All human beings are part of society and everyone in
the society has different social role and duties. While
performing his role and duties, individual faces many
problems in one or other form, which hinder his
performance as a social being. Casework is the oldest
and the most developed method of solving individual’s
problems and improving his social relations. In this unit
we will discuss the concept of casework and its
usefulness in solving these problems. We will also study
the evolution and historical development of casework
in the West and in India.
The Nature of Individual
Every individual is unique and his/her needs are
different from others in society. Consequently, the
treatment given or approach to one individual cannot
be used for the other individual. To understand human
behaviour and the individual difference Grace Mathew
has given following proposition.
An individual’s behaviour is conditioned by his/her
environment and his/her life experiences.
Behaviour refers to reacting, feeling, thinking, etc.
Attributes of human being are not visible to others.
The conditions and influences surrounding the
persons constitute the environment.
For human growth and development it is essential
that certain basic needs should be met. The basic
needs may be – physical and mental. Physical needs
refer to needs for food, shelter and clothing. Mental
needs can be in the form of emotional security,
need of parents, child, and spouse.
Emotional needs are real and they cannot be met
or removed through intellectual reasoning.
Behaviour is purposeful and is in response to the
individual’s physical and emotional needs.
Other people’s behaviour can be understood only in
terms of ones own emotional and intellectual
Each individual and every individual has his/her own
importance. As every human beinghas his/her own set
of qualities, he/she cannot be neglected.
Herbert Bisno described the following attributes of
Each individual by the very fact of his/her existence
is of worth.
Human suffering is undesirable and should be
prevented or at least alleviated, whenever possible.
All human behaviour is the result of interaction
between the biological organism and its
Man does not naturally act in a rational manner.
Man is amoral and asocial at birth.
There are both individual and common human
There are important differences between
individuals and they must be recognized and allowed
Human motivation is complex and frequently
Family relationships are of primary importance in
the early developments of individual.
“Experiencing” is essential for learning process.
While these two attributes regarding individuals seem
obvious at first glance they are often forgotten. Our
tendency to simplify events and our biases often prevents
us from realizing the uniqueness of the individuals with
whom we are dealing. We often observe how individuals
with different natures are treated using the common
approach. For example, we hear people say that beggars
have no self-respect and are lazy. To avoid this mistake
caseworkers have to remind themselves that each client
who comes to the agency has his own outlook, feelings
and attitudes. Their problems may have some
similarities but has important differences. Thus the
treatment must be differentiated according to the needs
of the individual. The caseworker should attempt to
understand the client’s need and respond to him in an
individualized way according to his needs. Similarly the
caseworker should recognize the individual as important
simply because he is human being. Professional
acceptance of clients by putting aside personal bias is
an important requirement of the caseworker. The
caseworker may have to deal with terrorists, criminals
and other deviants who he/she may personally dislike.
According to Maslow’s prioritization, needs can be
categorized as follows:
Physiological needs: This refers to basic needs of
food, shelter, cloth, air, and water.
Safety needs: It is the nature of human being that
it like to be on the safer side and avoid physical
damage and hazards.
Need for belongingness and love: Every human
being loves to be love and to belong a particular
group and with the prestige in that group. If a person
is deprived from parental love, affection of siblings
and peer group, there are chances of development
of violent behaviour in him.
Esteemed needs: It is general psychology of human
being that it like to be at the top position, to have
status in the society and acceptance in his own
Need for self-growth and identification: After
fulfillment of above needs there is need for
opportunities available to a person for self-growth
and to prove his capabilities for his remarkable
identification in the society.
Need for cognitive understanding of self and the
world around: When the person recognize himself
and the world around him it is said that all his
needs are fulfilled. It is the top most need in the
need hierarchy, which governs the person at
spirituality and very few persons achieve it.
We can say that each human being has a number of
needs requiring satisfaction. If these needs are not
fulfilled it may result in frustration followed by crisis
situation. The caseworker has to understand the client’s
need in order to study, diagnose and to give treatment
according to his needs.
Problems Faced By Individual and
Problems may be caused due to the non-fulfillment of
needs or inability to perform his social roles. The
social roles are connected with being a parent, spouse
and wage-earning worker etc.
