequality and oppression

Work towards equality, social change

Raises consciousness to take collective action

Rejects neo-liberalism

Questioning practices that lead to social control and isolation

Historical context is important

Discourses – debates, dialogue

Praxis – interaction between experience, awareness that informs understanding, action

Incorporates a range of traditions – Marxism, feminism, structuralism, social construction, empowerment & postmodern ideas

Critical analysis

Overwhelming in scale – demotivating

Not guide practice with individuals

Does not address immediate needs – ethical?

Overlooks importance of emotions, personal experience

Generalisations about groups in society, and not sensitive to experiences of marginalised individuals within those groups

Contradiction of social work – agents of control, suppress social change?

Multidimensional understanding of power?

Exclude potential allies and resources

Complexity of theory, language and concepts – exclude people who are marginalised?

Something to consider…

Feminist approaches

Feminist Perspectives

Long history with many differentiated perspectives

Gender analysis and understanding

Focus on patriarchy

Gender equality

Liberal, Radical, Socialist, postmodern variations

Identifies power relations in the profession – e.g. domestic violence and sexual violence

“The personal is political”

General Practice Issues and Concepts


Deconstruction of social discourses regarding gender

Non-sexist work

Consciousness Raising


Dialogic egalitarian relationship

Social and personal identity



Everyday Sexism Project

https ://^google|twcamp^serp|twgr^ author

Women’s Empowerment Principles

http :// /

AOP & Anti-Discriminatory Practice

AOP & Anti-Discriminatory Practice

Influential in 1980s-90s

Dalrymple & Bourke (1995) – a comprehensive and principles-based framework in which partnership is central

Provides a framework for action and intervention at the primary (prevention), secondary (early intervention) and tertiary (remediation) levels

Combats institutionalized discrimination

Concerned about racism and other forms of prejudice relating to age, gender, sexuality, disability

Personal cultural and social factors are all relevant to discrimination

Beyond culturally sensitive practice

General Practice Issues and concepts

Discrimination and oppression

Ethnicity and cultural issues

Civil rights

Human rights

Service user rights



Increase choice, minimise barriers

Awareness of worker power is central

Every day action linked to broader change

Focus is on prevention rather than excessive

and oppressive intervention (i.e. crisis point)


Australian Human Rights Commission - https :// /

Empowerment & Advocacy

General Practice Issues & Concepts

Help people gain power to make decisions over their own lives

Reduce barriers to exercising power and control over self

Service user perspectives & user-led practice

Build capacity and confidence

Safeguard rights

Policy change

Advocacy - represent the interests of the less powerful – legal foundations

Used within a range of practice contexts (e.g. mental health, disability sector, children’s rights, welfare rights)

Aligned with feminist, critical and anti-oppressive practice

Can be used in micro practice and connected to psychological-based theories

Critical Analysis

Does not necessarily lead to structural change – focused on reducing/removing barriers rather than large scale social change

Does not offer a structural understanding of disadvantage

Can use empowerment and advocacy without commitment to AOP or critical practice (case advocacy vs cause/systemic advocacy)

Modernist understanding of power (held by social groups) is limited and does not allow a multidimensional understanding of how power operates in a society at a given time

Broad definition of empowerment – contested

Different levels of empowerment?

Can we really “empower” others?

Whose interests are really represented?


The Cognitive Model

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Situation something happens


the situation is interpreted


a feeling occurs as a result of the thought


an action in response to the emotion