Theories or models give the direction to the caseworker to handle the client in a way which is suited according to the client’s needs and social conditions.

I.               Psycho-social Theory

The psycho-social theory was propounded by Hamilton. She published an article on “The Underlying Philosophy of Social Case Work” in 1941 in which the word ‘diagnostic’ was used to express psycho-social problems. In this approach, diagnosis and treatment are directed toward the person in a situation. The client is seen in the context of his/her interactions and transactions with the outer world. For proper diagnosis and treatment, the client’s social context must be understood and mobilized. Treatment must be differentiated according to the need of the client. Three stages are involved in the psycho-social approach.

Psycho-social Study

Social Caseworker starts his/her work with the knowledge of the needs of the client. He/she on the basis of the needs assess what kind of help his/her needs. He/she also finds out the perception of the client about his/her own problem and his/her desires about the kind of assistance to be provided. He/she, then, himself/herself tries to arrive at his/her own understanding of what the client’s trouble is, what factors contribute to it and what type of service is needed to improve his/her ego strength and adaptability.


On the basis of the collected data and available material social caseworker tries to assess the nature of the client’s trouble-contributing factors and where changes can be brought in his/her behaviour without much effort.


Social Caseworkers give much emphasis on indirect treatment or environmental modification. He/she intervenes actively in the environment and provides necessary concrete help to the client. He/she provides financial help by locating such agencies, proper health care and also educational resources. Direct treatment is also provided for the ventilation of the client to accept concrete help. Psychological support, counselling, suggestions, etc. techniques are used to establish close relations with the client.

II.             Behaviour Modification Theory

Behaviour modification theory is based upon the principles of learning and conditioning propounded by Pavlov and Thorndike. The research of B.F. Skinner helped to develop the behaviour modification approach further. The behaviouristic theory viewed a problem as essentially the result of a failure to learn necessary adaptive behaviours and competencies and/or the learning of ineffective and maladaptive behaviours. It may happen due to conflicting situations that require the individual to make discriminations or decisions of which he/she feels incapable. The maladjusted person has learned faulty coping patterns, which are being maintained by some kind of reinforcement, and he/she has failed to learn the needed competencies for coping with the problem of living.

Techniques of Behaviour Modification

The following techniques are used for behaviour modification:

Simple Extinction

In this technique, the reinforcement is removed to eliminate a maladaptive pattern of behaviour. This is especially helpful where maladaptive behaviour is being reinforced unknowingly by others. Through this technique, learned behaviour patterns are made weaker and disappear over time.

Systematic Desensitization

It is a technique to deal with a wide variety of maladaptive emotional behaviours, particularly involving anxiety, irrational fears and phobias and other forms of dysfunctions i.e. neurotic tendencies. There are five basic steps in systematic desensitization: (1) assessment, (2) construction of anxiety hierarchies, (3) training in muscle relaxation, (4) imaginary training, and (5) implementation.

Impulsive Therapy

In this technique, instead of banishing anxiety, the social caseworker attempts to elicit a massive flood of anxiety. With repeated exposure in a safe setting where no harm is felt by the client, the stimulus loses its strength to elicit anxiety.

Assertive Therapy

It is needed to develop more effective coping mechanisms. In such therapy, the opportunity is given to the client for role-playing.

Aversion Therapy

This technique is used for the modification of undesirable behaviour by the method of punishment. Punishment may involve either the removal of positive reinforcements or the use of aversive stimuli.

Family Therapy

Family is a system which is composed of three sub-systems: marriage, parenthood and siblings. There are continuous interactions and transactions among these sub-systems. It is quite often observed that sometimes relations may not be harmonious and at that time outside help is required to bring the family on a proper track.

Family therapy is based on the assumption that the marital relationship system influences family adjustment and therefore it is necessary to understand the nature of marriage. It is also true that the nature of the marital equilibrium affects all family members but its effect differs on each of member. The development of children are affected also by the nature of the marital equilibrium because they interject the parents as models and guides. Further, each developmental phase in the family has a stressful situation which requires new relationships.

Family therapy is significant because whenever one member of a family is in trouble, all are in trouble. Communication in the family is the channel through which members of the family interact. Whenever there is a problem in the family communication becomes faulty or dysfunctional.

In family therapy, the diagnosis is confirmed on the basis of various types of interviews with the client and family. The social caseworker tries to know the family structure, and the processes in the family responsibilities, roles patterns of daily living, role performance, role relationship, dependency, separateness, independence level, capacity, tolerance and control of feelings, intimacy, anxiety, regression, taboo, etc. He/she records the family history and analyses its contents.

