Professional Social Work Practice Framework

Important elements of a professional social work practice framework include knowledge, values, skills and ‘self’ as the instrument of practice. The process of making a practice framework is best described by use of a metaphor such as constructing a house or baking bread. The various elements- for instance, the foundations, walls and roofing; the flour, sweetener, eggs and yeast- symbolize the different elements of skills, knowledge and values. When such elements interact, they create a sound framework that ensures social work is practiced holistically. Three models that conceptualize the progress towards creating a professional social work practice framework and its different elements are evident in literature. They are the rope metaphor model, the Common Base of Social Work Practice, and Common Whole of Social Work.

Martini, Lowery and Meyer developed the rope model in 2002, with the rope being an allegory for the social work professional practice. The model likens the social work practice to a rope made up of numerous strands entwined and relying on each other to make a complete rope. The strands are equivalent to the elements of professional social work practice framework. In social work framework, these elements/ strands are skills, practitioner’s obligations, knowledge, beliefs and values.  Every strand in the rope, like each element of the framework, is composed of numerous threads.  Additionally, similar to the rope, social work practice could be direct involving straightforward problems as in an unwinding rope or it can be curved and with loops characterizing complex aspects of the practice framework (Mattini, Lowery & Meyer, 2002).

The rope allegory describes the primary model for the professional social work practice framework.  It integrates different important elements of the practice (knowledge, practitioner’s roles, skills, beliefs, and values) and demonstrates how their interaction is required to achieve the goals of social work practice.  This abstract outline similarly evidently exhibits the non-linearity that characterizes professional social work practice.  In actual practice, efforts and outcomes are frequently not proportional.  For instance, regardless of a practitioner investing considerable amount of time and energy trying to support and help a person overcome/solve a problem, these massive efforts may not automatically transform into the resolution of the issue.  The vice versa could also be true, as little input could yield abundant results. The Rope Model, however, does not encompass other important elements of social work practice including interventional methods and domain of practice. Overall, it is quite a general model that can function in many other practices other than social work practice. Professional social work practice requires an intangible model that outlines distinctive function by recognizing the practice’s unique roles.  Therefore, the rope allegory needs to be expounded more to make an all-inclusive, social work-practice framework.

Towards such advancement, Bartlett developed the Common Base of Social Work Practice model in 1970. She describes that social work practice is founded on three elements: (i) a primary emphasis on social functioning, (ii) an all-encompassing direction to clients being helped openly or circuitously, and (iii) a range of specialized interventions by qualified social work practitioners.  She categorizes the environment surrounding the individual as the primary concern for the practitioners of social work and a critical area to the social work profession as a whole (Ramsay, 2001). In contrast to the rope allegory, this model recognized a critical area of practice of the social work profession moving away from the conventional view of social work being based on dual principles of environment surrounding the individual and the individual themselves. Bartlett’s model led to recognition of social work practice as a connection-engrossed profession, consequently pinpointing the profession’s distinctive, unifying emphasis on networking (Ramsay, 2001, p. 5). Moreover, she transformed social work’s disjointed approach of theorizing methods of practice by replacing the concept of methods with a better approach of professional intervention (Allan, Briskman & Pease, 2009).  Further, the model recognizes the interconnectedness among the personal and professional lives of the social workers. Bartlett’s model advanced the social work profession’s views on aspects such as areas and approaches of practice, the theories about roles of a practitioner, participatory thinking, intervention measures or components, the process of assessment and social functioning. Other aspects recognized in the model are the professional relationships that exist between the clients and practitioner, the role of communication in improving outcomes of social work, skills and expertise needed in the field of social work, systematic methods employed in social work practice and the role of social work in bettering individual and society outcomes.

A third theory – the common whole of social work – has enhanced the features presented in Bartlett’s model. Developed by Ramsay, the framework highlights the four basic elements of a holistic social work framework should (2001). He states that the modest complete system practice of the world ought to be geometrically multi-sided; an exclusive arrangement outlining set of autonomous and interrelated parts comprising of four components, four façades, and six interlinking associations (Ramsay, 2001, p. 4). Hence, to be all-inclusive a conceptual outline needs to have at least four elements interrelated in a holistic arrangement (Chenoweth & McAuliffe, 2005). Bartlett documented the imperative usage of client-practitioner self but ignored to integrate this key element into her three-point approach of her framework.  Owing to the important influence that a social work practitioner’s individual person-environment interaction bears on ones social work profession, this fact ought to be incorporated as a core element in her framework.  Despite the fact that Bartlett’s model did not earn recognition globally, it prospered in categorizing important elements of social work practice that possibly may be expounded to develop a new all-inclusive framework for social work profession (Sheafor & Horejsi 2006).

Ramsay put up more theories on the model developed by Bartlett and additionally progressed professional social work practice framework in his model the Common Whole of Social Work. He applied the tetrahedron, as the backbone structure to categorize the important elements of the social work.  The complete tetrahedral system is made up of four interrelated elements that can be deconstructed into their individual components. He projected a mutual abstract framework that integrates four theories and perceptions common to professional social work practice: (a) area of the social work profession, (b) model of the practice, (c) practice methods, and (d) realm of the social work practitioners (Kerson & McCoyd, 2010). The Common Whole of Social Work model integrates a systematic base that is critical for assisting social work practitioners to comprehend the reality-defined foundation of the facts they are using.  The systematic base similarly aids to demonstrate the connection among core elements of social work profession.

To get the best out of the intervention measures, practitioners ought to ensure that four elements of Ramsay’s model are properly connected and united with each other (Ramsay, 2001). The tetrahedral approach gives him a chance to reveal the central elements of his model to additionally demonstrate the intricacy of social work profession.  For instance, because the social surroundings   hold a critical role in determining the person’s well-being, he develops his realm of the social work profession to take account of person and three façades of otherness, individual, resources, and validator. (Ramsay 1994).  By describing this, he demonstrates the intricacy contained in Area of Practice.

Besides integrating the key elements from Bartlett’s model, Ramsay recognizes domain of the social worker as another important element professional social work framework.  Through incorporating the element of the social workers, he pulls thoughtfulness to the distinctive application of self-care in the personal and professional aspects of the social workers.  In contrast to some occupations where their practitioners can have distinct professional and personal lives, in social work there must be a corresponding existence of both (Ramsay, 2001). Another advantage of Ramsay’s model is that it is applicable in the different levels of social work practice including native, local, nationwide and global.  The four important elements of the framework center on the transverse relationships existing in the profession hitherto, allowing opportunity for the massive multiplicity within social work profession like areas of practice, customer systems, and involvements. He expertly developed a balanced framework that is realistic and universally applicable to social work practice around the world.

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