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Generalist Practice in Social Work Essay

As generalist, social workers operate from a base of diverse skills which enable them to help individuals with personal problems, while simultaneously confronting the larger issues which are problematic for communities or organizations. Based upon the Generalist Intervention Model, today’s social worker must be equipped with a skill set that is able to address micro, mezzo and macro systems in order to effect change and address issues at each of these levels. Micro systems are defined as individuals, mezzo systems represent small groups and macro systems are large organizations and communities. This book outlines the bases of these three areas of practice in the form of a guide. We are shown the commonalities between the three systems. More importantly a practical model for initiating macro change in organizations and communities is provided in detail; along with analysis of the specific skill set required to enact these changes thru the macro intervention process. This book is essential for helping the social worker to understand how to effectively advocate for client resources and services, by using agency skills within a community context.

The ability to navigate from community to agency, in providing client services is the bases of achievement within the social worker profession. Knowledge of the macro system as it pertains to the role of the agency is germaine to establishing what a social worker can and cannot accomplish for their client. Similarly community issues must be understood for the impact that they present on the social workers ability to perform. The core of the book’s ideology on generalist practitioners is that they possess a wide diverse skill set along with comprehensive understanding of organizational functioning, to perform as a liaison helping their clients (micro system) to benefit from the macro system. Specifically, the book delineates the need for social workers to be thoroughly aware of how organizations function within the community and within towns, counties, states, the national and on the international level, to have a working framework that will enable them to help individual clients, groups, families and communities.

This book seeks to address the means of accessing resources and contributing to effecting change within the organization to this end. In exploring the macro systems, diverse methods of intervention are presented, from the perspective of how they affect the social worker’s ability to provide services at the community and organizational levels. The strategies offered in the exploration of the generalist intervention model have proven effective when utilized to present ideas involving changes at the macro level, which are based upon experiences encountered in providing micro services. This is an essential part of the social worker’s role, helping the agency to improve service to clients, from input gained from the social worker in actual practice. Generalist practice is an outgrowth from historical social worker practice, in its expansive approach which incorporates a wide knowledge of skills and professional values enabling the social worker to work across the board, in providing specific client services. This model represents a change in the historical practice of having practicitioners specialize in one area of practice, such as with individuals or administration.

In employing the generalist approach the overriding benefit is that problems are now dealt with from numerous perspectives that may involve all three systems. Presenting the foundation for generalist practice the authors define knowledge, skills and values as the basic three areas needed to be assessed when evaluating any problem. This paradigm is further broken down into the steps to be undertaken to put the model into usage. These fundamental critical thinking skills include engagement, assessment, planning, implementation, evaluation, termination and follow up, with room for reassessment or discontinuation of contact as the basis of the the generalist intervention model. Specific case histories are given as examples of how these steps can be effectively enacted to address the wide range of problems that social workers confront. To this end, the authors target the basic requirements for social workers necessary to enacting the generalist practice as: extreme flexibility, wide base of knowledge about many aspects of life and the mastery of a range of problem solving skills that may be utilized at the micro, mezzo and macro levels. Therefore the ability to apply this knowledge, combined with professional values thru the use of recognized skills and practices, forms the basis of generalist practice.

In possessing these skills, the social worker is able to work within any size system in a wide range of professional capacities. Some of these may include mediator, education, initiator, negotiator, advocate, and general manager, as examples. Presenting the varied roles, necessary for the social worker to perform, the author’s elucidate upon a variety of topics related to professional ethics, exploring the values and mindset that the social worker needs to adapt to their professional role effectively. Special attention is given to the aspects of diversity, and how this relates particularly to populations who are at risk, where special attention needs to be given to insure that social justice is being enacted in the care for oppressed people who may have been marginalized. How these values are encoded in the NASW’s code of ethics is also touched upon. In addition to discussing the importance of utilizing critical thinking skills in social work, practitioners are presented with the hierarchy of steps necessary for effecting planned change at the micro level.

From the micro level, a similar protocol is furnished for planned change at the macro level, which encompasses many of the same steps but utilized in an expanded version of the first model. This problem solving model is based upon The Prepare Process, which is given an in-depth treatment demonstrating how the practitioner may put this model into actual effect. Basically, the authors treat the three practices using the same fundamental process, as it is stressed that the skills acquired to work with each group, simply are expanded to incorporate the needs of the preceding groups. To this end, the book delves into the specific use of micro skills for addressing planned change at the macro level. Social worker practitioners are shown how to utilize professional communication skills such as an examination of nonverbal and verbal communication patterns, in an effort to show how to initiate and deal in relationships with professional colleagues, community members, political contacts and those in administrative positions.

