Direct social work practice is the application of social work theory and/or methods to the resolution and prevention of psychosocial problems experienced by individuals, families, and groups. In this article, direct practice is discussed in the context of social work values, empowerment, diversity, and multiculturalism, as well as with attention to client strengths, spirituality, and risk and resilience influences. The challenges of practice evaluation are also considered.
David F. Gillespie
Disasters are a form of collective stress posing an unavoidable threat to people around the world. Disaster losses result from interactions among the natural, social, and built environments, which are becoming increasingly complex. The risk of disaster and people's susceptibility to damage or harm from disasters is represented with the concept of vulnerability. Data from the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and genocide in Darfur, Sudan, show poor people suffer disproportionately from disasters. Disaster social work intervenes in the social and built environments to reduce vulnerability and prevent or reduce long-term social, health, and mental health problems from disasters.
Dual degree programs are growing rapidly around the country with increasing numbers of universities offering students an opportunity to earn an M.S.W. along with another degree. While two degrees offer clear benefits to the students and provide revenue to the institutions, they also raise some issues and concerns about the “relative worth” of an M.S.W.
Ruth J. Parsons and Jean East
The concept of empowerment has deep roots in social work practice. Building upon the work of empowerment theorists of the 1980s and 1990s and applied broadly in the 2000s [Itzhaky and York (2000), Social Work Research, 24, 225–234; Travis and Deepak (2011), Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 20, 203–222], the concept of empowerment has evolved from a philosophical level to practice frameworks and methods. Substantial research confirms empowerment outcomes as personal, interpersonal, and sociopolitical. Practice interventions contain both personal and structural dimensions and are accomplished through multilevel interventions. Based on transformation ideology, empowerment is a counter to perceived and objective powerlessness. Social work relationships provide an opportunity for experiencing power and collaboration. Empowerment interventions are often useful with vulnerable populations, such as women and members of stigmatized groups.
Tracy M. Soska
Housing, especially homeownership and affordable housing, remains essential to the American Dream but also among our most challenging social issues, particularly given the collapse of the housing market in the early 21st century. Housing and affordable housing are inextricably linked to both our national economic crisis and our wavering social policies. Housing is both symptomatic of and a catalyst for overarching social and economic issues, such as poverty, economic and educational inequality, and racial disparities, and it remains an unmet need for a significant portion of our population, such as the elderly, disabled, victims of abuse, those aging out of child welfare, veterans, ex-offenders, and others who encounter unique difficulties and lack of supportive services and service coordination. Advancing comprehensive and coordinated housing policies and programs remains important for social work and in the struggle for decent and affordable housing for all.
Benjamin J. Lough
This entry provides a brief historical overview of international volunteer service, along with changes to traditional forms of international service. It presents a general typology for contemporary international-service programs and reviews how these forms differ in practice. Using the limited data available, it provides a demographic snapshot of the scale and prevalence of international volunteer service from the United States and globally. The entry then reviews critical intersections between international service and social work, and describes debates of particular concern to the social worker profession. Finally, the entry outlines important areas for future social work research and practice.
Kathleen Coulborn Faller
Social workers play a vital role in helping physically and sexually abused children. In order to play this role, they need knowledge about the nature of the problem: (1) legal definitions of physical and sexual abuse, (2) its incidence and prevalence, and (3) its signs and symptoms. Social workers have three major roles to play: (1) identifying and reporting child abuse to agencies mandated to intervene; (2) investigating and assessing children and families involved in child abuse; and (3) providing evidence-based interventions, both case management and treatment, to physically and sexually abused children.
Deana F. Morrow
This entry will provide an overview of psychosocial issues and social work intervention relevant to working with lesbians. Practice issues related to the impact of heterosexism, coming out, lesbian identity development, and lesbian couple and family formation will be discussed. Assessment and intervention methods appropriate for social work practice with lesbians will be addressed.
A consistent theme for the majority of men in the United States remains the code of manhood. Men are expected by society to be stoic in the face of danger and to play out, in all aspects of life, the idea of the rugged individual going it alone, even in the face of a quickly changing world. Whereas social-work theorists and practitioners talk about male aggression, sexuality, intimacy, depression, anxiety, addiction, ageing, and work-related concerns, most men are less likely to view these as problems. If they do enter into counseling or treatment, they are less likely to remain for any length of time. Faced with these issues, practitioners are challenged to find ways of engaging men and forming successful collaboration and meaningful outcomes.
Katherine van Wormer
This article defines restorative justice and describes the models most relevant to social work. These include victim–offender conferencing (sometimes incorrectly referred to as mediation), family group conferencing, healing circles, and community reparations.
Restorative justice is an umbrella term for a victim-oriented method of righting a wrong, promoting healing following a conflict, including war, and/or providing a safety in the aftermath of violence (for example, child abuse). Such restorative strategies have their roots in the rituals of indigenous populations and modern-day religious practices, as stated by restorative justice pioneer, Howard Zehr. Restorative justice, as defined by the Social Work Dictionary is “a non-adversarial approach usually monitored by a trained professional who seeks to offer justice to the individual victim, the offender, and the community, all of whom have been harmed by a crime or other form of wrongdoing.” This emerging model for resolving conflict and/or righting a wrong focuses on repairing the harm done by an offense by involving the victim, the offender, and the community.
This article identifies resources on restorative justice theories and strategies with special relevance to social workers and to mental health professionals, as well as school and correctional counselors. At the micro level, restorative justice is played out as conferencing between victims and offenders—for example, by way of family group conferences and healing circles. At the macro or societal level, restorative justice takes the form of reparations or truth commissions—to compensate for the harm that has been done, for example, when mass persecutions of people have taken place. The magnitude of the situations covered under the rubric of restorative justice ranges from interpersonal violence to school bullying to mass kidnappings to full-scale terrorism and warfare.
Restorative justice refers not only to a number of strategies for resolving conflicts peacefully but also to a political campaign of sorts to advocate for the rights of victims and for compassionate treatment of offenders. Instead of incarceration, for example, the option of community service coupled with substance abuse treatment might be favored. From the offender’s standpoint, accountability and truth-telling are stressed, as the offender typically offers to make amends for the harm that was done. From the victim’s standpoint, a key theme is empowerment, through receiving an apology from the wrongdoer and receiving the support of caring participants.
Johnny S. Kim and Kristin Whitehill Bolton
In social work practice, the strengths perspective has emerged as an alternative to the more common pathology-oriented approach to helping clients. Instead of focusing on clients’ problems and deficits, the strengths perspective centers on clients’ abilities, talents, and resources. The social worker practicing from this approach concentrates wholly on identifying and eliciting the clients’ strengths and assets in assisting them with their problems and goals. This article discusses the historical development of the strengths perspective, practice techniques, current applications, and philosophical distinctiveness.
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.