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Updated information and emerging/influential models for family therapy. Includes family-centered social work practice and a new section on family therapy.

Updated on 1 October 2013. The previous version of this content can be found here.
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date: 07 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This entry traces the historical, conceptual, and theoretical development of social work practice with families, beginning with the Charity Organization Society and the Settlement House movement. From the 1920s through the 1950s, social work practice was heavily influenced by psychoanalytic theory. However, emerging theoretical frameworks, including systems and ecological theory from the 1960s and the 1970s, shifted the focus of intervention back to the family. The 1970s saw the development of a proliferation of models for family therapy. The emergence of postmodern, constructivist, narrative and feminist thought has had a more recent influence on social work practice with families. Although these theories and models of family therapy have profoundly influenced direct practice with families, there is a renewed interest in what is described as family-centered social work practice. The theoretical foundation of family-centered practice emphasizes a strengths perspective and an empowerment model of social work practice. This approach represents a broad range of interventions that build linkages between the family and key environmental support systems of diverse, multi-stressed, and at-risk families. During the 2000s, attention has shifted to evidence-based practice (EBP). The focus on EBP has been to provide a source of information for clinicians and families to consider when selecting an appropriate intervention for the presenting problem.

Keywords: direct practice with families, family practice, family therapy, social work with families

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