Practical subjects such as conflict resolution and effective supervisory skills are explored in depth. In offering an overview of basic communication skills needed to interact effectively at the micro level, the discussion addresses eye contact, listening attentively, nonverbal cues from facial expressions, body language and the conveyance of warmth and empathetic responses to convey feelings of genuine concern for the clients. The impact of these nonverbal signals is explored from the context that this type of communication may have in varying multicultural applications. Many practical examples are presented enabling the social worker to learn the appropriate verbal expressions to convey the desired sentiments. These are offered to the practitioner thru a series of vignettes, illustrating the key points discussed. Branching out into a discussion of communication as it relates to the macro level, the authors present additional specific tools and techniques for enhancing the communication process such as clarification, encouragement, sensitivity to cultural norms, paraphrasing and reflective responding. Specific treatment of the topic of assertiveness, which encompasses aggressive communication as it is applicable to the macro context, is explored in depth.

A good deal of detailed strategy and discussion of aspects of the role of and the resolving of conflicts are handled adroitly. Case studies are provided to help assimilate the factual information as it is most often to be encountered in the field. The complex role of the supervisor is addressed, from the perspective of the most efficient means of communicating as a worker being supervised or as the one administering the supervision. A detailed analysis of the way that workers evaluate supervisors, according to their level of expectation is presented as a highlight. This important basic information on the dynamics of the supervisory role is then broken down and addresses the entire gamut of factors that those in a supervisory position need to be cognizant of, to do their job effectively. This encompasses the educational and administrative functions that accompany the supervisor’s role, which include record keeping, agenda planning, and commitment to improvement of communication skills, showing enthusiasm for work activities, and engaging other employees by using a spirit of cooperation. Problems that confront those functioning in a supervisory capacity are explored in detail.

An exploration of the challenges that the social worker practitioner may encounter from the supervisor, as the supervised is presented with an eye toward thwarting some of the routine occurrences that staff confront in the dispensing of their duties. Some of these areas discussed in this book include misunderstood communication, addressing the supervisor who assumes credit for the work that others have produced, incompetence on the part of the supervisor and the aspect of the lazy supervisor. A series of potential scenarios illustrating the above aspects of supervisor to supervised conflicts requiring use of the techniques previously described under this heading, provide actual applications for the models suggested. Networking and the importance of utilizing this tool in the mezzo and macro practice areas, is explored in-depth. This is elaborated upon to include concepts in teamwork including effective functioning as the team leader or team member. As these applications are most often used in the larger macro and mezzo contexts, detailed discussion on parliamentary procedure, along with other strategies for meeting planning and implementation are provided.

Regarding networking as it relates to being an important tool for social workers, the authors goes into detail as to how clients can gain benefits being engaged in informal networks designed to help with their needs. These frequently include the church, gangs, and groups based upon friendship. Additionally, this concept has strong implications within the cultural context, as these forms of networking for support may be strongly developed within some of the core groups that the social worker provides assistance to. The authors then move into a synopsis of the macro system as it relates to working in organizations, explaining in depth the nature of organization as they function. Even for the beginning practitioner of social work, it is important to understand how social services and social agencies are formulated and work. In this regard, a lengthy discussion of the major organizational theories are addressed, which include a look at classic science based theories of management, theories of human relations, theories x,y and z, and the dynamics accounting for cultural perspectives, economic perspectives and contingency plans.

A lengthy description of the PREPARE and IMAGINE models for the assessment of organization or community change is presented detailing the steps necessary to enact this model at all levels. A continuation of an examination of the IMAGINE model assesses how the implementation of projects and the development of programs at the macro level may best be achieved. The model stresses the importance of adopting a positive mental framework when seeking to undertake change in the macro system; avoiding feelings of hopelessness that may be associated with the perceived largeness of the task, due to the size of the infrastructure. Specific steps are outlined so that the social worker may strategize a plan to implement a project for planned change, and examples of macro projects are provided. Related to this is The a discussion of the use of PERT charts to strategically implement planning using 5 key elements is discussed in detail, illustrating examples of this model and the action steps required to put it into usage. Examples of these models as they are applied to current systems for change abound, with specific cases centering on sexual harassment issues, under the SHAPE model, which is presented as a program designed to tackle sexual harassment in large organizations.

Additional examples of steps necessary to enact such a program for change at the macro level, is delineated providing the example for the introduction of similar programs addressing other areas of planned change. In looking at organizational operations the authors discuss the subject from the perspective of systems. In this regard, they relate the basic nature of organizations which encompasses the agency setting, the organization’s goals, and culture and structure of the organization. Further elaboration on organizations includes a look at the larger picture or macro contact effecting the organization. The changing macro environment, effected by diminishing resources, legitimating, client sources and the need for resources and relationships with other organizations are all covered in detail. The idea of working for a bureaucracy, from the perspective of what the atmosphere is actually like, along with tips for surviving within this environment are delved into in detail. Varying approaches to management style within a bureaucracy are contrasted and compared; and, problems frequently encountered by workers within the bureaucracy are explored.

