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Psychosocial Theory and

Social Work Practice

Presentation by:
Social Work Department
Peshawar University
 All social work practice-historically and currently-has relied on
psychosocial concepts.
 From the very beginning, social work has been dedicated to;
 the alleviation of sufferings and
 to the enhancement of human life.
 Social Workers had been concerned that;
 How to support the well-being of individuals and families
 How to respond to people’s need
 How to restore social functioning and
 How to better their interpersonal relationships and life situations.
 In order to answer these questions the psychosocial approach
grew up in social work practice.
Meaning of Psychosocial
 The term “Psychosocial,” 1st used in 1899, means,
 “pertaining to mind and society”.
 “Relating Social Conditions to Mental Health”.
Merriam Webster Dictionary.

 The term “psychosocial” is the combination of two

words, “psycho” means “ psychological” and
“social” means “relating to society, or the way in
which people in groups behave and interact”. So
in this context psychosocial means “interaction of
psychological and societal forces / components”.
Psychosocial theory
 Psychosocial theory says that individual and
his environment are intertwined. Changes in
one system creates changes in other
 In other words individual’s behavior is the
product of psychological forces and societal
factors. His problem triggers not only due to
psychological forces or social factors but by
the combination of both. Therefore the
intervention strategy must address both the
Client’s context
 The client’s context is made up of many
interacting systems-not only one system-
including psychological, social, family,
personality, school, work place etc.
 Problems is seen as a consequence of
disequilibrium between individual and
 What psychosocial caseworkers do to
solve the problems is, to help client reduce
the disequilibrium between individual and
their environment.
Aim of Treatment
 The psychosocial treatment often is not
aimed at the so-called “pathological” or
“dysfunctional” aspects of the gestalt;
rather, interventions are tailored to
address those aspects that are most
accessible and most capable of change.
 Ameliorization of the client’s environment
may result in enduring changes in the
personality or family system.
The Goal of Psychosocial Workers
 Thegoal of psychosocial workers are to
work collaboratively with clients to find
optimal “fits” between people and their
social or physical surroundings.
Historical Origin and
 Social work has always been profoundly
influenced by the conditions and demands of
the day. During some periods, socioeconomic
forces received the greatest attention; at
other times, there was keener interest in
understanding personality development and
 As our theory and knowledge base matured,
the tendency to neglect either component
diminished significantly.
Historical cont;
 Mary Richmond:
 She set the stage for the development of
modern casework theory and practice. When
she published her first book, “friendly visiting
among the poor: a handbook for charity
workers”, in 1899, she began formulating and
evaluating practice concepts and techniques.
Some of her majors ideas and findings are as
History cont;
1. Focus on the individual alone did not always help.
 Social relations and environment-past and present-are major
forces shaping personality
 External influence had to be addressed in order to promote a
better adjustment between individual and the surrounding.
1. Caseworkers actual experience should be subjected to
critical analysis, and their efforts must be measured by best
standards available.
 She outlined specific approaches to collection of “social
evidence” from which inferences were to be drawn, leading
to “social study, diagnosis, and treatment planning process.
1. Treatment must be individualized. She cautioned against
generalization and stereotyping.
 Each person and each family is unique and must be studied
and listened to separately.
History cont;
 Knowledge from Psychology and Psychiatry
 Psychology and psychiatry prevailed over social workers during
WW-I up till 1950s.
 During 1920’s the sociological basis of social work was partially
obscured by new ideas of personality development, and
emotional experiences etc.
 Freud’s thinking were particularly influencing.
 Inner “weakness” was too often blamed for miseries or crises
that were primarily social in origin. Family and socioeconomic
influence was downplayed.
 Ego Psychology:
 All approaches in ego psychology broadens the psychosocial
casework horizon. Particularly defense mechanism of Anna
Freud, Erikson’s psychosocial developmental stages, Client-
Centered therapy of Roger, and cognitive therapy are more
Principles and Assumptions
1. People of all ages have the capacity to grow, learn, adapt