The social caseworker uses most of the techniques in one-to-one treatment, such as guidance, advice, education, suggestion, clarification, and interpretations.

Self-control and Self-Management Therapy

Helping clients to help themselves is an old casework phrase. Self-control refers to the ability of individuals to change behavioural patterns that they or others perceive as harmful. The role of the social caseworker in this process is to help the client to develop the knowledge about how, when and where to use strategies for change. The worker acts as an instigator and motivator to help the client to start the program and has a motivating force to complete it. A multi-step guide has been presented by Watson and Tharp to develop a self-control plan.

  1. List a current dissatisfaction.
  2. Select one particular problem of behaviour that occurs in a particular situation.
  3. Describe the effect of the problem on behaviour.
  4. Be as precise as possible in stating the behaviour that occurs and the situation in which they occur.
  5. Gather baseline data. Count every instance of the target behaviour and keep a record of the count.
  6. Catalogue enforcements. Answer three questions for each potential reinforcer. (a) Is it a reinforcement or specially formed, (b) Is it a strong reinforcer? (c) Is it accessible?
  7. List and attempt to verify through observation possible antecedents to problem behaviours. Devise a plan for intervention for altering antecedents.
  8. Identify the emotional components of the problem and plan for desensitization.
  9. Select one of the plans that you have developed.
  10. Continue to collect data on the problem behaviour. Make a graph of the data to determine that the intervention plan is working.
  11. If the plan is successful, consider termination of the relationship.

The Problem-Solving Theory

This theory was propounded by Helen Harris Perlman in the book “Social Case Work: A Problem-Solving Process”. This model stands firmly upon the recognition that life is an outgoing problem encountering – problem-solving process. Every person is involved every time in coping with his/her problems. Sometimes he/she is capable of coping and sometimes fails to resolve the crisis situation. Through problem-solving process individual or family is helped to cope with or resolve some difficulty that he/she is currently finding difficult to solve. Thus the primary goal of problem-solving model is to help a person cope as effectively as possible with such problems in carrying social tasks.

In the initial phase, attempts are made to engage the client with his/her problems and to do something about it in a working relationship with the agency. The problem-solving process starts at once, from the first movement with treating the person. The client is not treated for his/her problem but he is treated for the purpose of helping him/her to know himself/herself i.e., strengths and weaknesses and how to remove those weaknesses.

In short, the problem-solving casework process involves the following steps:

  1. It tries to release, energize and give directions to the client’s motivation for change.
  2. It tries to release and exercise the client’s mental, emotional and action capacities for coping with the problem.
  3. It tries to find and make accessible to the client such aids and resources as are necessary to the solution of the problem.

Role Theory

The role is mainly behavioural concept. The role may be seen as a product of an interplay between (i) individual members’ needs and resources, (ii) the solution in the social network, and (iii) the forces acting on the social network from the environment. When there are internal or external difficulties, which are beyond the capacity of an individual, he/she feels the problem and fails to perform his/her role.

Social Caseworker with such clients suggests new ideas and ways of facing the problem and suggests a solution for a difficulty that the external factors have encountered. He/she offers facts, which relate to his/her own experience for understanding the problem. He/ she gives suggestions in terms of examples and tries to explain how suggestions would work if followed by the client. He/she mediates between other members, attempts to reconcile disagreements, and relieves tension in a conflict situation. His/her efforts are also directed to keep communication channels open by encouraging others to participate in the business of the client.

Rational Emotive Therapy

This technique is used in the area of modifying irrational elements control over the self. Some of the irrational ideas at the core of emotional and behavioural problems are as under :

  1. It is a dire necessity for an adult to be loved by everyone for everything he/she does.
  2. Certain acts are awful or wicked, and people who perform such acts should be severely punished.
  3. It is horrible when things are not the way one would like them to be.
  4. It is easier to avoid rather than face life’s difficulties and self-responsibilities.
  5. One needs something stronger or greater than oneself on which to rely.
  6. Human happiness can be achieved by inertia and inaction.
  7. One has virtually no control over one’s emotions and one cannot help feeling certain things.

Rational Emotive Therapy includes four stages:

Presentation of Rationale: The worker attempts to elicit the problems or significance of self-statements in general without mentioning the client’s problems.

Overview of Irrational Assumption: The worker presents a number of irrational self-statements before the client and tries to make the client realize that his/her statements are irrational.

Analysis of Client’s Problem in Rational Emotive Terms: The client is made aware of his/her problem rationally and is provided with the knowledge of how he/she has labelled the event.

Teaching the Client to Modify Internal Statement: In this stage, the client is taught to change his/her opinions and attitudes which are anxiety provoking.

(Source: Egyankosh)

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