The role of social workers as it relates to communities and neighborhoods is presented in great depth by the authors. It is important for the social worker to comprehend the needs of their clients, within the specific context of the neighborhood in which they live. Paramount is the explanation of the various types of communities and neighborhoods and how they function from the ecological point of view and as that of a social system. To this end, social stratification and the actual economic and political systems that define the community are explored as essential points of evaluation when working as a generalist seeking to institute systemic change or to provide micro services. Elaborating, the authors maintain that it is necessary for the social worker to comprehend the dynamics and movers and shakers of a given community, understanding power as it relates to the context of community. The relationships of the community members as this translates into their role as helping networks is examined; and, methods of working within these established groups are explored.

Discussions defining the various types of communities, with elaboration on their function follows. Presenting the social systems model in enacting systems theory is explained, along with defining the client system, action system and target system theories for addressing change at the macro level. This is followed with an elaboration on the community roles in functioning as both ecological and social systems. Various theories utilized in the generalist practice to access and make changes in the macro system are defined including the ecological theory, human behavior theory, and rational theories are explored from the perspective of their impact upon the community. This is in addition to a breakdown of the major concepts that the social worker needs for greater understanding of community dynamics including competition, centralization, concentration, gentrification, invasion and succession. Finally a summary of the models needed to provide community assessment, in order to expand social services or improve the functioning of the community in the provision of resources is elaborated upon.

Emphasis goes back to the generalist’s required skill set and tools needed to effect change at the macro level. This is handled in great detail utilizing the models previously presented in the PREPARE AND IMAGINE models, as they apply to macro practice for communities. Central to implementing these models is a grasp of the pragmatic steps that the social worker must be prepared to take in following the PREPARE model to approach change at the community level. In summary, these critical steps include identification of the problem; personal assessment of the worker’s macro reality; establishment of major goals; identification of influential community people; and performance an assessment of the financial costs. They add that a review of both the personal and professional risk; along with an evaluation of the potential for successful change within the macrocosm, is also essential. The elucidation of the implementation of macro system change by using the IMAGINE model’s seven steps is broken down in detail. Illustrated with a case scenario, the authors shows how the various components of the model are effectively utilized in other contexts, with many highlighted examples illustrating how the model may best be put to work.

When exploring the process of evaluation as it pertains to the macro practice, the authors demonstrate the necessity of evaluating with an eye toward demonstrating success, as this is instrumental to receiving continued resources. As such, the social worker learns how to develop the correct contextual overview and provide actual definitions needed for proper evaluation. This is combined with descriptions of the purpose for the evaluation, and singling out problems that presented during the course of evaluation representing a barrier to the achievement of the desired results. Summarizing the dynamics of the evaluation process, the discussion includes an overview of monitoring, summative, and efficiency evaluation techniques. Methods for implementing successful evaluations include discussion of both quantitative and qualitative analysis, with a specific look at examples that include client satisfaction surveys, goal attainment setting and target problem scaling. Providing an expanded summary of the various evaluation designs to be utilized for macro intervention, the authors present a detailed look at sampling and measuring program effectiveness.

Various forms of random sampling techniques and methods of data gathering are presented with focus on using six established evaluation designs focusing on various stages in experimental designs. Specifically, the authors go into great detail on sources for measurement instruments and tests, concluding with details of utilizing data analysis and the presentation of the acquired data. A targeted look at the generalist’s role in providing advocacy with an eye toward effecting change within the macro is analyzed from the perspective of how this can be best accomplished when dealing with populations-at-risk. Essentially, the concepts for social action, empowerment as it applies to Hispanic Americans, native Americans and Alaskan natives, women, Asian Americans, women, lesbian and gay persons and clients receiving public assistance are explained, as these groups define the at-risk population.

The social worker’s role in working with these specific populations and the opportunity to provide advocacy to these groups within the macro level are explored from the perspective of a series of specific guidelines designed to help in the attainment of these goals. Of importance to the attainment of the above, is a look at the steps required to enact macro change through utilizing the legislative process, which is explored in great detail starting with the drafting of a bill as the initial step in legislative advocacy. This is form of macro intervention at the upper echelons of society and is offered as a blueprint over viewing how the process may be effectively by the generalist social worker. Other forms of political advocacy and social action are presented as alternative means of goal attainment that are more complicated than convention methods. The specific dynamics of Sal Slinky in his Social Action Approach are defined, with a case history demonstrating the model in action as it relates to the homeless as an example. In presenting a discussion on the role of ethics and concepts of ethical dilemmas within the macro context, the authors present a look at the NASW Code of Ethics which elucidates six of the core values for professional social workers.

