Functional Theory for Social Work Practice

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FUNCTIONAL THEORY FOR SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE  by  SHANKAR A. YELAJA  
A number of theorists post-Freud began to see that, "the goal-directed whole of any organism transcends the sum of its parts, that each being is unique despite common patterns, that the observer affects the observed despite rigorous striving for scientific objectivity and impersonality, and that will and freedom do exist and play a significant role in the unfolding of a human being..." (p. 50)  These concepts are essential building blocks for any social worker.  As Gordon Allport believed: "Human activity...was not simply the result of pushes by internal and external forces, but was purposive: 'To understand what a person is, it is necessary always to refer to what he may be in the future, for every state of the person is pointed in the direction of future possibilities'" (p. 50).  

"The concept of treatment was replaced by the concept of service, of a helping process in which the use of the relationship, the dynamic interaction of the social worker as helper and the client as determinant of the process, was paramount.  The center of change was no longer seen to be in the worker/therapist, but in the client...in contrast to the diagnostically conceived role that assigned to the worker complete responsibility for both setting and carrying out treatment goals" (p. 51)  

"In contrast to the diagnostic approach with its global problem parameters, concentration was directed toward only a phase or fragment of the client's total problem...The assumption being that change in any one hurting area of life could work a salutary effect on total psychological equilibrium" (p. 52).  

The above are critical ideas that helped move social work away from seeing Freud as the only theorist of significance and away from seeing long-term transference/countertransference-based psychoanalysis as the only or the best approach.   

However, the functionalists took this one step further, a very important additional...
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