Defining generalist practice:
“the application of an eclectic knowledge base, professional values, and a wide range of skills
to target any size system for change
within the context of four primary processes.
First, striving for client empowerment; second, working in an organizational structure under
supervision; requires the assumption of wide range of professional roles; involves the application of
critical thinking skills” (Kirst-Ashman, 2007:104)
Poulin argues that generalist practice often requires simultaneous interventions on multiple levels.
Micro social work is interventions with individuals, couples, and families. Purpose here is to improve
functioning and empower the client. Macro level interventions focus on organizational and
Payne argues that the adoption of a model, approach or theory in working with clients is not neutral.
Social work is not a uniform profession and there are many different ways of seeing the mandate of
Social Work as Social Construction:
This argument sees social work knowledge as constructed. Concept of constructionism is taken from
Reality is made up of social knowledge which guides out behaviour but we all have different views of
Shared views of reality occur when we share our knowledge through various social processes which
organise and make it objective.
Social activity becomes habitual so we have assumptions about how things are.
For example the belief that education is important was initially social knowledge and through policies
and laws has been institutionalised as a fact.
We then behave according to social conventions based on that shared knowledge- social conventions
then are instituationalised.
Circular process where behaviour creates social knowledge and social knowledge creates behaviour –
this done through institutionalisation and legitmation of social knowledge.
So here the argument is that social work and its beliefs about human development and social
concerns is socially constructed and not necessarily real.
Discourses of politics of social theory:
Social work knowledge then reflects different assumptions and social knowledge about the human
beings. Payne divides these in to 3 key views or discourses.
Discourses are interactions between what people or groups say or do that indicate important
differences between them in the meaning they give to something.
Dominelli calls these therapeutic helping approaches. These see social work as seeking the best
possible well being for individuals, groups and communities in society, by promoting and facilitating
growth and self-fulfilment.
Workers are able to modify clients ideas and influence them and visa versa
Mutual influence makes social work reflexive – responds to social concerns that workers find and
gain understanding of as they practise.
Personal power used by clients to rise above situations
Social democratic political philosophy – economic and social development should go hand in hand to
achieve individual and social improvement.
Accept social order
i.e.: existentialist, humanist and social psychology, psychodynamic, construction, and crisis
Emancipatory approaches because free people from oppression
See sw as seeking cooperation and mutual support in society so that the most oppressed and
disadvantaged people can gain power over their lives.
This done by sw through facilitating process of empowerment through which people can take part in a
process of learning and cooperation which creates institutions which all can own and participate in.
Sees elites as holding all the resources and power which they use for their own advantage and in the
process create oppression.
Argues cant achieve personal and social fulfilment as elites obstruct possibilities for poor
Sw challenges this by trying to create more eglatarian relationships in society.
In doing this the ultimate goal is to transform society for the benefit of the poor
Personal and social empowerment require that society makes transformation to benefiting poor
Individual and therapeutic work is a stepping stone to bigger change – ie small changes aiming
towards bigger ones
Socialist political philosophy which argues for planned economies and social provision as these
promote equality and social justice
i.e.: critical, anti-oppressive, feminist and empowerment approaches
Individual reformist views:
See sw as an aspect of welfare services to individuals in societies
Meets individuals needs and improves services of which it is a part of – key aim effective and
See sw as maintaining the social order and social fabric of society as well as maintaining people
during any period of difficulty they experience so they can recover stability again
Trying to change societies is impractical and unrealistic as objectives of social work activity are small
scale individual change which cant lead to major social and personal changes
Stakeholders in sw services want a better ft between society and individuals
Expresses the liberal or rational economic political philosophy – that personal freedom in economic
markets, supported by the rule of law is the best way of organising societies.
i.e.: task centred and systems theory, cognitive behavioural, social development
Social work therefore is not one thing but has many faces. Social conditions and cultures contribute
towards the construction of social work.
Refers to pattern or template and something that is commonly reproduced in activity
Need to be cautious in saying that sw has one or even three paradigms because in practising social
work different mixtures of these views are used by organisations
So social work in context varies considerably
Modern or Post Modern
Payne then looks at how sw views knowledge and understands the theories that it uses. He argues
that there are two ways of viewing the world and knowledge: modernism and post-modernism.
Concludes that social work falls within the modernism tradition as problems viewed as rational.
However he argues that we need to use post modernism to understand theories, models and
Post modernism (PM) refers to how knowledge is created, changes in the way that we think about our
societies and the way in which we create and understand knowledge
Modernism refers to emphasis placed on rationality and scientific method
SW theory modernist as well because it says we can reach a rational understanding of human beings
and society and decide how to act consistently to change both people and societies according to our
SW as modern because we can understand and study social problems and society and take rational
action to deal with the problems we see
While postmodernism (PM) says that there is an alternative way of thinking about knowledge and
understanding – sees knowledge as always socially constructed and choice of which knowledge is
developed is not neutral
PM also says that we cannot objective observe society but rather that in observing we take part in
Language aids construction and is part of the politics of discourse
SW is seen in PM as being ambiguous, contested and responding to cultural and social context
Arenas of SW
Following from understanding theories, models and approaches as socially constructed Payne
examines the ways that this knowledge is influenced and created. He argues that 3 arenas influence
one another to create sw knowledge.
Social construction in sw is a complex of social structures and individual participants influencing each
3 arenas of construction
1.) Political-social-ideological arena
Social and political debate forms the policy that guides agencies and the purposes that they are set or
developed for themselves.
i.e. government agenda children so agencies deal with children
2.) Agency-professional area
Employees and collective organisations of employees such as trade unions, engage in influencing
each other about the more specific elements of how social work will operate
i.e. Trauma professionals association saying that Wits Trauma model is to be used
3.) Client-worker-agency arena
Selection or Eclecticism?
This links in with the generalist perspective which argues for eclecticism.
Selection – reviews theories and then selects on theory or a group of similar theories to use as the
basis of practice.
Problem with selection is that a particular theory may not be best one to use in the circumstances
Eclecticism refers to picking up some ideas from several theories and putting them together to
produce a style of work that suits our agency or our own capabilities and preferences.
Problem is that some theories are internally inconsistent with each other
Being eclectic is something that should be done in a planned way testing out our decisions with a
team of people. Shared construction is better than individual construction.
Must be mindful of values and sources of theories
Critical Thinking and Reflexive Practice:
So eclecticism is linked with critical thinking and reflexive practice. Need to adopt them to practice
Increasing process knowledge about the way in which professionals make decisions and judgements
Reflective thinking is concerned with identifying a process of working things through, while reflexive
thinking is concerned with the stance of taking into account as many different perspectives on the
situation as possible, and especially different perspectives among clients and their social networks.
Critical thinking means not taking for granted the present social order, but actively looking for social
FRAMEWORKS FOR ANALYSING THEORIES
So given the need for critical and reflexive thinking Payne proposes this framework for analyzing
theories and their key value bases and aims. Uses this to understand micro, macro and meso theories.
(Whittington and Holland, 1985 in Payne, 2005:45)
Theories of radical change
Radical SW Marxist SW
(‘raisers of consciousness’) (‘revolutionaries’)
Interactionist Traditional SW
(‘seekers after meaning’) (‘fixers’)
Humanist, postmodern, constructionist modernist, positivist, scientific
Theories of regulation