SWK311: Theory Summary Assignment

SWK311: Theory Summary Assignment


The work social workers do is informed by theories of individual, family, group and community development. Social workers need to become familiar with the basic theories about human behavior, which explain how problems develop and change occurs, as theory will inform and influence the interventions a social worker will use  to help their clients. Social work interventions are planned, purposeful and goal directed. Practice theories help a social worker in understanding how clients cope and adapt to stress and inform and organize a plan of action to meet our their needs.  In short theories provide a lens through which social workers “see” their clients’ strengths and weaknesses and inform a way of focusing their helping efforts.   Purpose:

The purpose of this assignment is to begin to familiarize students with the different ways of understanding clients and their needs through primary social work practice theories. The theories that we will explore are psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, family systems and crisis theories.  These theories have been chosen because they represent the primary theoretical foundation for human behavior and social work practice. It is important to become exposed to these different theories because our clients are unique and the better versed social workers are with understanding our clients from diverse vantage points the more effective we will be in our helping efforts.


Students are expected to summarize in your own words how each of the major theories that we are studying:

Psychodynamic (Ego Psychology or Object Relations Theory)

Cognitive-Behavioral (Behavioral or Cognitive Theory)

  1. Explain the nature of how problems develop
  2. Explain how change occurs
  3. Apply how the theory helps you in understanding;

1) the client’s needs

2) informs how you as a social worker might intervene to help the client

In short, according to the theory how do you understand the client’s primary need(s), what does the theory say about how change occurs and given your understanding of the theory what would you do?

Summaries for each theory should be 2-3 pages (double spaced, twelve point font, 1” margins, please include cover page with the name of the theory and your name with the first page) with the first page or so dedicated to summarizing the theory and the rest of the paper to its application to the case.   Papers are due the week following the presentation of the theory in class.  This assignment is worth 20% of the course grade.Case Scenario: Jason

You are a social worker for a community based multi-service agency that offers counseling, youth development programs (e.g. job assistance, tutoring, recreational/socialization programs), case management and advocacy services. You are contacted by a 38 year old mother asking for help for her 16 year old son, Jason who according to the school is not attending school or doing homework regularly and appears “unmotivated.”  In making contact with the center his mother described him as being “uncooperative and oppositional” as he erratically complies with his curfew and she feels does not listen to her. She has noticed these behaviors for about the past year and feels they are becoming more evident and is fearful of him possibly dropping out and losing him “to the streets.” Education and his completing school is very important to her because she dropped out in high school and struggled until obtaining her GED as a young adult and she does not want to see him go through the same struggles she did. She has concerns about some of his social and peer relationships who she feels he treats with more respect and with more importance than her and the family. She feels she and he had a good relationship, which has changed as he has gotten older and complained that they “don’t seem to talk anymore.”

According to her son, who states that “at least he attends school more regularly than the majority of his friends and eventually always comes home.” He believes his mom expects too much from him and she is always on him to go to school, to clean up after himself, to let her know where he is and to come home at a decent hour. This results in arguments between them and he finds that they are yelling at each other more often (which he does not like) and a few times has led to his mother slapping him when he cursed at her. He denies ever hitting his mother although he says “she really gets me tight.” He believes his mother does not trust him and “is constantly in his business” which he states is why he doesn’t tell her anything. He currently does not have a steady girlfriend but “sees” a couple of girls with whom he is close to and is aware of the need to practice safe sex although he doesn’t always with little concern for the potential consequences.  He denied alcohol use preferring to smoke weed which he will do occasionally with his friends. He lives with his single, unemployed mother, who is in the process of applying for social security disability because of back pain suffered in a car accident 6 months ago, and 67-year old retired, maternal grandmother who is in good health and attends the neighborhood senior center.    He reports that he had a good relationship with his grandmother but as he has gotten older he feels she has started to take his mother’s side against him. His father has never been much of a resource for the family as he left when he was about eight years old and neither he nor his family knows of the father’s whereabouts.

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