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Theories in Social Work Vs Social Work Theory
Based on the article written by
Prof. Rajeshwar Prasad,
Institute of Social Sciences, Agra
IASSI Quarterly, Vol.20.No.1.2001
PPT Presentation by
Madurai Institute of Social Sciences
There is a plethora of theories in Social work education, training, research & practice
One may account for approximately thirty theories taught during the period of instruction to social work graduates.
These theories have been borrowed from other disciplines viz. psychiatry, psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, criminology, political science, theology, philosophy, administration etc.
Attempt is made by social work educators and practitioners to do a good fit of these theories with professional practice of social work.
Theories in Social Work Vs Social Work Theory
It will be useful if we understand the different types of theories taught and the logic as why are these theories imparted to the students.
It may be logical to group these theories in broader categories
Theories of evolution,
Theories of personality (development) & learning theories,
Theories of social organization and social change, theories of social stratification,
Theories of individual and group behavior,
Theories of deviance, crime and correction,
Theories of economic growth and development, theories of group dynamics and leadership,
Theories of social work (clinical practice) etc.
Curriculum Development Centre in Social Work Education, University Grants Commission, India recognized three elements of social work curriculum
.Values of the profession
.Skills and methods that are developed for the professional task
.Major theories and concepts
Objectives of teaching theories
.Refinement of practice
.Provision of changing theoretical inputs to the social work knowledge base
.Building up of new theories from the practice data
The centre has recommended to include many different theories discretely and dispersaly but failed to do a wise selectivity of appropriate theories to be taught rationally and coherently and imparting knowledge of these theories compactly as an independent course that are taught in other disciplines eg. Sociological Theories, Modern Economic Theories, Contemporary Political Theories, Psychological Theories
The term theory is loosely used in social work profession. The use of social work theories in professional literature is rather ambiguous. Concepts, frames of reference, practice models and philosophical propositions have been termed as theories.
Some social work practitioners maintain that due to the very nature of the fast changing society – social relations, social institutions, culture economy, polity, attitude and behavior patterns, dynamics of client – practitioner relationship and the very eclectic nature of the profession, theory has no value in professional practice. But some other advocates that theory should inform and guide the practice and the practice must function as a feedback for theory reformulation
The social world and the human behavior within it are so complex that any simplification model can only distort reality. This is not to argue that model building or measurement has no place in sociology. The point is that every social phenomenon must be quantified is neither acceptable nor desirable
M. Francis Abraham.
It holds true of the status of theory in social work also.
Social and behavioral scientist, obsessed as they are with the natural science model have a “theoretical bias” for explaining social events and behavioral expressions. This bias has lead to the growth of a variety of theories
Speculative theories (an abstract impressionistic approach rooted in the philosophical system.
Grounded theories (based on the findings of empirical research)
Grand theory (broad conceptual scheme with systems of interrelated propositions that provide a general frame of reference for the study of social processes and institutions)
Miniature theories (partial or inclusive theories which Merton calls the theories of middle range)
Macro or Molar theories (broader in scope and encompass an extended range of laws)
Micro or Molecular theories (narrow frame of reference and focus on a limited range of phenomena)
Social work theories can best be categorized as miniature and / or molecular.
Social work has been widely viewed as a “helping profession”. This helping thrust has been broadly classified into clinical and wider system change orientation.
The theories used in social work practice in the western world viz. USA, Canada are predominantly individual pathology oriented, largely influenced by psychoanalytic theory, with farfetched implications /usage for group dysfunctioning, community conflicts, family disintegration due to economic forces and wider societal contradictions that are generally responsible for individual maladjustments, group disorganization and other social problems in any society.
The realization that problems of individual and /or group and community malfunctioning / maladjustments are rooted in the economic and social malaise created due to the inherent contradictions of the capitalist economic political system, ultimately lead to the recognition of macro analysis and the realization of mega actions. Marxist theory based on the above understanding has guided the practice of a considerably good number of social workers throughout the world.
It is observed by some social workers that the psycho analytic theory instead of informing and guiding the social work practice has simply taken the practice over or in other way hijacked the practice.
Clinical and non clinical social work practice
Clinical social work deals with individuals.
Clinical social work is a mental health profession whose practitioners, educated in social-work graduate schools and trained under supervision, master a distinctive body of knowledge and skill in order to assess, diagnose, and ameliorate problems, disorders, and conditions that interfere with healthy
bio-psychosocial functioning of people - individuals, couples,
families, groups - of all ages and backgrounds.
Realizing the extreme limitations of social work in a changing environment, the fall- out effect of the conscious dismantling of the social welfare system in the west and its effect on social work profession as such, disillusionment over the social work methods in actually modifying / correcting / adjusting individuals, some of the training institutions of social work switched over to Social Development for teaching and training graduates, incorporating development theories, concepts and models in the curriculum. Thus theories related to community organization/ development, social policy and administration, non - governmental and civil society organization –their function and utility (viz. contract failure theory, subsidy theory) regional planning and development (viz. growth centre hypothesis, central place and cumulative causation theories),theories of development and underdevelopment, social action theories etc included in the social work syllabi. But it is also observed that, theories of development that are taught, though uncritically, are not used in the social work practice.
Theories in Social Work Vs Social Work Theory ory
Grounded theories (based on the findings of empiri