Theories of Social Work S.RengasamyMadurai Institute of Social Work Social WorkersCelebrating Community –Honouring DiversitySocial Work is a practical job. It is about protecting people and changing their lives, notabout giving theoretical explanations of why they got into difficulties …Social work is about social change at the individual as well as at community level.Change is complex, diversified and risk prone. To understand it, social worker needknowledge. imagination, comprehension & creativity….in short, a radical shift inunderstanding “Knowledge as process” as opposed to “Knowledge as product” isneeded.But our understanding of social work (especially with the faculty and students of socialwork colleges in non metropolitan cities of India and students with low level mastery ofEnglish language) is frozen with the simple definition of social work ...it is the art andscience of helping the people to help themselves.Compilation and interpretation of social work definition accessible to the students (PDMishra 1994) conveys a meaning that social work is a “helping” “assisting” „enabling”activity, which in turn suggests social work is seen as a benign and uncontentiousactivity, willingly accepted. This understanding fails to reflect the major transformationssocial work discipline has undergone as well as its global outlook. There is nothingwrong in simplifying a concept, but if it ignores the complexities associated with theconcept, that will end our further seeking.Whatever may be a definition of social work, it is normally based on certain perspectives and understanding of that perspective / theory will help us to appreciate that definition. It is this clarity that normally make one to commit in his/ her professional responsibilities.To answer these questions one need to What is the need know why people are of social work or suffering. What is our responsibilities towards Why Social work? fellow human beings? How we gain knowledge about the human problems? What makes us perceive the human Definition of problems in a particular social work How social work way? Why we subscribe generally convey is carried out? to certain methods of solving problems? ….Social workers need to answer these questions To whom social before addressing others work is going to problems. Theories & serve? or perspectives of social characteristics of work may provide some its cliens answers to these questions Why Social Work?Life means to face the demands of day to day life and realize the self. By life tasks we mean theresponses people make as they face the demands made upon them in various life situations, suchis growing up in a family, entering school or work, raising a family, earning their daily bread,working in the industry, problems relating to job or earning, facing il ness, accidents and death.People are dependent on social systems to realize their aspirations and to cope with their life tasks.In order to realize their life tasks people have to interact with three kinds of resource systems inthe social environment1. Informal or natural resource system consists of family, friends, neighbors, co workers, etc2. Formal resource system consists of membership in organizations, trade union organizations or other socio cultural organizations3. Social resource system such as schools, hospitals, housing societies, police, banks etc Why people are unable to obtain the resources, services or opportunities in the resource systems,they need to cope with their life tasks and realize their aspirations?1. A needed resource or service may be scarce or may not exist or may not provide appropriatehelp to people who need it.2. People may not know the existence of a resource system or may be hesitant to turn it for help for several reasons like distance, corruption, delay or poor quality etc3. The polices and procedures of the resource system may inhibit / prevent it access (eg. eligibility criteria, gender, etc) 4. Several resource system may be working at cross purposesThe purpose of social work is to enable the people to use the social resources to meet their lifetasksWhat do we mean by helping people to help themselves?1. Increased understanding of oneself or a situation. 2. Being able to make a decision 3. Being able to confirm a decision. 4. Being able to get a support for a decision. 5. Being able to change a situation 6. Adjusting to a situation that is not going to change 7. Being able to examine options and choosing one 8. Being able to discharge feelings Compare self help with empowerment Empowerment includes the following, or similar, capabilities:-The ability to make decisions about personal/collective circumstancesThe ability to access information and resources for decision-makingAbility to consider a range of options from which to choose (not just yes/no, either/or.)Ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision makingHaving positive-thinking about the ability to make changeAbility to learn and access skills for improving personal/collective circumstance.Ability to inform others’ perceptions though exchange, education and engagement.Involving in the growth process and changes that is never ending and self-initiatedIncreasing one's positive self-image and overcoming stigmaIncreasing one's ability in discreet thinking to sort out right and wrong oWhat is theory?n and tIt is important first to be clear what the term theory means in anacademic sense. Cottrell provides a useful general definition:explaiy A theory is a set of ideas that helps to explain why something” happens or happened in a particular way, and to predict likelyivel ctdi outcomes in the future. Theories are based on evidence andpre reasoning, but have not yet been conclusively proved.rospect y Thompson‟s definition includes similar ideas:ivel An attempt to explain…a framework for understanding…a setto retof ideas linked together to help us make sense of a particulart ect issue.mpte prosp Writing about social work theory, Beckett makes a connection with“atpractice:an …a set of ideas or principles used to guide practice which areis sufficiently coherent that they could if necessary be maderyexplicit in a form which was open to challenge.TheoIt 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 e.g. 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 curriculum1. Values of the profession 2. Skills and methods that are developed for the professional task 3. Major theories and conceptsObjectives of teaching theories 1. Refinement of practice2. Provision of changing theoretical inputs to the social work knowledge base3. 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 Thompson explains that there are different levels of theories.These are: Grand, macro-level or global theories(sometimes known as meta-narratives), such as Marxism orPsychoanalysis, which claim to be able to explain everything insociety, or all human behavior; Middle-range theories which focus on a limited range of issues– for instance, labeling theory, which from a social integrationistperspective aims to explain deviance; Micro theories developed to explain very small-scale situations– for instance, relationships between staff and patients on ahospital ward.