Causes of Human Problems
Problem of social functioning causes distress to the
individuals. These individuals are not to be considered
as a unit of category but a unique person. Casework
method tries to resolve individual problems through
According to Encyclopedia of Social Work Vol.1, the
reason for human problems may be divided into five
1) Lack of material resources
2) Misconception about the situation and relationships
and lack of appropriate information
3) Illness or health problems related to a disability
4) Emotional distress resulting from stressful
5) Personality features or deficiencies
Grace Mathew undertook a survey of 200 casework
records, which was based on the reports of casework
services rendered for the clients in India. From the
sample obtained from Survey of Casework Record; the
problems can be categorized as follows:
1) Problems related to illness and disabilities
2) Problems due to lack of material resources
3) School related problems
4) Problems related to institutionalization
5) Behaviour problems
6) Problems of marital discord
7) Problem situations needing a follow-up service
8) Needs related to rehabilitation of people
handicapped by disabilities
9) Predicaments and difficulties of client caught up in
problems that have been regarded as social problems
like gambling, prostitution, alcoholism, drug
addiction and unmarried motherhood.
Types of Problem
In general we can categorize the problems faced by
Figure: Problems Faced by Individuals
Broadly we can say that in a society many problems
are associated with the individual and the prime aim of
casework is to resolve individual problems in order to
help him/her to be independent and effective in social
Concept of Social Casework
In the words of Gordon and Hamilton “social casework
which is both a tool and area of work consists of
processes which develop personality through adjustment
consciously affect individual by individual between man
and his social environment”. Miss Richmond gives this
definition of casework. “Social casework is art of doing
different things for and with different people by
cooperating with them to achieve at one and at the
same time their own and their society’s betterment.”
Thus it is both art and science of resolving individual
problems in social area, for individual and society are
interdependent and social forces influence behaviour
and attitude of an individual.
The focus of each branch is different but the practice of
these three branches is not mutually exclusive. Social
casework is concerned with individual and his
adjustment to life and general social welfare. It does
not concentrate on individual to the exclusion of social
factors. In other words the basic objective of social
casework is to promote social welfare with basic focus
Basic Assumptions of Social Casework
The main work of social casework is to enable an
individual in solving a problem through self-efforts. The
social worker’s job is to provide adequate help and
guidance. According to Hamilton the chief assumptions
of social casework are:
Individual and society are interdependent and
complimentary to each other.
Various factors operative in the society influence
human behaviour and attitude.
Some problems are psychological and some are
interpersonal in nature.
In the process of social casework conscious and
controlled relations are established for achieving
Social casework enables an individual to solve his/
her problems by channelising his/her energy and
Social casework provides everyone equal right to
progress. It also provides help to every needy and
The ultimate goal of social casework is to establish
harmonious relationship between individual and the
society to which he belongs. According to Grace Mathew
there are certain assumptions, which constitute the
fundamental structure of social casework. They are
generated out of the collective thinking and traditions
These philosophical assumptions are:
Every human being has to be considered as a person
with dignity and worth.
Human beings are interdependent and it governs
their interaction in social groups.
There are common human needs for growth and
development of individuals. The existence of
common needs does not negate the uniqueness of
individuals. Every individual is like all other
human beings in some aspects and like no other
individuals in certain aspects.
Every individual has within him/her, the potential
for growth and achievement and he/she has a right
to the realization of this potential. From this it follows
that people has capacity to change.
Society has an obligation to help those who do not
have the means for the realization of their
Historical Development of Casework in
West and India
Individuals in every society right from ancient times
were helped by others to solve their problems. All
religions encouraged the helping of the poor and
helpless people. Howeverit took professional shape in
the late 19th and early 20th century. To date the actual
beginning of social casework in west is impossible but
some important landmarks in its growth is given below.
The Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor
(A.I.C.P.) formed in America in 1843 approached the
problem of poverty more individually than had been
previously it was. The aims of A.I.C.P. were to visit the
poor at homes, to give counsel, to assist them practically
in obtaining employment, to instill in them self-respect
and self-reliance, to inculcate the habits of economy
and whenever absolutely necessary to provide such
relief as should be suited to their wants.
