Why and how do social workers use theories in

Social work pattern and theoretical cognition are basically mutualist, or as Howe ( 1987 ) [ 1 ] puts it, “everything we do is ever theoretical” . The institutional model that societal work pattern occurs in is constructed and maintained through procedures of societal interaction, as constructs, boundaries and definitions are drawn and redrawn via dynamic relationships between persons that concept and retrace our shared representation of world. Social work pattern is an built-in portion of this procedure of ongoing societal building, as the dynamic relationship between the client and the practician is where societal work occurs.

This essay will compare and contrast attachment theory and humanist theory to exemplify how in pattern, theory permeates societal work pattern, and how societal work pattern imbues theory. Before we can make this, we need to understand how people construct world through the procedure of sharing their single positions of world with other people [ 2 ] , and how this relates to the context within which the pattern of societal work occurs.

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Harmonizing to Payne ( 1991 ) [ 3 ] , societal work is comprised of three ingredients ;

  • The societal worker
  • The client
  • The scene in which the client and the societal worker meet

The scene in which the client and the societal worker meet provides the context for the synergistic activity of societal work. The scene is situated historically and culturally, through both the eyes of the client, and the eyes of the societal worker, both of whom hold beliefs about what the establishment to which the societal worker belongs is seeking to accomplish, and what this means for the client. The puting provides a context within which the interaction itself and the persons within the interaction map. The puting contributes to the definition of the boundaries of the interaction. The agents within the interaction besides define the interaction itself, and through the act of specifying the interaction, the agents define the context within which the interaction takes topographic point.

Each of the three ingredients of societal work above relate to three forces of societal building ( Payne 1991 ) [ 4 ] , as follows ;

  • The function of societal worker is constructed by the set of shared apprehensions and outlooks that create and control the business of societal work ( the establishment of societal work )
  • The function of client is constructed by the set of shared apprehensions and outlooks that define what a client is amongst people that seek or are referred to societal workers
  • The scene is constructed by the wider societal forces of history and civilization, which are besides a shared set of apprehensions and outlooks

It follows that the pattern of societal work is non merely defined by sets of shared apprehensions and outlooks, but that when the interaction itself occurs, if the client and the societal worker keep different apprehensions and outlooks, the result of the interaction will be a new set of shared apprehensions and outlooks, contingent to the interaction itself. Therefore, the functions of the societal worker and the client alteration subtly, in line with their changed apprehensions and outlooks, and this in bend imbues the wider societal context with the quality of the new shared apprehensions and outlooks generated by the interaction. In this manner, theory thrusts pattern, and pattern thrusts theory. We will now look at this procedure of societal building in relation to attachment theory and humanist theory.

Attachment theory stems from the psychodynamic school of idea, which is deterministic, in that the roots of behavior are chiefly biological. Bowlby’s ( 1951 ) [ 5 ] theory of attachment provinces that the strength of the fond regard system in grownups relates to the nature of the caring relationship between female parent and kid. This relationship between fond regard and personal development remainders on the thought of object dealingss, which harmonizing to Freud’s conceptualization of the head, resides in the self-importance.

Freud saw the head as consisting three elements in ageless struggle ; the Idaho, self-importance and superego. The Idaho comprises natural, cardinal, and strictly egoistic thrusts, for illustration, fulfilling hungriness. The Idaho can be characterised as ‘I want’ and can non be accessed by the witting head. The Idaho forms earlier than the other elements, and is the most crude portion of the head. The self-importance develops after the Idaho and focal points on pull stringsing the external environment, trying to command the demands of the Idaho. The self-importance can be characterised as ‘I can acquire what I want if I do this’ . The superego is the concluding portion of the three, and provides a moral compass that attempts to exercise a sense of societal duty over the Idaho and the self-importance. The superego can be characterised as ‘I should make the right thing by others’ .

The self-importance is the component of the head that develops to cover with the outside universe, or set another manner, to cover with how a kid relates to external objects ( object dealingss ) . Harmonizing to Bowlby ( 1951 ) [ 6 ] , the female parent is an object external to the kid, and the nature of the relationship of the kid with the female parent embeds itself within the self-importance as the kid develops. Bowlby ( 1969/82 ) [ 7 ] provinces that the fond regard system develops from an unconditioned thrust to seek the propinquity of those that can protect us. The operation of the fond regard system is affected by childhood experiences of health professionals ; an illustration of the wider societal context building the person through an interaction with another individual and the outside universe.

