Social work theory is an important aspect
of social work practice. The purpose of this assignment is to critically
discuss and analyse the relevance to two of these theories into practice using
the Desai family. The three theories this assignment will look at is the strength
based approach, the attachment theory and communication theory. It is essential
to look at these different theories as they are important dynamics that are crucial
for social workers to understand the society, individuals and politically and
socially influenced world in which they have to work in. The strength based
approach will be and its assumptions will be explored in this case as it
relates to Molly Desai a married woman and mother of two children, Sammy and
Jayde and the attachment theory will be related to Sammy and Jayde

Strength Based Approach

A strength, or asset-based approach focuses
on identifying people’s strengths, interests and capabilities. It enables
individuals to identify what support is available from their community to
assist them in meeting the outcomes they want to achieve (Department of Health,
2017). Focusing on problems seemed to belittled individuals as they were
treated without dignity and respect, which is incompatible with social work
values and ethics. The former practice would also give social workers the power
to determine the individual’s problems as well as finding a solution for them
without consulting the individual (Teater, 2014). The term strength, refers to
the capacity that one can cope with challenges and continue to function under
stressful conditions and how to maximise the social support offered to them (Greene
and Lee, 2002, in Teater, 2014). Any person or environmental attribute with the
potential to stimulate development and solutions can be a strength. An
individual’s strengths can be their resilience, confidence, competences and
aspirations. A community’s strengths can be its social networks, tangible
services, opportunities and resources (Rapp and Goscha, 2011). Saleebey (2013)
states that the strengths perspective has guiding assumptions namely; every
group, individual and community have strengths. The purpose of the
strengths-based approach is to guard the individual’s resilience, independence
and ability to make choices (Great Britain Parliament, 2015). The “ROPES” model is a
tool that has been developed to guide practitioners to continually draw on
strengths (Graybeal, 2001).

The approach recognises that people are experts in their own
lives. The more clients use their abilities and assets, individually or
collectively, they discover the satisfaction in overcoming the difficulties. As
more of individuals capabilities are practiced and incorporated into their day
to day life, they build on each other’s strengths reflecting a synergy
(Saleebey, 1996).

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Rapp, Saleebey and Sullivan, in
Saleebey (2006) came
up with 6 standards for determining what constitutes a strength based approach.
The standards are;

Goal orientation: Strengths-based practice is goal oriented
and individuals should set goals they would like to achieve in future.

Strengths assessment: The individual is supported to recognise
the innate resources they have to overcome any difficulty or condition.

Resources from the
environment: In every
environment there are individuals, institutions and groups and that have
something to give, that others may benefit from. It is normally the
practitioner’s duty to enable links to these resources.

Explicit methods
are used to identify client and environmental strengths to attain goals: Different methods will be used for each of
the strengths-based approaches. For instance, in solution-focused therapy
clients are encouraged to set goals before they identify their strengths,
whereas in strengths-based case management, individuals go through a precise
‘strengths assessment’.

The relationship is
hope-inducing: The
strengths based approach aims to increase the expectations of the individual. Hope
can further be realised through strong relationships with other people,
communities and culture.

Meaningful choice: People are experts in their own lives and
the practitioner’s role is to broaden their choices, encouraging people to make
their own informed choices and decisions.

In Strengths-Based
Case Management focus is placed on the client’s strengths with
three other principles: Encouraging the utilization of informal supportive
networks. Offering assertive community involvement. Highlight the partnership
between the case manager and the individual. This approach has been implemented
in different fields including families and young people (Rutter, 1994).

Family support services offer services to families before their problems
become too significant. Family support includes taking action to support
families where children’s welfare is under threat, promoting family life and
building parent’s existing strengths. Practitioners using this approach trust
that this benefits families by encouraging their involvement in the program.
This increases family efficacy and empowerment, resulting in enhancing their
social support networks (Green, McAllister and Tarte, 2004)

Narrative has been used to help clarify
strengths of individuals and communities. Practitioners using this approach believe
that within any ‘problem’ narrative is a story of strength and resilience. At
times when clients talk about their problems, they mention past experiences and
how successful they were. Social workers should always listen attentively to
pick up on strengths and later mention these to the individual in order to
reflect on individuals past successes. Rapport, trust and care can be nurtured
in practitioner-service user relationships through naratives.

