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Political power and social influence

Issues Addressed by Systems Theory

Systems Theory is used to develop a holistic view of individuals within an environment and is best applied to situations where several systems inextricably connect and influence one another. It can be employed in cases where contextual understandings of behavior will lead to the most appropriate practice interventions.

In the Pruett case, for example, the client’s school and family environment heavily influenced her individual actions, and her actions influenced the way she interacted with others at school and in the home. The recommended interventions thus involved strengthening the missing part of her family unit, referring her to counseling services, and connecting her with academic support.

There are many practice interventions available to social workers and their applications vary greatly depending on the context, but following are a few common interventions used as part of Systems Theory.

Strengthen one part of the system to improve the whole. In the Pruett case, the social worker recommended finding a healthy father figure for the client, to strengthen the missing component of the family system.

Networking and referrals. A critical part of any social worker’s job is to help clients navigate between systems. This often means referring clients to specialists, or connecting them with resources or organizations that can help their situation. In the Pruett case, this meant referral to a counselor and connection to an after school tutor.

Ecomaps. An ecomap External link is a flow diagram that helps someone understand a family’s and community’s interrelated progression over time. It allows social workers and clients to capture and organize the complexity of a system.

Genograms. A genogram External link is a graphic representation of a family tree, constructed with symbols that describe relationships and connections between an extended family. Social workers typically construct them along with clients in order to better understand relationships and identify patterns in the medical history.

Understanding and applying Systems Theory is a critical part of any social worker’s career. One of the most important functions of a social worker is helping clients navigate the various systems that affect their lives, which requires a deep understanding of how subsystems are interrelated and influence one another. This post provides an introduction to Systems Theory and some real life examples of how it is applied. It is just one of the many theoretical approaches that social workers will apply throughout their careers.