Flavio F. Marsiglia, David Becerra, and Jaime M. Booth
Prevention is a proactive science-based process that aims to strengthen existing protective factors and to diminish or eliminate other factors that put individuals, families, and communities at risk for substance abuse. Prevention is important because alcohol and drug abuse are a leading cause of morbidity, mortality, and health expenditures in the United States. Alcohol and other drug abuse is also associated with infectious diseases, chronic diseases, emergency room visits, newborn health problems, family violence, and auto fatalities. The comorbidity of drug and alcohol abuse with mental health disorders and HIV adds urgency to the development, evaluation, and implementation of comprehensive and effective prevention interventions. The social work profession plays a key role in substance abuse prevention, as it not only targets the use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs but also aims at reducing the related negative health and psychosocial outcomes and economic burden they produce on individuals and society at large.
Chaos theory and complexity theory, collectively known as nonlinear dynamics or dynamical systems theory, provide a mathematical framework for thinking about change over time. Chaos theory seeks an understanding of simple systems that may change in a sudden, unexpected, or irregular way. Complexity theory focuses on complex systems involving numerous interacting parts, which often give rise to unexpected order. The framework that encompasses both theories is one of nonlinear interactions between variables that give rise to outcomes that are not easily predictable. This entry provides a nonmathematical introduction, discussion of current research, and references for further reading.
Christina E. Newhill
Client violence and workplace safety are relevant issues for all social workers across practice settings. This entry addresses why and how social workers may be targets for a client's violent behavior, and what we know about who is at risk of encountering violence. Understanding violence from a biopsychosocial perspective, identifying risk markers associated with violent behavior, and an introduction to guidelines for conducting a risk assessment will be discussed. The entry concludes by identifying and describing some general strategies for the prevention of client violence.
Joshua Kirven and George Jacinto
Community healing and reconciliation have been a focus of many nations in response to civil war, genocide, and other conflicts. There have been increasing numbers of high-profile murders of African-American youths in the United States over the past 10 years. This article provides an overview of gun violence and its effects on African-American youths. Sanford, Florida, and Cleveland, Ohio, experienced the murders of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, and the responses of the cities will be highlighted. The two cities provide potential models by communities to address historical injustices in the aftermath of high-profile fatal black male tragedies.
Conflict resolution is a core competency for social workers, and social workers have contributed greatly to this thriving field. Conflict resolution as a field of practice includes mediation, facilitation, conflict coaching, dispute system design and management, and arbitration. Conflict professionals provide preventative, restorative, substantive, procedural, and decision-making services to people in conflict. The use of conflict resolution processes is rapidly growing in areas of traditional social work practice such as child welfare, special education, family counseling, care of the elderly, and medical care. This is a tremendous potential growth area for social work.
Katharine Briar-Lawson and Toni Naccarato
Over the decades, family services have been one of the overarching features of social work practice, education, and research. Efficacy studies help to reinforce the focus on serving individuals in the contexts of their families and to address intergenerational family systems. Families provide the bulk of services to their members but require tailored resources, effective services, and supports. The growing diversity in families compels more cross-cultural competence, responsive policies, and evidence-based practices. Family service practitioners must increasingly address the social exclusion of many families while integrating economic and employment supports with counseling, skill training, and other interventions.
Reeta Wolfsohn and Dorlee Michaeli
Financial well-being is an individual responsibility in twenty-first century America, even though research reveals a serious inability for many Americans to attain it. Social workers have the education and training to help people modify behavior and a history of working with low-income and minority families, as well as the skills to engage and empower clients, making them the best professionals to help Americans take control of their money and their lives. This article explains how incorporating financial-literacy skills and models of financial behavioral change into the social work curriculum would benefit both social workers and their clients. It describes the financial social work model and an understanding of its relevance to the social work profession.
Elizabeth Ann Danto
Psychoanalysis is both a theory and a therapy, largely based on the work of Sigmund Freud but widely expanded over the last hundred years. Four core models (ego psychology, drive theory, object relations, and self-psychology) evolved from Freud's theories of the mind. While each model takes a different approach to treatment, all result in the systematic exploration of unconscious and seemingly irrational aspects of human behavior. Feminist, postmodernist, and intersectionality theories have added new dimensions to psychoanalytic exploration of individual and family, human sexuality, groups, work and organizational systems, and social struggles. New research in neuroscience is confirming the biological basis for unconscious emotional processing within the human brain.