The first professional School of Social Work was the
New York School established in 1898. The establishment
of this institution indicates that social work had
sufficiently large body of knowledge and skills by that
time. Further the need was felt for better trained
professionals as complicated modern problems could not
be handled in traditional ways.
The earliest organised effort in USA was the
establishment of American Charity Organisation Society
in 1877. One of the aims of the society was to find out
the ways and means of helping the poor and needy and
thus to organise individualised service. The society used
volunteers called “FRIENDLY VISITORS”. We will be
studying in detail about contribution of Friendly Visitors
in coming chapter of the same unit. The main plan of
this organisation included the investigation of applicants
to assess the need, central registration, recording and
The first training programme for the casework started
at this time. Casework at this time was based more on
medical model. For sometime casework was only
confined to sick persons, i.e. a sick person to be treated
was the priority.
The term “work with case” was used for the first time
in national conference in USA. The first professional
training programme especially for the casework was
started in the form of summer training. The impact of
this training programme resulted in the need for more
substantial training and schools of social work attached
to the agencies came into existence. When these schools
started regular training programme, they were
recognized as professionals.
Miss Richmond and Francis McLean, offered specialized
service to thousand of clients. Social casework journal
of family service association grew out of efforts of this
great pioneer movement. The first book in case work
“Social Diagnosis” was published in 1917 by Miss
Impact of First World War
Prior to First World War, major emphasis was given on
the social factor, which influenced individuals who had
problems. The causes of these problems were found in
the environment and the larger social economical
pressure under which people lived. The primary basis
of social casework was human behaviour.
The impact of Second World War was that social work
became popular and a large number of people who had
not been acquainted with it became familiar with it.
Medical and psychiatric social workers were especially
in demand during the war. Many men and women came
to know the meaning of social casework for the first
The First World War made a wide impact on social
casework. Psychiatry in this period became important.
The contribution of Freud and his follower influenced
the method employed by the caseworker in dealing with
the individuals. Child guidance clinic movement and
treatment, prevention of mental problem and
delinquency strengthened the psychological orientation
of this approach.
At this time caseworker adopted the new
psychoanalytical approach to understand the client and
their problems. These caseworkers found the
psychoanalytical theory and the concepts in psychology
very useful in casework movement. This
psychoanalytical theory was given by Freud and known
as Freudian psychology made strong impact on casework.
Thus it was the era of psychiatric development of social
work. Focus of caseworker was on psychic forces within
the individuals. Professionals also began to move into
other fields like prisons, school, etc.
In late 1920’s it was expected that client and his/her
involvement in problem solution was essential for the
success of casework. At this time caseworker realized
that more responsibilities should be given to individuals
to make decisions of their life. In 1930 psychoanalytical
contributions became very important and social
caseworkers accepted the new method of dealing with
Gradually several schools of thought developed with
many points in common and number of differences.
These schools were based on the theory of Sigmund
Freud and Otto Rank.
It was the era of sudden changes in life-style that lead
to economic depression. Casework had to consider the
economic factors, which were causing distress to the
clients. It was realized that economic distress could
lead to emotional disaster and breakdown. The social
and economic need of great differentiation refocused
sociological and reality consideration for social work
and compiled action on the part of federal government.
At this time many work programmes such as federal
emergency relief act, the work progress administration,
the public work administration and the civilian
conservation corporation emerged. Thus major outcome
of the depression was establishment of governmental
public assistant programme. It relieved the voluntary
agencies from the task of providing economic help.
Caseworker was able to devote more time in dealing
with clients inter personal problems.
The 1940s were dominated by the world war. Social
work approaches emerged in the previous decade were
transformed by the changes in theory and practice.
Impact of Second World War
Social casework was greatly influenced by the events
of Second World War. During the war there was increase
in personal problems on the part of clients due to
financial crises. Emotional problems also increased. To
meet these needs and to solve these problems family
agencies were started.
In this era private practice in the social work began.
Professional agencies were started growing in the field
of case study. Now the caseworker started going to
community and the problems of community were taken
care indirectly through solving individual problems. It
was the period of resettlement, revaluation, and
upgradation for social worker.
