Generalist Social Work Practice

The St. Catherine University - University of St. Thomas School of Social Work recognizes two goals of generalist social work practice:

  1. To restore and enhance the social functioning of systems of all sizes (individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities); and
  2. To promote a more just society.

These goals of generalist practice are conceptualized by the Integrative Framework of Generalist Practice.  This framework defines effective, ethical social work practice as a comprehensive set of professional competencies characterized by the following:

- An understanding of human behavior in the context of the total environment within which people live. Relationships between and among individuals and groups and between people and social structures define this social environment.  Social workers recognize the importance of all types of relationships particularly as they occur in relation to the major social institutions in a context of diverse cultures: family, economy, politics/government, education, and religion/spirituality.

- A focus on the planned change process  that makes use of the strengths perspective and that identifies and directs resources to strategically:

  • Engage, assess, intervene, evaluate, and end with client systems of all sizes (planned change process)
  • Build on strengths and assets
  • Alleviate problems and remove barriers
  • Strengthen and empower systems promoting resilience and strategies for prevention

- A recognized set of Core Competencies and Practice Behaviors as established by the Council on Social Education that is based upon a body of professional knowledge, values and skills used to assess needs and pursue change.

Three dimensions of intervention:

  1. The lives of Individuals, Families & Groups are strengthened with services in the micro dimension;
  2. The capacity of Organizations and Communities is increased with resources and program development in the mezzo
  3. Advocacy for social change and reform is implemented in the macro dimension: on a Societal, National, and Global level.

As depicted in this framework, practice can occur within a single dimension.  However, the most effective and ethical social work practice is that which examines and embraces all three dimensions and incorporates concurrent attention to individual/family need, organizational/ community development and social change/reform. Through this conceptualization of effective, ethical social work practice we achieve the two goals of the social work profession as stated above: the improvement of social functioning and social justice.