and-at least to some degree-modify their social and physical
2. Psychological systems do not stand alone, but constantly
interact with biological and social systems.
3. People’s behavior develop within the context of many open
systems interacting in mutually causative ways. Change in
one system inevitably creates changes in other systems.
4. Family system provides most significant context for
personality growth and development. Problems of fit among
family members are mutual.
5. Families are also subjected to stresses that come from
larger systems, including poverty, racism, etc. the daily lives
of many clients are pervaded by these forces.
Principles and Assumptions
 Assumptions from Ego psychology :
1. Significant feelings and thoughts lie outside
of awareness.
2. Personality is fluid and dynamic system of
forces that influences behaviour;
3. Defenses are constructed that serve bother
positive and negative end.
4. Symptoms are adaptive attempts to uncover
and resolve internal conflicts.
5. Neurosis is actually social in origin.
The Worker Client Relationship
 Successful treatment depends heavily on the quality
of relationship between client and worker.
 How to promote Positive Relationship?
 Positive therapeutic relationship stems from the worker’s
demonstration of non-possessive warmth and concern,
genuineness, accurate empathy, and non-judgmental
acceptance, along with his capacity to communicate
optimism and professional competence.
 For client: he must mobilize some courage, hope and
motivation to join the worker, and to trust in his ability to
The Worker Client Relationship
 Obstacles in effective worker-client relationship:
 Numerous obstacles stand in the way of effective
worker-client relationship;
 People seeking help feel anxious-with feeling of
shame and failure to resolve difficulties.
 Fear of dependence on another may create
 Anticipatory fear- that the worker truly can not
understood their need or circumstances can also
hinder effective relationship.
 When the client is referred by some referring agency-
e.g. parents, school, court etc-in that case the client’s
willingness to engage in work may be impeded.
Approaches to Intervention
 The approaches to intervention includes;
 Psychosocial Study
 Psychosocial Assessment
 Psychosocial Intervention
Approaches to Intervention
1. Psychosocial Study
 Gathering Facts vs. Interpreting Facts
The primary emphasis in psychosocial casework is
placed on understanding the client’s dilemmas and
what has contributed to them. This understanding is
called psychosocial study.
It requires observation and gathering of accurate facts
that are arranged in orderly manner.
Often the bulk of data is obtained in early interviews.
Approaches to Intervention
 Initial Interviews
 Facts gathering begins as the worker elicits from clients their
perception of problems, what they think led up to it, how they have
attempted to remedy it, what they believe might help now, and
what other people, agencies or systems are involved.
 Additional Source of Information
 Observations of the clients nonverbal behaviors and demeanor
and the dynamic of the client-worker relationships, usually prove
useful. The goal is fact gathering, not interpretation.
 The psychosocial study of children requires collateral interviews
with parents, teachers, and other concerned.
Approaches to Intervention
 Early Life History
Many problems in living emerge during the
developmental phases of the individual and family
life cycle. Therefore early life history is also
obtained for psychosocial study.
Approaches to Intervention
 Psychosocial Assessment
 Psychosocial assessment begins by thinking critically about
the facts gather in psychosocial study. The worker’s task, now,
is to conceptualize how the multiple symptoms are interacting.
 Assessment simultaneously addresses and formulates
hypotheses about two major matters;
1. How and why a problem exists, and
2. Who and what is accessible to change.
 Only after determining where we can enter the constellation of
multiple systems, and which system or systems are probably
most amenable to change, can effective treatment strategies
be designed.
 Assessment identify points of access and evaluate the
capacity, motivation, and opportunity for change-of individual,
the family, the social networks, and communities.
Approaches to Intervention
 Psychosocial Intervention
 Psychosocial treatment often uses a blend of
individual, couple, family and environmental
 In work with symptomatic children, family
members are often the most important
resources for change.
 Individual and his environment are
intertwined. Changes in one brings
changes in others. Problems is the
disequilibrium between individual and his
environment. The worker’s goal is to work
collaboratively with the client and find an
optimal fit between individual and his
physical and social surroundings.
Thank you