At the top is service to clients, followed by social justice and individual dignity, human relationships, competence and integrity are also reviewed in detail as to how these concepts effect ethics within macro practice. They describe how working within the macro environment may expose the social worker to uncover laws and policies that may pose a conflict of interest to the ethics platform that has been enacted as a model for providing care, as professional values are part of the basic foundation. A detailed analysis of the application of the code of ethics within actual practice, is provided, and covers areas that include self determination, informed consent, competence, social diversity and cultural competence, conflict of interest and confidentiality and the issue of privacy. Additionally, other pragmatic issues under this heading discussed include access to records, sexual relationships, physical contact, sexual harassment, derogatory language, and payment for services.

All of these categories have great impact upon the functioning of the social worker and their ability to interact effectively with clientele. Similarly, the ethical responsibilities governing social workers interaction with colleagues involves many of the same components and includes a review of sexual relationships and harassment, referral for client services, consultations, colleague disputes, respect, interdisciplinary collaborations and confidentiality issues such as impairment or colleague incompetence and reporting unethical behavior. The application of the tenets of the code as it relates to the social worker in practice is explained, from the perspectives of billing, client transfer and records, administration, evaluating performance, continuing education and development of staff, employee commitment and disputes between labor and management. Ethical considerations that the social worker must maintain, when considering their role as a professional are defined and include competence, discrimination, private conduct, deception, dishonesty and fraud, impairment, solicitations, misrepresentation and the acknowledgement of credit for work done.

The discussion on ethic concludes with a look at the aspect of ethical conduct affecting the social workers reponsibitly to the social work profession as well as to society at large. This subject is treated from the context of personal values, and we are given a look at the types of ethical issue that the social worker is likely to confront. This is presented along with a synthesis of the ethical absolutism approach comparing it to ethical relativism as a model. Specific examples on handling ethical dilemmas are provided as the principles involved in ranking ethical perspectives are reviewed, which includes a study of the specifics as it presented in Liebenberg and Logoff’s Ethical Principles Screen outlining the hierarch of ethical rights. As there are bound to be stumbling blocks involved with the application of ethics within the macro context, the dilemmas that the social worker may confront me this regard are handled in depth. The challenges for the social worker, engaged in working with the courts, are detailed with special emphasis on the key terms used to explain courtroom processes.

Differences in the application of social work and courtroom protocol are defined, in addition to presenting a plan outlining how the social worker can best prepare to testify in the courtroom. A basic explanation of the adjudication process is consolidated, but specific address to the various cross-examination strategies utilizing is presented in welfare protective services cases. The role of the social worker in court is explained and highlights include an actual court petition for removal of a child from the mother’s residence is the case example presented, in order to see how these concepts would apply to events likely to be encountered at some point in the professional social worker’s career. Special attention is given to juvenile court process as this is a specific area in which the social worker will ultimately gain much familiarity. The management of agency resources is explored from several different perspectives including working with the media and building effective media relations.

General guidelines for achieving harmonious and beneficial relations with the media are presented in a 10 point program detailing the basics of effective media communications. Pragmatic applications of technology, asset relates to computer programs and software are explored, offering new concepts in the management of information systems and how these effect the services offered in generalist practice. Fund raising principles and the various applications of techniques designed to solicit resources are offered from the many different perspectives that these tools may be employed to raise resources. Specific examples of fund raising that may be effectively enacted include direct solicitation, benefits and variations, individual donors, creating an organization with this purpose and seeking out group giving. The procurement of grants and contracts are treated separately as this source of funding for social work programs is a favored means of adding resources necessary to enact macro change.

Business grants, foundation grants and government grants are defined as separate entities, and the basic principles needed to navigate through these areas are provided. The how top’s of grant application are succinctly covered, allowing the social worker to grasp the actual steps necessary to enact this form of funding thru traditional grant proposal writing. Several in-depth examples illustrating various components of the grant proposal process are offered, with specific case histories utilized to illustrate how these techniques have been successfully applied in the past. Addressing personal issues that the social worker needs to address in order to function effectively in their capacity, include a discussion of stress management from the perspective of the General Adaptation Syndrome.

Looking at the inception of stressors within the agency context, the authors discuss the psychological, physiological and behavioral problems resulting from stress, with a look at numerous techniques that may be employed for effective stress management. Exploring variations in personal style that are utilized to combat stress, along with an analysis of the effects of time management as they play into the paradigm are offered. Practical suggestions for setting priority and realistic goals focusing on time management are offered along with specific techniques to be used in the management of time.

Finally, the authors present concise information for the social worker as it pertains to the attainment of personal professional goals, focusing on the resume, interviewing skills and getting a job. The practical information is geared toward helping the social worker assess their capabilities and areas of interests, as it relates to the type of employment being sought. Presentation of the abilities, in the format of the resume are offered in detail with comprehensive tools and techniques for making a positive presentation being explored in detail. Resources for locating jobs that match the defined objectives and preferences for a career are offered and include a look at newspapers, NASW publications, networking and state merit system lists.

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