Family Centered Practice

MSW - Direct Family Centered Practice  

At Newman University “direct family-centered practice” is more than just family therapy. Direct family-centered practice is based upon the premise that the family is the basic unit of society and that it forms a natural focus for social work intervention in contemporary practice. The MSW program at NU employs an expansive definition of the family. In essence, the family is understood as a socially defined entity defined by blood- or legal-ties, property, or social mores. In addition, the family is an evolving social entity defined by emotional ties, subjective perceptions, and personal choices of its members. Families are understood in terms of social system dynamics, and are seen as both defining and defined by society and the family members. Attention is paid to both the family of origin and the elective adult family, traditionally and somewhat prejudicially named the “family of procreation.” A wide range of variant family forms are recognized and addressed in the curriculum.

Drawing on this description, we conceptualize direct family-centered social work practice in terms of the knowledge and skills of the worker. We imagine the family-centered practitioner as being especially knowledgeable about the nature of families in their various forms. Cultural relativity, community, the life cycle, and the systemic nature of families (including the concepts of roles, emotional dynamics, family and generational boundaries, hierarchy of organization and the embeddedness of the family in its community context) are viewed as essential concepts in understanding the family. The family-centered social work practitioner is aware that although general explanatory theories are useful and practical, individual families are varied and creative and have unique and essential strengths and capacities. Most families are able to protect, foster, and nurture their members (including their children) provided major risk factors such as poverty, physical and mental illness, and addiction are reduced or eliminated.

Direct family-centered practice differs from generalist practice in the requirements that students develop more sophisticated and specialized diagnostic and assessment skills, more sophisticated and specialized intervention skills (including case management, advocacy, and elements of psychotherapy), and appreciation of the value and ethical implications that this practice entails.