Systems Approach

In this course, you will be asked to select one case study and to use it throughout the entire course. By doing this, you will have the opportunity to see how theories guide your view of a client and the client’s presenting problem. Although the case may be the same, each time you use a different theory, your perspective of the problem changes, which then changes how you go about asking the assessment questions and how you intervene.

The first theoretical approach you will use to apply to a case study is systems theory. In other words, your theoretical orientation—your lens—will be systems theory as you analyze a social work case study.

Different theories can be used to take a systems approach. For example, Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory considers how a system is made of smaller subsystems that influence each other and seek homeostasis, whereas Brofennerbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory focuses on how an individual’s experience is influenced by different system levels (micro, meso, exo, macro, and chrono). Systems theory is commonly used to understand the interrelationships of the systems (e.g., family, community, organizations, society) of the client. If you are working with families, communities, and organizations, it is also beneficial to use systems theory to get a holistic picture of all the interrelated parts of the system.

To prepare: Select and focus on one of four case studies listed in the Learning Resources. You will use this same case study throughout the course.

By Day 7

  • Focus on the identified client within your chosen case.
  • Analyze the case using a systems approach, taking into consideration both family and community systems.
  • Complete and submit the “Dissecting a Theory and Its Application to a Case Study” worksheet based on your analysis.

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

 

 

Name of theorist

 

 

What are the major assumptions of the theory?

 

 

What are the theory’s key concepts?

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 
Application to a Case Study <insert the name of the client>

 

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?

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 
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?