Week 4 – Assignment: Apply Theoretical Perspectives to Intervene in Real-life Scenarios

Week 4

Traditional Theories and Models of Practice

While effective social workers possess very specific skills that are honed on the job, those same skills are grounded in theoretical perspectives to assist in understanding why and what is being done. This week, you will review some of the most commonly accepted theories and models in social work practice.

The first is Systems Theory, which examines human behavior in terms of the various systems within which an individual may function. This can include family units, schools, societies, and other systems. Social workers help clients navigate the various systems affecting their lives so understanding the structure, interrelationships, and influences of these systems are extremely important.

Another is Social Learning Theory, posited by psychologist Albert Bandura, which suggests people learn through observation and imitation and that new behavior will continue if it is reinforced.

Psychodynamic Theory, developed by Sigmund Freud, explains how internal and external forces interact to influence individuals’ personality development, which manifests in their behavior.

Generalist Theory assumes social workers needed to consider and work with both the individual and the environment as they attempted to improve the life quality and functioning of individuals, groups, and communities.

Other theories informing social work practice include Behavioral Theory and Cognitive Theory. Behavioral Theory, developed by B. F. Skinner, suggests people learn through reinforcement and punishment and therefore, behaviors that are reinforced tend to be repeated and behaviors that are punished are extinguished.

Cognitive Theory, developed by Aaron Beck, suggests that your internal world determines your behavior and that thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are interconnected, and that individuals can improve their functioning by modifying unhelpful thinking and changing problematic emotions, which then impacts behavior.

Be sure to review this week’s resources carefully. You are expected to apply the information from these resources when you prepare your assignments.

Books and Resources for this Week

Human Behavior and the Social Environment: Shifting Paradigms in Essential Knowledge for Social…

Week 4 – Assignment: Apply Theoretical Perspectives to Intervene in Real-life Scenarios


For each of the following three scenarios, use a chart format to assess how each traditional theoretical perspective would best explain the situation that a social worker would need to address. You may create your charts in Word or another software program of your choice. An example chart follows the three scenarios.

Scenario 1

You are a hospital social worker who is working with a family whose older adult relative is in the hospital because of end-stage renal failure. The older relative has left no advanced directives regarding medical decisions. There is conflict between family members over how to proceed with the older relative’s care.

Scenario 2

You are a caseworker in a drug court. Your client has had three consecutive dirty urine analyses. She is unemployed and has violated her probation order.

Scenario 3

You are a school social worker. You have been asked by your principal to start a social skills group. Along with the third-grade teachers, you identify eight students who you believe will benefit from participation in this weekly group. You have never run a social skills group before and are starting to plan your first meeting.

Chart Example:

The questions to the right of each theory in the chart below serve as a guide for you to use as you assess each situation according to the stated theory. Please respond to these questions in your explanation of each scenario. Feel free to include information other than the answers to the questions to demonstrate deeper understanding of the theories.

Theory Explanation for Scenario – please respond to the questions below in your explanation
Systems Theory Who is your client? Of what systems is this client a part? How are those systems related (i.e. individual is part of a nuclear family which is embedded in an extended family and/or family interacts with certain other systems)? How does what is happening in one of those systems impact what happens in another system? How might you intervene in these systems based on your answers to these questions?
Generalist Theory Who is your client? Describe how you might engage this client. How would you assess this client? Based on the data from your assessment, how might you intervene with this client? What are some methods you could use to evaluate that intervention? What factors would you need to keep in mind when planning to terminate your professional relationship with this client. How would you appropriately follow up with this specific client?
Behavioral Theory Who is your client? What adaptive behaviors is the client exhibiting? What maladaptive behaviors is the client exhibiting? What is the antecedent (immediate cause) of the maladaptive behaviors? What are the consequences of the maladaptive behaviors? How are maladaptive behaviors being reinforced? What behavioral intervention would you suggest to extinguish the maladaptive behaviors?
Cognitive Theory Who is your client? What is the identified problem? What questions will you ask to determine how your clients is thinking about this problem? What questions will you ask to figure out how those thoughts create emotions? What behavior (broadly defined) do you see as a result of these thoughts and emotions? How might you intervene at the cognitive level- the client’s thoughts- to change those thoughts, emotions, and ultimately behaviors?

Support your assignment with a minimum of three resources.

Length: 3 charts, not including title and reference pages

Your assignment should demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the ideas and concepts presented in the course by providing new thoughts and insights relating directly to this topic. Your response should reflect scholarly writing and current APA standards where appropriate. Be sure to adhere to Northcentral University’s Academic Integrity Policy.

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