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date: 26 January 2021

Practice Cyberneticslocked

  • J. Christopher HallJ. Christopher HallUniversity of North Carolina at Wilmington


This article presents a history and overview of first- and second-order cybernetics and the ways in which the theories inform models of social work practice. A foundational understanding of cybernetics is crucial for social workers because it forms the groundwork for how models of practice operationalize the ideal counseling relationship and how client problems will be assessed. A first-order approach invites the social worker to begin counseling via an objective assessment derived from a defined theory of normality, whereas a second-order approach suggests that a social worker adopt a curious or not-knowing approach to explore collaboratively with the client to decide how problems will be understood and how solutions to problems may be constructed. These approaches are sometimes differentiated as first-order, or modern, and second-order, or postmodern.

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