On imparting an experience about their
past, this benefits individuals as it can encourage personal growth as well as build
resilience and empowerment. This promotes new awareness of the self to emerge and
helps them shift away from the ‘illness’ that has defined them. Practitioners
often never deal directly with the problem being presented, but will search for
ways to strengthen the ability of the person to be resilient in the face of the
problem. A key part of this approach is recognising that some people may think
of a problem as an integral part of their character. Separating the problem
from the person by externalising it allows clients to face it in a constructive
way (Epston and White, 1992).  Consideration
needs to be given when one is telling their situation because this has the
potential to be demoralising and disempowering to the individual (Drumm 2013).

It is
important to understand what makes Molly feel better and what her good day
looks like. What makes her happy, as well as what activities she engages in
when she is not ill. How does Molly manage her condition and what services does
she find useful? Musson (2017) states that individuals can identify achievable
objectives for themselves that can help in improving their situation and this
relates for Molly. Involving Molly and Giving Molly the opportunity to identify
what she feels will improve her situation, will potentially empower her because
only she will know what is best for her.


appears to have a good relationship with her sister. This may stimulate her
strength. Her sister is there to listen to her and support her with some
household chores when she needs the help. It is important to know how often
Molly sees her sister. Although Molly’s parents do not want to have a
relationship with her, she has continued with her marriage to her husband and
they have two children. She has continued to go on despite critical factors in
her life (Wolin and Wolin, 1993). This shows resilience. She has developed coping
strategies to help her for the past 14 years to maintain her marriage, despite
the lack of social support from her family (GlenMaye, 1998). However, if she were
to reconnect with them, this will broaden her external resources and her family
may provide her with additional support. Molly’s husband and her children can
be her current source of strength because they appear to be her support network.


can find strength in Jayde as she also takes care of Sammy when Jake is at
work. Jayde appears to be coping with the situation. She can help her mother
with certain household tasks. Dowling (2014) talks of the significance of a
role model in child development and how children learn behaviour by observing
other people or their role models. This may relate to Jayde and how she has
taken the role of the caregiver. She may have learnt this by observing her
mother before she fell ill.


could work part time, or do some voluntary work in the community. This would be
her competencies and possibilities. This will enable her to leave the house and
go out into the community and regain a sense of self-worth. She could join
support groups in her community for multiple sclerosis which will enable her to
meet with other people in similar circumstances and learn how they cope. Social
workers can promote empowerment by promoting social justice and advocating for
resources and opportunities for marginalised individuals (Teater, 2014).

The strength based approach has no prospects of attempting
to improve one’s weaknesses. For individuals to be empowered and the strengths
perspective to work, Pease and Fook, in Payne (2014) believe that societies
need transformation to benefit the oppressed people, adding on that disadvantaged
and excluded people will not experience social empowerment if there is no
transformation in society. This includes challenging the unjust social
conditions that contribute to the troubles experienced by service users (Healy, 2011).

Foot and Hopkins
(2010) further cite that by investing in the skills of its local people, the
local authorities focus on community development by putting together stronger,
more sustainable communities. Similarly, (Gilchrist 2009) supports the
significance of building networks within communities, enabling individuals,
families and the wider community to develop a ‘resilience’ that leads to a
sense of well-being and greater quality of life. Payne (2014) elaborated
that the theory is over optimistic to anticipate major changes even when the
entire community is surrounded by poverty and social exclusion. Having a
positive outlook alone does not recognise the reality that individuals around
them are going through problems.


Attachment theory is the work of Bowlby and Ainsworth
(1992) and it was developed to understand a child’s attachment to the mother,
and the repercussions of separation and deprivation. Ainsworth developed the
idea of secure and insecure attachment. She put forward that children with
secure attachments play happily when their primary caregiver is present,
protest when they leave and go to them for comfort when they return.