Psychodrama is an action oriented method that shares many of social work core values, for example nonjudgmental acceptance of others, viewing individuals in their context, a deep belief in humans' creative potential, and empowering people who are disenfranchised, stigmatized, or oppressed. The creator of this method was also a pioneer in family therapy, group therapy, and community organization. Psychodrama may be applied to other theoretical approaches in dealing with psychological or social problems, and has been applied to many population groups and in dealing with many issues (for example, trauma, addiction, crisis intervention).
Steven P. Segal
Self-help groups facilitate mutual assistance. They offer a vehicle for people with a common problem to gain support and recognition, obtain information on, advocate on behalf of, address issues associated with, and take control of the circumstances that bring about, perpetuate, and provide solutions to their shared concern. Self-help groups may be small informal groups, confined to interactive support for their members, or differentiated and structured multiservice agencies. In the latter case, they are recognized in the self-help community as mutual assistance organizations, as distinct from professionally led organizations, when they are directed and staffed by “self-helpers” and when these self-helpers are well represented as board members and have the right to hire and fire professionals in the organization. Self-help groups and organizations empower members through shared example and modeled success. Spread throughout the world they are a major resource to social workers seeking to help their clients to help themselves.
Judy L. Postmus
Sexual assault or rape affects millions of women and men in the United States; however, it is only in the last 30 years that it is being considered a social problem. During this period, many policies at the state and federal levels have attempted to address sexual assault and provide legal remedies for victims. However, sexual assaults are still the most underreported crime in the United States and are accompanied by bias and misinformation that plague our response. Social workers play a crucial role in offering services to survivors and advocating for more education and awareness in our communities and universities.
Tomi Gomory and Daniel Dunleavy
Social work is perhaps most distinctive for its clear and outspoken commitment toward improving the well-being of society’s vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, while still emphasizing the importance of respecting and defending personal rights and freedoms. Though there is a fundamental necessity for coercion, or its threat, for eliciting civil social behavior in a well-functioning society, it is professionally and ethically imperative that social workers make explicit our rationales for, justifications of, and the evidence used to support or reject coercive practices in our work. Social work’s engagement with coercion inevitably entails the ethical and social policy arguments for and against its use, as shown in a review of the empirical evidence regarding its impact on the professions’ clients, exemplified by three domains: (1) child welfare, (2) mental health, and (3) addictions. Recommendations for future improvements involve balancing the potential for harm against the benefits of coercive actions.
This essay broadly examines theory, practice, and the role of theory in practice. Theory has an abstract and philosophical side and a concrete, empirical, or practice side. Theories need practitioners to activate their power, which is to name the attributes, qualities, limits, and potentials of client and social work realities. No theory is so powerful it knows or explains everything, thus practitioners must use their in vivo perceptual skills to fit the best theory to the level of practice reality that confronts them. This essay broadly examines the role of theory in social work practice. To do so, one must answer three related questions: what is theory?, what is practice?, and, what is the role of theory in practice? In answering the first question, it is useful to examine the etymology of the word theory, identify its various meanings, and specify which meanings are relevant to a discussion of the role of theory in practice, and second, it is useful to understand the philosophical assumptions that inevitably influence the process of theory building and application.
David R. Hodge
This entry addresses the topic of spirituality in the social work profession, with an emphasis on the American context. Toward that end, the history of the relationship between the profession and spirituality is traced from the profession’s origins, through secularization, to the present reemergence of spirituality as a legitimate subject in social work discourse. The diverse ways in which spirituality and religion are conceptualized are reviewed along with rationales that are advanced to support the inclusion of spirituality in social work. The topics of spiritual assessment and intervention are discussed and guidelines for using spiritual interventions in practice settings are presented with a brief review of the research on spiritual interventions from an evidenced-based perspective. Some of the organizations that help support and nurture spirituality in social work are delineated. The entry concludes with a summary of proscriptions for advancing spirituality to the next stage in its professional development.
M. J. Gilbert
In this entry, transgender is defined in the context of ethnomethodology and social construction of gender. A history of the role of transgender people in the gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights movement is presented, including tensions concerning the role of transgender people in this movement. Issues regarding social work practice related to transgender issues on the micro, mezzo, macro, and meta levels are discussed.