Saturday, 10 May 2014

Schools of Social Casework

In the beginning the aim of social work was to help but
later on due to influence of psychology and psychiatry,
personality and behaviour treatment have also been
added as the objective of social casework. Basic
orientation of social caseworkers are of different kinds
and with the result diagnostic and functional schools
appear in the practice of social casework.

Diagnostic School

The diagnostic school is basically founded on the
Freudian theory of psychoanalysis. Mary Richmond gave
shape to these thoughts in the form of a school. She
wrote first book on social casework i.e. Social Diagnosis
in 1917. The other contributors of this school were
Marion Kenworthy (New York School of Social Work),
Betsey Libbey (Family Society of Philadelphia), Gordon
Hamilton, Bertha Reynolds, Charlotte Towle, Florence
Day and Annette Garrett.
The Diagnostic school is based on the following main

Principles of Diagnosis

Social casework help is based on the understanding of
each client individually and his/her problems. It is
essential because it gives a realistic basis for
differentiation, and a base for the improvement of the
client’s social situation and personal satisfaction and
The diagnosis is based on the following principles:
1) The diagnostic process consists of a critical study
of a client and his/her situation and the trouble
concerning which help is sought or needed for the
purpose of understanding the nature of the difficulty
with increasing details and accuracy.
2) Diagnosis is based on the knowledge of the worker
about the interplay of social and psychological
factors affecting the client.
3) The knowledge of interaction between inner and
outer forces influencing the client makes the
process of diagnosis helpful and therapeutic.
4) Every problem of the individual should be
understood in the light of multiple factors theory.
5) In the initial stage also, relieving of pressure of
stresses and strains on the client, helps the
caseworker to arrive at a proper diagnosis.
6) The initial appraisal of personality and motivations
and their significance in the development of client’s
problem provides the basis for planning the
treatment of the client’s problems.
7) For the solution of the problem of the client, it is of
utmost importance to gain some knowledge of his/
her current capacity to work and to recognize the
motivating forces in his/her behaviour.
8) The understanding of the psycho-dynamics and the
pathological symptoms of the personality of the
client provides the basis of determining the kind of
help that can be appropriately offered.

Principles of Treatment

The main objective of the treatment is of alleviating
the client’s distress and decreasing the malfunctioning
in the person situation system. The above objective is
achieved by enhancing the adaptive skills of his/her
ego and functioning of the person situation system. It
is based on certain principles :
1) The forces of the discussion in the interview is
centred on the problem and ways of resolving it.
Attention is paid to know the obstacles both
situational and behavioural that stand in the way
of solution.
2) Nature and extent of both social and psychological
factors differ in each situation.
3) Treatment goals and techniques are planned after
a careful study of the particular needs of the client.
4) The success of the treatment programme is based
on the utilization of the relationship purposefully.
5) Social therapy and psychotherapy are the two broad
classifications of social casework treatment.

Use of Techniques

The techniques include encouraging, emotional
discharge, reassurance, support, suggestion, guidance
and direction, provision of new experiences, clarification,
interpretation, etc.

Use of Relationship

The relationship is the medium of treatment through
which client is enabled to find new ways of perceiving
his/her problems and of handling himself.

Functional School

The functional approach to social casework practice was
developed by the Faculty Members of the School of the
University of Pennsylvania. This approach is based on
the personality theory of Otto Rank. According to
Functional School social casework is a method of helping
people through special services given by social agencies
in such way that the experience of using such services
may be psychologically constructive. Thus the functional
school of social casework has two inseparable aspects:
1) Potentials for help to a person is inherent in the
existence of service. Inspite of the differences in
the clients and ways of using of agencies services,
the kind of service an agency gives and their
purposes remain the same.
2) The use of agency service gives psychological
experience that differs from the form of another
kind of service regardless of the similarity of problem
in the people using the two services.


The diagnosis is most effective which is related to the
need for some specific service and which is developed
in the course of giving the service. This school does not
recognize the significance of understanding the total
situation of the client. Functional diagnosis recognizes
that people cannot be categorized and a plan with a
specific kind of service may deny potential growth and
change. In establishing a diagnostic conclusion each
individual makes his/her own diagnosis of himself.
Diagnosis is a way of engaging in a human relationship
process, which frees the help seeker to determine his/
her own goal for himself/herself. The client is the
centre for change capable of continuous growth and


Functional school prefers to use the term helping
process, rather than treatment. Social caseworker is
not responsible for treating someone who is the passive
recipient of treatment because the school believes that
the centre for change resides in the client itself. Social
casework through the agency service seeks to release
power for improved social functioning.
The process of establishing and using a diagnosis serves
as the part of casework helping. Total social casework
process includes three stages or three time phases:
beginning, middle and ending.
In the beginning phase, the caseworker establishes
relationship by removing all the hindrances that come
in the way of understanding the client or by the client
to the caseworker. He/she also tries to understand the
client’s needs, desires, motives, interests and hopes
for future. He/she also divides the problem of the client
and put them in order of priority. The client starts to
take services from the agency. In the middle stage the
responsibility of the client increases and the relation
becomes more close. The last stage is of separation of
client from the caseworker. It is a difficult process.
Sometimes client does not like to terminate the service
due to emotional touch with the worker. The social
caseworker with all his/her abilities and capacities tries
on one hand not to harm his/her feelings and on the
other hand the client may go happily. Caseworker gives
him/her a chance to become conscious of his/her
readiness to leave, so that he/she can leave the agency
without and fear.

Difference between Diagnostic and Functional School

1) Diagnostic School follows the theory of personality
developed by Sigmund Freud whereas functional
school is based on the theory of ‘will’ developed by
Otto Rank.
2) Diagnostic School believes that personality is a
composite of many interacting forces, reacting not
only in each other but also influences the social
environment favourably or unfavourably. The
strength and the nature of balance of these forces
are the result of individual’s experiences primarily
of his/her relationship to parents and the other
person. The functional school also believes that the
process of development of personality takes place
within the interaction of inner needs and
environmental experiences, but such an interaction
takes place and is directed by the human beings
inborn will to individual development and autonomy.
3) According to diagnostic school, the ego is the chief
of psychic energy, the strength of which is
determined largely by the favourable or unfavourable
course of one’s psycho-social environment. But
according to functional school the ego (self) is the
result of the creative use of inner and outer
experience through the ‘will’ and is not the product
of interaction of inner and outer forces.
4) In the diagnostic view, the goal of treatment is to
increase the individual’s ego capacity whereas
functional school tends to direct his/her effort
toward helping the client to release his/her
inner capacity of feeling, organising and acting.
5) Total information about the client’s ego functions,
total personality, motivating forces, reality
pressures and his/her current feelings is essential
according to diagnostic view for enabling the client
to take part in the therapeutic relationship.
Functional school gives emphasis on the client’s
feelings in the immediate situation which includes
both his/her problem and the casework relationship
through which he/she may solve the problem, other
information are secondary.
6) Diagnostic School believes in doing planned and goal
directed help to the client –both psychological and
social. Functional school gives full freedom to the
client to give direction to his/her own process of
change. Agency services are made available.
7) The Diagnostic School accepts responsibility for
apprising client’s capacities and weakness and for
organising and arranging measures for self
development. The functional school believes in the
client’s right for choices and goals because of the
constructive value of the use of self.