Attachment theory’s main
points states that children are born with a natural need to feel loved and
needed. It was first brought about by Bowlby (1969). He believed that by
forming an attachment with a powerful figure would reduce vulnerability by
increasing security and protection. Bowlby wrote that when children experience
separation from their main attachment figure, they will likely more emotional
difficulty in forming meaningful social relationships (Bowlby 1958, cited in
Lishman 2007). Attachment is perceived as a fundamental component in young
children’s lives, as these experiences impact their emotional and social
stability and well-being later in life. If children experience negative
attachments they do not develop adequate relationships with their caregivers,
leading to serious repercussions on their psychological and emotional
development (Walker, and Crawford 2014). Theorists say attachment behaviours
are exhibited in childhood through laughing, crying and talking (Walker, and
Crawford 2010).


Ainsworth’s “Strange
Situation”, experiment, supported Bowlby’s theory of behaviour and this led
to the development of three different styles of attachment; secure attachment;
ambivalent-insecure attachment and avoidant insecure attachment. The three
potential styles of attachment allow contradictory levels of attachment with a
caregiver, explaining why low attachment levels affect feelings, emotions and
behavioural patterns among children (Mercer, 2006). Ainsworth learned that
children who displayed insecure attachment may portray one of the following
patterns avoidant, ambivalent, disorganised or anxious preoccupation. Normally
abused or neglected children are more likely to show insecure patterns of this attachment.
Avoidant; where children display
distress at separation with caregiver and appear not to display different behaviour
between a stranger and the care-giver. Ambivalent
Children display anxiety before separation, distress during it, and afterwards
appear to want comfort from the care-giver, however showing resistance to
comfort. Disorganised, is
demonstrated with different reactions where the child may show conflicting
behaviour patterns for instance, looking away whilst being held. The child
appears confused and does not feel comforted by the care-giver. Anxious preoccupation is insecure
attachment identified by Downes (1992) and is characterised by an anxious
preoccupation when the carer is present.

McCabe (2004) affirmed that children,
daughters in particular of parents with MS seem to take more responsibility for
helping their ill parent. It is believed that personality changes of the parent
for instance increased neuroticism, may have an influence on the psychological
regulation of children and not all the children are affected negatively by
their parents’ condition. This can relate to Jayde and how she helps out by
taking care of her brother, when both parents are unable to. Before Molly fell ill, Jayde could have felt loved and
valued by her and they could have developed a strong attachment, leading to
Jayde developing perhaps a high level of self-esteem and may be more confident
and independence. Bandura (2008) self-efficacy,
talks about how social interactions and learning from others influences
individuals and how this can be positive or negative. According to Bate and
Robert (2006) it is important to have conversations with children about changes
that are going to happen in their lives.  Sammy may not understand why his mother is not
his primary caregiver anymore and this may be a contributing factor to his
aggressive behaviour. However, if he was reassured about his mother’s condition
and the circumstances in the household, maybe he would not display this behaviour.
If he is aware of this, it may support him with the transition and he will have
confidence to face this new situation being presented to him and the entire
family. De Judicibus and McCabe (2004) elaborated that the majority of
parents with Multiple Sclerosis felt that their condition had an effect on
their children. However, Jayde and Sammy appear to have a meaningful attachment,
however it is vital to understand how caring for her little brother is because
she’s a child herself.

Ruisard (2016) says that it is vital to
acknowledge that although attachment theory appears to be a popular theory, it
has its short comings. Kegan (2011) challenges one of the assumptions of
attachment theory, that the quality of attachment one encounters as a child can
have a permanent affect on them for the rest of their lives without paying any
attention to the child’s future endeavours and experiences. He goes on to
mention that there is no research to support the statement that experiences in
early childhood have an impact on the child’s ability to develop healthy
relationships in adulthood. Kegan also disapproves of the theory because it
fails to recognize that culture, social class, ethnicity, and gender have an
influence on an individual’s personality development (Kegan 2011).

Hewitt (2013) criticises Bowlby’s attachment theory because
it prioritizes the relationship between mother and child. He does not consider
the father, yet it is possible for children to form attachments with their
fathers as well as other individuals within their lives. Developing
relationships with other people apart from the primary caregiver is important
because it reduces dependency and limits other relationships to be formed,
which can hinder the social and emotional development of the child. Therefore,
the system cannot be justified because it is incomplete.


Social work relies greatly on communication to identify
problems and come up with solutions related to social behaviours.