Here the most promising development increased stress
on importance of research. The past overemphasis on
either environment or personality gave away the
awareness of interdependence of these two factors. In
this era social action was more focused to bring about
change in the society. Casework method adopted new
techniques and principles.
One of the current trends is shifting of caseworker from
older and established agencies to newer and
experimental areas of social work. Caseworkers are now
more aware of their own contribution to human welfare.
As a profession it has now gained more popularity. One
of the current trends is increased stress on the
importance of research. Also there is growing awareness
that personality and environment are interdependent.
Importance of Casework as a Method: Casework in
Indian culture and religions advocate the need to help
the poor and needy. There is also a tradition of
knowledgeable individuals providing advice and support
to others, for example Krishna gave advice and support
to Arjun at the beginning of the Mahabharat war. The
Hindu Shastras also emphasized on giving which may
be in the form of wealth, knowledge and wisdom. In
Buddhism help should be given to relatives and friends.
In Islam alms was given by the fortunate to the State
and used for welfare of needy. Christian missionaries
in India also started activities which aimed at helping
the poor. But these efforts were paternalistic in nature
and did not aim at making the individual independent.
Further, the relationship in these instances was not
professional. Thus there exists an important difference
between modern professional casework and traditional
helping of needy individuals.
Education of social workers in India started with the
training of volunteers engaged in charity and relief
activities. In 1911 N.M. Joshi had established Social
Service League in Mumbai. This league conducted
training programme for volunteers who are at the
service of people suffering from famines, epidemics,
floods and such other disasters and also who conducted
welfare programmes among the poor and the destitute.
The first professional social workers who did casework
in the Indian settings were trained in the American
School of Social Work. In 1936 Sir Dorabji Tata Graduate
School of Social Work, now known as Tata Institute of
Social Science (TISS), was started to impart training to
those who had a University degree in the field of social
service. Thus, the training for the social work was
changed into a full time career oriented educational
programme. Casework as a theoretical course and as a
method of practice in the academic programme started
from the year 1946. Initially social casework was
practiced in relatively few agencies and institutions but
nowadays social casework is practiced in many
agencies, institutions and organisation such as
hospitals, clinics, courts, industry, military organisation,
family welfare agency, child welfare agency, institution
for the aged, destitute, orphans etc.
Major Landmarks in the History of
Contribution of Friendly Visitor
As we discussed earlier the term Friendly Visitors was
first used in 1877 by American Charity Organisation
Society for its volunteers. Citizens of England with the
object of helping poor people founded this society. These
people had funds to help poor and needy. They were
kindhearted volunteers who visited poor families to
assess their needs and to provide help, guidance and
advice. They made their visits in act of charity and not
expecting any monetary rewards. They collected data
about the needy individuals and families and helped
them after assessing their needs.
There were hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who
made their visits to the home of poor and brought
whatever they could in the way of understanding,
sympathy, encouragement and general goodwill. The
role of Friendly Visitor was educational one and goal
was to improve the character through personal
influence. Living advice and being model were two
methods by which the visitor influenced the client and
there can be no doubt that some of them did exert a
wholesome personality influence in difficult personal
and family situation. However, there was comparatively
little consciousness or the analysis of factors at work
in the relationship. At the same time it was probably
through the efforts of Friendly Visitors that the concept
of scientific charity evolved and seeds of social casework
were sown. The visitor found that the problem of all
poor people is not alike and they should not be treated
in the same manner.
The term Friendly Visitors was subsequently
supplemented by the term “Paid Agents”. These Paid
Agents developed systematic procedures in performing
their task. They collected data about the needy
individuals and families and helped them after assessing
their needs. Paid Agents also maintained records
including personal data and the type of help given to
clients. The collective experience of Friendly Visitors
and Paid Agents facilitated the understanding of human
With the development of Schools of Social Work, Friendly
Visitors received training and instructions about the
method of investigation, diagnosis and treatment from
experienced social worker.
Contributions of Mary Richmond
In the previous chapter we discussed that the beginning
of professional casework is associated with publication
of Mary Richmond’s book “Social Diagnosis”.
