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Social Work Theory and Methods of Intervention Essay

This piece of work will attempt to look at how a chosen Social Work method can be useful in case work intervention with an individual. It will look at the theory in detail with regards to its application in the client/worker relationship, taking into consideration issues of anti-discriminatory practice and the limitations which the method may have in delivering a holistic service. It will then consider the benefits of using another method in conjunction with the first in order to compliment this and provide more robust ministrations.

The individual chosen from the case study is Michael. He is 15 years old and has recently been arrested along with two friends. This is not his first offence and he has intimated that he feels confused and has no-one to talk to. Additionally his relationship with family members is tentative at the present time and he has been blamed for the arrest by his friends. The method chosen in this instance is Cognitive Behavioural. This approach is concerned with the way we think.

It makes the assumption that behaviour is directed by thoughts. Unlike many other concepts, which concentrate more on unconcious drives, feelings or internal conflict. Cigno and Bourne 1998, believe that ‘most of what makes us individuals rather than clones, what shapes our personalities, including behaviour, emotion and cognition, is a result of what we have learned’. This paradigm is rooted in behaviourist theory. Pavlov introduced ‘classical conditioning’ after his work on physiological processes of digestion.

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This was a specifically centred around work with laboratory animals, which when observed in experiments began to develop associations and anticipations about food. Pavlov named this stimulus association learning. Operant conditioning is also part of this model, introduced by B. F Skinner 1953, it interposed the concepts of positive and negative reinforcment as a result of stimulus. He believed that ‘ almost any set of stimuli can aquire reinforcing or punishing associations through the consequences they bring’ Cigno and Bourne1998.

‘Cognitive and behavioural theories are principles from two related streams of psychological writing’, Payne 1997. Social learning theory (Bandura), focuses the fact that most behaviour is learned. However it goes further than behavioural theory by implying that people’s perceptions and thinking about their experiences and modelling what they see around them are vital to the process and interdependent to the feelings that they have regarding this. Basically Bandura believed that how we think has an affect on our behaviour and that both of these are open to change.

The way we think about a situation mediates between the outside world and our inner self, Harrison and Butler 2004. People have the capacity to change and behaviour is assimilated by goals, Sheldon 1995. Cognitive behavioural programmes are based on the application of both social learning theory and cognitive theory to inform therapeutic methods, Cigno and Bourne 1998.

This assessment would be done with the intention of helping Michael to see where he is at present with his own thought processes (hopes, fears,values) and to progress from these to try to make Michael’s behaviour goal orientated, e. g getting Michael to think about offending in a different way and ‘continuous reinforcment’ of a desired behaviour will work quickly to decrease in the behaviour which leads to offending, this promotes change in the thinking behind offending behaviour.

Shaping can also be used, reinforcing small steps made toward a required behaviour. The worker also needs to challenge negative thought processes. Feedback needs to be encouraged so that Michael can see what he has achieved oustide sessions, Harrison and Butler 2004.

Once the desired behaviour is achieved ‘fading’ would be used to reduce the amount or type of reinforcement. This enables Michael to transfer his behaviour to other settings, Payne1997. The principle of self-talk can be tried out with Michael also. Cigno and Bourne 1998 indicate that children gain self-control over their actions as their ‘inner’ speech develops. Using this formula in the form of self-talk can help with self-appraisal and self-support. Self-Instructional Training (SIT -Goldstein and Keller 1987) was developed with this as a central concept.

This intervention can help to establish self control in young offenders, thus helping to decrease the arousal which may lead to offending behaviour. Beck et al 1985 followed on from Bowlby’s (1977) work on attachment and loss and may take the stance that Michael has a ‘sociotropic’ personality. This means that he values closeness and the loss of a relationship, a rejection or an experience of ‘social deprivation’ could affect his mood and leave him feeling confused and isolated, Dryden1996.

Hence the abnormal thought which lead to offending. Another use of cognitve techniques could be offered to Michael and his family in the form of Functional Family Therapy if his family were willing to participate. This focuses on family interaction. It uses ‘contingency contracting’ as a means of changing family interaction in the case of young offenders. It can help to reduce recidivism and have a beneficial effect on the interactions between families. It has become increasingly evident

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