 Social workers
should have the ability to stir conversations with the clients into
conversations of strengths, capabilities and resilience. The clients should be
encouraged to speak positively about their experiences. Practising effective communication
enables social workers to work more efficiently with clients, resulting in them
being offered more opportunities. The Munro Review (2011) mentioned that social
workers fail to engage with men, therefore important information about a child
can be missed and the case not assessed effectively.

The essential aspects of communication are tone of voice,
body language, listening skills, observation, motivating and retaining
information. These skills are important from the time we introduce ourselves to
clients and their families. A social worker needs to be exclusive and set the
tone and clearly state the purpose of their visit. It is vital to be friendly and
accommodating ensuring clients that their contribution is appreciated,
therefore easing the assessment process (David and West, 2006).  It is important to maintain pleasant eye contact;
however cultural differences should be considered.  Verbal and non-verbal communication is
embedded in the core of social work. It is made use of in all aspects of social
work and is an essential part of the job. Communication is used for children,
people with disabilities, mental health, elderly and drug and alcohol abuse. It
is essential to build relationships, create solutions and to formulate plans
for clients. It is imperative that social workers continuously improve these

A social worker should have an active listening ability,
combining speaking and listening skills assuring the service user that you
understand their situation, motivates them to develop trust in the social
worker (Cournoyer, 2011). Positive body language and speech will to enable the
client to engage in the conversation. Body language is expressed through body
movement and facial expression which portray emotion. Non-verbal communication
is expressed by our gestures, expressions, actions and posture. Effective
communication involves nodding your head to affirm that you are following the
conversation. However, they should also pay attention to the service users body
language to detect signs of deception, aggression, withholding information, or
if they seem pleased with the situation. Pathak and Joshi (2010) stated that
when there is a change in an individual’s breathing or one holds their breath, this
might imply fear, whereas shallow hasty breathing might reflect irritation. Disguised
compliance is common among carers or parents of vulnerable people and children.
NSPCC (2010) states that carers and parents appear to cooperate with agencies
in order to avoid suspicion, whereas they will be impeding practitioners from
understanding the severity of the situation.

 The assessment
process should be natural, and clients should not feel like they are being
considered as another number by using a checklist. Clients may find this
oppressive if not treated as an individual. Using open ended questions is
considered more effective than leading and closed questions because it enables
clients to expand on their responses and provide information that the social
worker may not have considered to ask the client (Hepworth et al, 2010). When
conducting the interview, one must be mindful that too many questions may give
the client a feeling of being put on the spot. However, too few questions could
lead to the interview off tangent. 

technical jargon or slang are barriers in communication that clients would not
be able to understand. Norburn (2013) acknowledged potential barriers that
could affect communication, and these are time and workload. Practitioners may
require more time and resources than usual in order to communicate effectively
with children and certain service users. A child’s age and stage of development
may potentially be a barrier because babies communicate through non-verbal
language, toddlers and preschool children have limited concentration spans or
are just reluctant to engage. Some practitioners may experience hostility from
parents who may not allow them to speak to their children alone. To avoid this
a social worker can arrange to visit the child at school with a practitioner
already known to the family like a health visitor. Some children and individuals
have additional needs for instance English can be their second language.
Practitioners will need to be guided by other professionals who know how best
to communicate with the child or client. If a social worker decides to work
with an interpreter Shackman et al, (1995) stated that it is important to
verify that the service user and interpreter speak the same dialect. They
should understand the purpose of the interview and should translate what is
being said by both parties without adding their own opinions. The environment
should be conducive to have effective communication. A chaotic, noisy
environment can destruct the child; therefore, it can be helpful if an
assessment or observation can be carried out in a setting that is more


conclude this essay, research has shown that it is possible to match a client’s
strengths and opportunities towards their desired objectives. Health
professionals can therefore assist clients develop an insight into their inner
strengths, ongoing resilience and wellbeing. 
I have realised that strength based approach indeed encourages
individuals to feel good about themselves as this appears to work for Molly. On
the other hand, attachment theory has positives, however the negatives are that
it appears inconclusive. Social deprivation seems to create a reaction to individuals
especially children, hence the emphasis why attachment connection plays an
important role in child development.






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