Discussion | SOCW 6060 – Social Work Theory and Practice | Walden University


Throughout this course, you have explored an array of theories and models and the ways in which theories provide a framework to view and conceptualize the problem, the therapeutic change process, your role within this change process, and assessment and interventions.

By now, you may be asking what your own theoretical orientation is. Before you determine your theoretical orientation, you should be aware that your personal values, worldviews, life experiences, spiritual or religious perspectives, personality, and biases influence your choice of theoretical orientations. At the same time, remember that your choice of a theoretical orientation is not static. It can change and evolve as you continue your professional and personal life journey. And, if you choose to conduct research and pursue doctoral education, you may even contribute to the body of knowledge upon which theories are built.

Reflecting on Your Theoretical Orientation 


Pruitt, N.T. (2014). From dodo bird to mindfulness: The effect of theoretical orientation on work and self. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 70(8), 753–759. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22110 

Coleman, D. (2008). Theoretical evaluation self-test: an interactive test of theoretical orientation for mental health clinicians or graduate students. Retrieved from http://web.pdx.edu/~dcoleman/test.html where to go to do the test 

Discussion: Reflection

Developing self-awareness starts with taking time to reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses, what distresses you, and what you find most comfortable in social work practice with your clients and colleagues. You have read about many theories and models at this point. There may have been theories and models that you were more inclined to use. Or there may have been theories and models you were not comfortable using.

The Theoretical Evaluation Self-Test (TEST) was developed by Daniel Coleman. It is a quantitative instrument that measures a therapist’s theoretical orientation. It consists of 30 close-ended statements with a 7-point Likert scale, asking the extent of agreement about “psychotherapy, the human psyche, and the therapeutic process” (Coleman, 2003, p. 74). The seven theoretical orientations that are measured are psychodynamic, biological, family systems, ecosystems, cognitive, pragmatic, and humanistic.

Coleman (2003) cautions that the TEST is not meant to give therapists a conclusive and definitive sense of their theoretical orientation. Rather, the goal is to promote self-reflection about their personal tendencies toward approaching therapy.

For this Discussion, you take the TEST to stimulate self-reflection. You will also take some time to reflect on all the different theories and models covered in this course.

To prepare: Take the TEST. There is both a web-based version, noted in the Learning Resources, and a paper version of the TEST.

· Discussion

· After taking the TEST, post your results. I have posted my test results 

  • Explain in 2 to 3 sentence the extent to which you were      surprised or not surprised by the TEST results and explain the reasons why      you were surprised or not surprised. 
  • After looking back at the array of theories and models      that were covered in this course, identify the top three theories or      models that most appealed to you. 
  • Explain in 3 to 4 sentences how your personal values,      world views, life experiences and/or your personality influenced your      selection of the top three theories or models. 

In this course, you were asked to select one case study to use throughout the entire course. Describe this experience—for example, the degree to which it was helpful to focus on one case, what you learned, what could perhaps be done differently. The case study I have picked was  Tiffani Bradley 


                                           INTERPRETING YOUR RESULTS


SUBSCALE                        YOUR   SCORE                     SAMPLE   OF 130 mean   (SD)

Psychodynamic                         26                                       26.2   (5.2)


Biological                                   19                                      14.6   (4.0)


Family                                        18                                     18.2   (4.0)


Ecosystems                                20                                    24.2   (2.6)


Cognitive                                    25                                     25   (4.5)


Pragmatic                                   27                                     20.1   (5.7)


Humanistic                                 17                                     10.4   (2.4)


Worksheet: Dissecting a Theory and Its Application to a Case Study

Most theories can be dissected and analyzed. All theories will tell you something about their focus or unit of analysis. A theory will identify its major or key concepts. It will also point to the definition of the problem and its cause. This then guides how the social worker assesses and intervenes, because the theory will also articulate the role of the social worker and how change occurs.


Basic Assumptions of   the Theory

Directions: For each section, respond in 2 to 3   sentences to the following prompts. Where relevant, provide citations to   support your claims.


Name of   theory

The theory that will   be used is system theory. 


Name of   theorist

In 1940, Ludwig von   Bertalanffy proposed this system is 1940 and later by Ross Ashby. Therefore,   it was introduced by L. von Bertalanffy. 


What are   the major assumptions of the theory?

The first major   assumption is that groups can use resources and processes so as to provide   the desired output. It provides guidelines, concepts, principles, and models   that can be applied in all the systems and social sciences. Additionally,   interactions make the parts meaningful. 


What are   the theory’s key concepts?

The key concepts are;   adaptation, system, boundaries, microsystem, mesosystem, macrosystem, and   feedback loop. 


What is the   theory’s focus or unit of analysis?

The theory’s focuses   on the introduction of basic concepts   and applications of system thinking. Its focus is also on the interactions   and relationships between parts. 


What is the   theory’s overall explanation for the cause of problems?

According to the   theory, problems are usually are an indication of a malfunctioning process.   The theory suggests that the whole system has a problem if one component of   the system is not functioning properly. 



Application to a   Case Study Tiffani Bradley

Directions: For each   section, respond to the following prompts. Where relevant, provide citations   to support your claims.


In 1 to 2   sentences, how does the theory define the client’s presenting problem?

System theory defines   Tiffani’s problem as a behavior that is caused by a malfunction of the   system. For this case, the system is Tiffani’s family. 


In 1 to 2   sentences, how does the theory explain the cause of the client’s presenting   problem?

For this case study,   Tiffani’s family which is a system is not functioning well because her   parents are abusing drugs.


In 1 to 2   sentences, how does the theory explain the role of the social worker for this   client?

The theory explains   the role of a social worker as one who gives the client emotional and mental   strength to ensure the client copes up   with problems in the society or family. 


In 1 to 2   sentences, what does the theory say about how this client will improve or how   change will occur?

According to the   theory, the steps to be taken in forming a solution are; recognizing an   opportunity or a problem, developing an alternative   system solution, selecting system solution. Designing the selected system   solution and evaluating the success. 


Using the   theory, list 2 to 3 assessment questions to ask this client to explore the   client’s goals and how they will get there.

1. What   aspects of your life are affected by the absence of any member of your family?

2. Is   there any external assistance that ensures your family is functioning as one   system?


According   to the theory, identify 2 to 3 specific practice intervention strategies for   the client relative to the presenting problem. For each, explain in 1   sentence how it will help meet the client’s goals. 

1. Networking   and referrals

Tiffani can be   referred to specialists or to connect them with resources that can help with   her situation. 

2. Ecomaps

This is a diagram   that will help Tiffani in understanding a family’s and community’s   interrelated progression. 


Based on   the theory, list 2 to 3 outcomes when evaluating whether an intervention is   effective.

1. View   of the client towards her family

2. Behavioral   change 


What is one   strength and one limitation in using this theory for this client?

1. It   will help in the coordination of   specialized activities that will help Tiffani.

2. It   cannot be directly or easily applied to practical problems. 


Turner,   F. J. (Ed.). (2017). Social work treatment: Interlocking theoretical   approaches (6th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.



Questions to   Consider When Evaluating the Theory 

You are not required to answer these questions for   this assignment. However, these questions could help stimulate thinking   whenever you are asked to evaluate a theory. 


To what   extent does the theory apply widely to diverse situations? Or does it apply   narrowly to particular situations?


Is the   theory ethical? Is it consistent with the NASW Code of Ethics?


Is the   theory congruent with the professional value base of the social work field?


How cost   effective would it be to implement interventions based on the theory?


To what   extent does the theory fit within the organization’s or agency’s philosophy?


What do   research studies say about how effective the interventions are?

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