In the words of Richmond “Social diagnosis is the
attempt to arrive at as exact a definition as possible of
social situation and personality of the given client”. She
was interested in the formation of methodology of
helping clients. She visualized a diagnostic summary
with following three headings:
Assets and liabilities
Richmond knew that the facts, which were observed
and inferred, are not always scientifically reliable.
Richmond tried to answer the following questions.‘‘Who
arrives at diagnosis? what are the basis of influence?
how reliable is the worker’s judgment and the facts on
which they are based?”
Richmond found that diagnosis is a process consisting
sequence of steps in order to facilitate the worker to
arrive finally at his/her definition of social situation
and personality of client. The sequence of steps was as
Interview with client
Contact with his family and near ones
Search of inside and outside sources for cooperation
The interpretation of information collected
Interview with Client
According to Richmond the primary step is to know the
personality of the individual and to study his/her life
closely, which can be done by interviewing him/her
about his/her family background, family doctor, health
agencies, schools, past and present employers,
residence and neighbourhood. Interviewer’s aim is to
collect information regarding the sources for further
information. Richmond also described the objectives of
the worker for the interview, which are to:
give the client fair and patient hearing.
establish mutual understanding on good basis.
secure clues about other source of information.
begin the slow process of developing self-help and
Contact with his Family and Near Ones
In the critical contact with the family, Richmond saw
the need of an individual not only for assessing the
personality, diagnosis of problem but also to develop a
relationship with other members of the family.
Richmond felt that attention should be given to family
cohesion, unity of family and the capacity of family
members toward affection, enjoyment and social
development, children’s ambitions and aptitude,
interference of relatives and difference in role were to
Search of Inside and Outside Sources for Collaboration
Outside source of information to make diagnosis
included social agencies, churches, doctors and health
agencies, present and former neighbours, relatives,
friends, present and past employers, school and public
record, etc. and inside sources like his/her willpower,
confidence, self-reliance, attitude etc.
Miss Richmond recommended that the worker gain
information from this outside source and he/she goes
first to those sources which were likely to influence
his/her personality and the most prominent factors in
The Interpretation of Information Collected
The collected data from the above sources was
considered as raw material for diagnosis. Such
interpretation is arrived through the careful weighing
of evidence and critical comparison. Social evidence was
defined Richmond as “all facts as to personal or family
history are taken together indicates the nature of a
given clients in social difficulties and means to their
solutions”. She also recognized that the client’s own
hopes, plans and attitude towards life are more
important than any other information.
Richmond made the first exclusive effort to analyse
casework process. This was the first truly professional
approach in casework. The contribution of Richmond
has always been held in respect by modern caseworker
because of many reasons. It contains the concept of
self-determination which has become very important
in modern casework philosophy.
Richmond’s interest was dual. On the one hand it was
a social and on the other hand it was psychological. It
was concluded that forces within the individuals and
outside him/her influence his/her behaviour and his/
her nature in the society. Richmond attempted to
combine this dual interest and she suggested that there
ought to be a profession called “Sociatry”.
Contribution of Freudian Theory
As mentioned earlier during the First World War much
the influence of psychiatry became strong. Before the
advent of psychiatry Social Casework was practiced as
an active art. The caseworker investigated, diagnosed
and administered the social services. After being
influenced by Freudian theory, social caseworker also
provided individual therapy. Feelings, emotions,
attitudes, repressed conflicts and the dealing with the
unconscious became an integral part of Social Casework
understanding and method. Gradually, social work
curriculums in the West include psychiatry.
Today, as in the past, many social workers---not only
those who specialize in psychoanalysis---draw on
Freudian theory in their efforts to understand human
behaviour. In 1918, the first psychoanalytically oriented
school of social work, Smith College School for Social
Work, was founded to teach students about Sigmund
Freud’s ideas and their application to practice,
particularly in the treatment of WWI veterans’ suffering
from trauma due to their war experience. Freud’s
influence is found in many areas of casework. His
greatest influence was however on caseworker- client
relationship. Previously clients were persuaded,
convinced or even coerced into accepting the caseworker
suggestions and ideas. But now the caseworker worker
with client by listening and honoring the client’s selfexpression.
