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Social Work: A case study in applying theories to practice

Social Work: A case study in applying theories to practice

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A critical analysis by Dr Ignatius Gwanmesia into the application of theory into practice using a typical reality case example. Comments and views welcomed. TEl: 07951 622137.
A critical analysis by Dr Ignatius Gwanmesia into the application of theory into practice using a typical reality case example. Comments and views welcomed. TEl: 07951 622137.

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Dr Ignatius Gwanmesia on May 13, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Social Work: A case study in applying theories to practicePresenting Circumstance
Mr. A is age 40, unemployed and living with his wife and six year old son; C in a two-bedroom council flat in London. He is not only a gambler with drink problem, he isknown to the police and social services for domestic violence towards his wife; MrsA. He is notorious within the neighbourhood for his constant rows and aggression;sometimes accompanied by violence towards his wife. The latter is a catalogueshopping addict. As a consequence of their spendthrift lifestyles, the family is facingaction from the bailiffs for mounting debts. Additionally, their son’s aggressiontowards local children within the estate means that the family is also facing thepossibility of eviction from their council home for reasons of persistent Anti SocialBehaviour (ASBO). As a further insight into the family’s circumstance, the couple’sparents are living way from London.
So why, and which social work theories can be used to assess, explain and  justify the processes of intervention in this case? 
The positive indicators in thiscase are that apart from having an insight into their situation they were welling toreceive help in resolving their problem. Most importantly, they wanted to rebuild their relationship as opposed to a divorce
While there is consensus that “the concept of theory is a social construct”, Payne,(1997, p. 26), for the purpose of this discourse, theory denotes, “a set of proposiotions which posit the nature of the relationships between predefinedconstructs or variables” Glynis et al., (1995, p. 5). Similarly, while applying theoriesto practice may not necessary lead to positive outcomes; it establishes a systematicapproach to social work processes. The problem with choosing a particula
perspective is that, while no particular theory is implicitly comprehensive; objectivelyapplied, any theory can prove contextually appropriate.However, Payne, (1997, p. 36) asserts that theories are most effective whencombined and that in isolation, “the theory’s value is vitiatedIndeed incontemporary complex and dynamic society with corresponding heterogeneity in itssocial problems, theory triangulation (combining theories) is essential to better understand, explain and address the myriads of interrelated problems that is
‘social work 
’. The very use of theory in social work per se is indispensible in establishingsome degree of rationality in what would otherwise be a chaotic occurrence. 
Reasons for choosing particular theories
Argued on appropriateness rather than convenience; the ‘
Psychodynamic theory 
by Freud and the ‘
 Attachment theory 
by ‘Bowlby’ in particular; and the systemtheory in general seem most applicable to this case study. This preference is basedon the premise that family and relationship problems may be rooted in ineffectivepersonality developmental childhoods. Within this context, Thomas and Pierson,(1999, p.302) state that, “the psychodynamic approach views the adultPERSONALITY as product of childhood development” Similarly, Payne, (1997, p.79) states that “the important focus on social work on childhood and earlyrelationships and maternal deprivation comes from psychodynamics theory” Indeed,Lishman, (2003, p. 14) suggests the use of the attachment theory in cases of relationship and dysfunctional family situations because it seems to appropriatelyexplain behavioural and relationship problems as typical of this case. Thesuggestion here is that, Mr A’s drinking, gambling, aggression with associatedviolence; and Mrs A’s indiscriminate spending could be consequential of their deficient or ineffective childhood developments. Additionally, according to Payne,(1997, p. 291) both theories provide comprehensive models “that claim to offer asystem of thought to cover all the practice social workers might want to undertake”Payne, (1997, p.291). Additionally, Wood and Hollis, (1990, p. 9) perceivepsychodynamic theory as inseparable from family therapy. It is the combination of these arguments, capped with my critical judgement that has influenced the choice
of these formal theories. With the family as a system; the sum of whose integralcontributions is a factor of the wellbeing of the whole unit, the system theoryadequately establishes the cause and effect relationship in the problems of the A’sfamily. For example, resolving the conflict between the parents is bound to producesimilar effect of their child; C, and possibly resulting in a united and happy family.
Now what are these theories? 
The Psychodynamic theory and its principles
Developed from the works of Sigmund Freud, psychodynamic theories assume that,“behaviours come from movements and interaction in people’s minds” Payne, (1997,p. 72). It “relates to the internal psychological conflicts between the irrationalpleasure drives of the
and the social conscience of the ‘
, mediated bythe ‘
or psychological regulator.” Thompson, (2000, p. 63). Therefore, a well-developed ego and superego would have ensured for a better relationship within theA’s family. Psychodynamic would suggest that, Mr A’s drinking and aggression couldbe a way of avoiding facing reality and his responsibility within their relationship byfalling back (regression) to his irrational ‘id’ behaviours. Wood, (1971). Equally, Mrs.A’s compulsive catalogue buying and Mrs A’s gambling could be “drives to satisfysome personal unidentified tension or libido within them.” Payne, (1997, p.73).Additionally, Mr A’s aggression with associated violence in particular, and their stormy relationship in particular, could signify under-development of their egos andsuper egos to enable them socialise and behave rationally as married couples. Theimplication is that, apart from their own neglected wellbeing; the A’s traumaticrelationship has deprived them of the effective communication and joint decision-making about the welfare of their son. In conflict, parents are “too preoccupied withtheir own feelings to understand their children’s needs” Mitchell, (1985).

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