Six important theories in social work
Why is theory important in social work?
Applying social work theory to practice
List of important social work theories
1. Social learning theory
2. Systems theory
3. Psychosocial development theory
- Trust versus mistrust
- Autonomy versus shame and doubt
- Initiative versus guilt
- Industry versus inferiority
- Identity versus confusion
- Intimacy versus isolation
- Generativity versus stagnation
- Integrity versus despair
4. Psychodynamic theory
5. Social exchange theory
6. Rational choice theory
Six practice models in social work
1. Cognitive behavioral therapy
2. Crisis intervention model
- Take a psychosocial and lethality assessment.
- Rapidly establish rapport.
- Identify the major crisis cause(s).
- Enable the client to express their feelings and emotions.
- Generate and explore safe alternatives for coping.
- Create an action plan.
- Follow up after the intervention.
3. Narrative therapy
4. Problem-solving model
5. Solution-focused therapy
6. Task-centered practice
Resources to explore social work theories
- Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work: This journal features research on evidence-based practice in social work and evaluates social work theory, techniques, and strategies.
- Journal of Social Work Practice: This journal focuses on psychodynamic and systemic social work perspectives. It features research on theory and practice and includes articles offering critical analysis of systemic and psychodynamic theory.
- Journal of Social Work: This journal includes social work research and short “think pieces” on social work theoretical understanding, policy, and practice.
- Social Work: This journal is the official journal of the National Association of Social Workers and features articles on social work and social welfare, including new techniques and research.
- Clinical Social Work Journal: This journal features peer-reviewed articles on clinical social work practice with individuals, groups, families, and couples. It also has articles on theory developments, practice and evidence-based clinical research.
- “A Brief Introduction to Social Work Theory”: This textbook by David Howe explains how social work practice is influenced by various social work theories and shows how social work theories have evolved over time.
- “An Introduction to Applying Social Work Theories and Methods”: This book by Barbra Teater explains the most prominent social work theories and how those approaches can be used in practice.
- “Social Work Theory and Practice”: This book by Lesley Deacon and Stephen J. Macdonald explains how social work theory informs practice for various individuals and contexts.
- “Modern Social Work Theory”: This book by Malcolm Payne introduces the major social work practice theories and explains how to apply theory to practice.
- “An Introduction to Using Theory in Social Work Practice”: This book by James A. Forte covers 14 social work theories and explains how to use them from engagement through evaluation.
Other online resources
- NASW Clinical Social Work: This section of the National Association of Social Workers website covers clinical social work practice. It features content, publications, and related resources for clinical social workers, like the “NASW Standards for Clinical Social Work in Social Work Practice (PDF, 135 KB).”
- Encyclopedia of Social Work: The Encyclopedia of Social Work by the National Association of Social Workers Press and Oxford University Press features tools for applying social work theory to practice. These resources include scholarly articles and bibliographies.
- Social Work Today: This publication features articles on current social work trends in categories like behavioral health, addictions, children and family, aging and professional practice.