Informally, a few psychoanalysts did provide training
and supervision to social workers and in 1948 social
workers were first accepted at the psychoanalytic
institutes of the National Psychological Association for
Psychoanalysis, and the Postgraduate Centre for Mental
Health, both in New York. Organisations such as the
American Psychoanalytic Association, which earlier had
prevented social workers, dropped their prohibitions
against admitting social workers.
The basic concepts of Freudian theory is as mentioned
Through his experience with hypnosis and study of
dreams, Freud found a word of hidden mentality, which
he called the “Unconscious”. Many of the social workers
that came into contact with Freud’s concept of
unconsciousness, and psychiatry began to introduce
these concepts into social work.
Thinking of men is divided into two parts and Freud
noted that these two parts were often in conflict with
each other. To understand the ambivalence he
explained that, onecould love and hate simultaneously,
one could have fear and courage at the same time etc.
Freud observed that there were many conflicts between
past experience and present attitude of a person. That
is why to treat the conflict one should know the history
Transference refers to any distortion of a present
relationship because of unresolved (and mostly
unconscious) issues left over from early relationship.
Resistance refers to the resistance to interpretation of
The Chief Conception of Freud are:
1) Unconscious mind is the determinant behaviour.
2) Ambivalence in feeling and attitude.
3) Past experience determines the present behaviour
of the person.
4) The recognitions of the phenomenon of transference
5) Resistance to interpretation of transference to be
dealt in all helping process.
Freud’s three disciples Alfred Adler, Carl Jung and Otto
Rank have developed schools of their own. Adler was
instrumental in establishing the first child guidance
clinic in Vienna. Adler introduced the system of
“individual psychology”. Jung has given analytical
psychology and emphasized a relationship with the
therapist and therapeutic factor. Otto Rank practiced
as a therapist and wrote extensively on technical as
well as on cultural aspects of psychoanalysis and gives
emphasis on psychotherapeutic philosophy.
Value of Social Casework within the
Sphere of Social Work
We know that Social Casework as method of social work
aims at helping individual to solve his/her problem in
the society to perform in better way and to enhance
his/her own capabilities. The basic unit of society is
individual. If individuals are satisfied in their life and
efforts are made to minimize maladjustment then it
leads to formation of peaceful society. Society is
consisting of individual.
Every profession has a tested body of knowledge for it’s
own growth and development. This body of knowledge
should be easily understandable and communicable and
should include principles, techniques, method,
procedure, tools and terminology of its own. The social
work as profession has developed a body of knowledge,
which include method and tools, and terminology of its
own. In the sphere of social work, casework as a method
demands a dual orientation. Firstly orientation in
human psychology, secondly orientation in knowing
cultural force of the society in which it works.
Initially Social Casework was practiced in a few
agencies and institutions but it has been increasingly
utilized in newer settings. Today there are many
agencies, institutions and organisations, which
frequently use social casework. It is practiced in
hospitals, clinics, courts, industries, military
organisations, family welfare agencies both government
and voluntary, immigrant agencies, day nurseries and
schools, adoption agencies, child guidance clinics,
hygiene organisation, health organisation and others.
In this chapter, we have studied the concept of casework
i.e. casework for individual and general welfare, basic
and philosophical assumptions of casework, its
functioning in the society etc. We further studied the
historical development of casework in West, its roots in
the form of concept of charity, then its journey from
friendly visitors to modern professional caseworkers.
Then we studied the development of casework in India.
Contribution of “Buddhism”, “Maurya”, “Islam”, British
period in historical development of casework and
starting of professional social work with establishment
of schools of social work in India. We also studied the
impact of World Wars, Friendly visitors, contributions
of Mary Richmond and Freud in the history of casework
Apart from the above topics we also studied about the
individual needs i.e. his/her basic needs, physical
needs, psychological needs etc. and about the distress
caused by non-fulfillment of needs. Then we discussed
about the problems faced by individuals and families in
their day-to-day life and the role of caseworker in
resolving the problem, then the scope of casework in
social work. Casework as a tool of dealing with individual
has become an important method of social work.