Bowlby ( 1969/82 ) [ 8 ] goes on to province that interactions with health professionals who are available and antiphonal to the demands of the kid create a strong, positive sense of attachment security within the kid where the outlooks of the kid are that other people are supportive and available in times of demand. The kid applies this positive theoretical account to all external relationships through the operation of the self-importance in ulterior life. Where the experiences of the kid are of health professionals who are non available or who are non antiphonal, the kid goes on to organize negative representations of others.

In support of this theoretical position, a survey by Kunce & A ; Shaver ( 1994 ) [ 9 ] found that persons with strong attachment security systems ( as opposed to those with weak attachment security ) described themselves as more sensitive to the demands of their romantic spouse and as being more likely to supply emotional support. Walsh et Al ( 2007 ) studied how female parents with mental wellness issues affect attachment security in kids and focussed on the header schemes employed by kids. Walsh et Al ( 2007 p1 ) found that, in line with attachment theory, kids whose female parents suffered from mental wellness issues and therefore had trouble organizing caring relationships with their kids, exhibited behaviour congruent with attachment insecurity. They found that attachment security varied with the life phase of the kid, and in relation to other beginnings of support available to the kid, for illustration, members of the drawn-out household.

The deductions to societal work pattern of the above surveies, and of attachment theory, are that societal workers need to take into history a broad scope of factors when covering with households where child/parent relationships are of concern. Children may necessitate to get by with their feelings, or develop new get bying schemes. The household unit may necessitate aid in understanding why a kid can non associate to others positively, or is non executing at school, and may be able to assist the kid by offering more support where needed. “The pattern end must be to place and beef up the beginnings of support that exist in the child’s web in order to advance the child’s constructive header schemes and construct resilience.” [ 10 ] This illustrates how societal work pattern can use a theoretical model to understand the context of the behavior of a client, and to place possible avenues to assist the client.

The above survey highlights the manner in which research informs theory. Walsh et Al ( 2007 p14 ) point out that attachment security in kids may alter in relation to the beginnings of support available to the kid, and to the life phase of the kid. This differs from Bowlby’s original theoretical place that espoused the criticalness of the child’s relationship with the female parent. Indeed Bowlby extended his theory in ulterior old ages to embrace beginnings of support other than the female parent. [ 11 ] Rutter ( 1981 ) [ 12 ] points out that a broad assortment of factors, non merely mother/child relationships. This shows how theory adapts to, or is constructed by, new findings originating from research. It besides illustrates the spread between expansive theory and societal work pattern. While the relationship between theory and pattern can be seen rather simplistically, if we accept that both pattern and theory are socially constructed, it follows that both theory and pattern are situated, and hence dynamic.

We will now compare and contrast attachment theory ( underpinned by psychodynamic theory ) , and humanist theory. Both psychodynamics and humanist theory property healthy relationships with other people to treat intrinsic to all persons that are contingent upon positive interactions with important others. Humanistic theory attributes negative behavior in an person to a hapless self-concept, or a deficiency of ego worth, ensuing from a sensed difference in the eyes of the person between how they perceive themselves, and how they perceive others perceive them. This is non so much a representation of others as non being available to carry through an innate demand for protection ( as in attachment theory ) , but a deficiency of self-acceptance, self-respect, or personal worth ensuing from non winning the blessing of the important others in their lives. [ 13 ]

The humanist attack is more subjective than the psychodynamic attack. The relationship between practician and client in psychodynamics allows the practician to objectively analyze and construe the client. The end of the humanist attack is to construct a relationship between practician and client that enables and empowers the client by supplying trust and credence of the client as a alone person.

Psychodynamic theory focuses on what is needed to rectify the maladjustment of the client in relation to a normative environment correspondent to a medical theoretical account, while humanist theory takes a person-centred attack, supplying the client with an environment in which they can gain their ain value, or recognize their ‘locus of evaluation’ . [ 14 ]

Both psychodynamic theory and humanist theory propose that persons feel anxiousness when they are, severally, maladjusted, or non to the full functional. To avoid anxiousness, persons employ psychological defense mechanism mechanisms. “Roger’s ( humanistic ) [ construct of defense mechanism mechanisms ] is really similar to Freud ‘s ( psychodynamic ) conceptualization, although Rogers considers everything from a perceptual point-of-view” [ 15 ] as opposed to an emotional point of view.

Carl Rogers [ 16 ] remarks that the focal point of psychodynamic theory on normative behavior places the practician in the function of expert, while humanist theory supports an equal theoretical account of relationship between practician and client. Humanist theory provinces that all persons have within them the potency to develop toward the fulfillment of their alone individuality, and the undertaking of the practician is to enable the client to carry through their possible for growing.

Both psychodynamic theory and humanist theory have been criticised for disregarding societal context. Strean ( 1979 ) [ 17 ] provinces that psychodynamic theory emphasises internal psychological factors over environmental factors, therefore restricting the possible scope of intercessions, and the premises that a societal worker can do anterior to get downing societal work with a client. Biehal & A ; Sainsbury ( 1991 p250 ) point out that humanist theory besides ignores societal context, by imputing human rights such as individualism, self-government, and regard to all people, but disregarding the historical and cultural discourses that persons map within, and that potentially limit single rights and freedoms. Mitchell ( 1975 ) [ 18 ] makes the same point about psychodynamics, in that depth psychology is “a utile agencies of understanding how work forces achieve and maintain domination in a patriarchal society” . This unfavorable judgment is really relevant to Bowlby’s original theory of fond regard, which by underscoring the relationship between maternal want and maladjusted kids provided a really strong statement ( at the clip ) for adult females non come ining the workplace so that they could remain at place and raise ‘normal’ kids.

In footings of societal work pattern, both humanist and psychodynamic theory seem to be utile frames of mention, but in pattern, a broad assortment of factors demands to be taken into history, non least cultural and historical contexts. Harmonizing to Biehal & A ; Sainsbury ( 1991 p250-251 ) , the values that inform societal work pattern are frequently taken to be cosmopolitan or common-sense, but are besides situated in historical and cultural discourses, merely as the establishments which legitimate and control societal work are. The shared apprehensions and significances that comprise all of these facets of societal work are all situated historically and culturally, and farther, are embedded within the power dealingss specific to a given clip and topographic point.

To return to the three ingredients of societal work ; the societal worker, the client, and the scene, along with the societal forces that constructed each ingredient that we defined at the beginning of the essay, it is clear that societal work is constructed through a composite of inter-related elements that varies over clip and topographic point. Although these elements do non find societal work pattern, societal work pattern occurs within the conditions created by them. Theory is another component to add into the complex array of factors that constructs societal work pattern, and that are constructed by societal work pattern. Theory itself is situated historically and culturally, and within the discourses specific to the clip and topographic point in which the theory was created.

In wide footings of how societal workers use theories in their pattern, theories provide a frame of mention from which to understand a specific societal work state of affairs, but the societal worker must see the specific restrictions of the chosen theory, along with the located nature of the theory, puting, client, and themselves. A theory brings with it values, premises, and significances, all of which can impact the interaction between practician and client, and if non taken onto history, negatively affect the result of the interaction for the client.

In footings of why societal workers use theories in their pattern, Sainsbury et Al. ( 1982 ) [ 19 ] show that differences in patterns are determined by puting more so than by theoretical considerations. This tends to propose that another factor or combination of factors within the complex set of elements that place societal work pattern is/are more of import than theoretical considerations in pattern.

Rein and White ( 1981 ) [ 20 ] province the instance for the primacy of pattern over theory ; “the cognition that societal work seeks … [ is non ] … contextless truths about human nature, societies, establishments, and policy. The cognitionmustbe developed in the life state of affairss that are confronted… in the field.” This citation shows the world of societal work pattern, where a societal worker must see a broad assortment of inter-related factors, and do an informed pick about how best to function the client’s needs, within the confines of the informal and formal institutional and cultural discourses they are runing within.

As a concluding idea, the two theories discussed in this essay are non reciprocally sole ; there are countries of convergence, both in footings of restrictions, and in footings of similarities between the procedures underlying how people function. This suggests that where theory does play a portion in societal work pattern, there is the chance to intermix different theoretical attacks to accommodate the state of affairs, which enables the societal worker some grade of flexibleness where a figure of factors affect their picks.


Malcolm Payne ( 1991 ) ,Modern Social Work Theory ; a critical debut,The Macmillan Press Ltd, London

Mario Mikulincer, Phillip R. Shaver ( 2005 )Attachment Security, Compassion, and Altruism,Current Directions in Psychological Science 14 ( 1 ) , 34–38 doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00330.x

Judi Walsh, Gillian Schofield, Gillian Harris, Panos Vostanis, Femi Oyebode and Helen Coulthard ( 2007 ) ,Attachment and Coping Strategies in Middle Childhood Children whoseMothers Have a Mental Health Problem: Deductions for Social Work Practice,British Journal of Social Work ( 2007 ) , 1 of 18 doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcm090

Dave Mearns & A ; Brian Thorne,Person-Centred Counselling in Action,Sage Publications, London

Nina Biehal and Eric Sainsbury ( 1991 ) ,From Values of Rights

in Social Work, Some Issues in Practice Development and Research, British Journal of Social Work ( 1991 ) , 21. 245-257

University of Michigan ( USA ) Social Work Library, 2008, hypertext transfer protocol: //www.lib.umich.edu/socwork/rescue/sw611.html

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