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The Terminology Of Social Casework: An Attempt At Theoretical Clarification (1954)
by Werner W. Boehm
Editor’s Note: Werner Boehm (1913 -2011) was a distinguished social work educator. He was the recipient of many awards and honors, including a Fulbright award (1969), the Rutgers Medal (1983), the National Association of Social Work’s Social Worker of the Year (1983), an honorary doctorate from the Tulane University School of Social Work (1992) and the Council on Social Work Education’s Significant Lifetime Achievement award (1995).
Many of us tend to attribute the difficulties which we encounter in conveying the function of social casework to the lay public at least in part to the fact that our language is too technical. In doing so, we forget that the development of a special vocabulary is a necessary phase in the growth of a science and a scientific profession as it goes through the process of organizing its knowledge into a consistently integrated system. As terms which at one time have had only colloquial or commonsense meaning take on a special significance among the members of a profession, a professional shorthand comes into being. This indicates that conceptualization of the knowledge which a profession calls characteristically its own has begun or is m process.
We may, therefore, ask ourselves this question: Why is it desirable to examine the vocabulary of social casework? Do we not all speak the same professional language?
The answer is that basically we do. However, the terms we use in our professional language do not seem to have been defined with as much precision as might be desirable for effective communication even among ourselves. Furthermore, even where meanings were clear at one time, the impact of societal change and the influx of new knowledge from the sciences has produced new developments in casework, and old terms have been infused with new meaning.
We have learned our professional language as children learn their social language (i.e., by association with one another) through communication and from context. We have not learned it through specific definitions of specific terms; hence much lack of precision in meaning was bound to arise. This presents hazards, since imprecision not only makes accurate intraprofessional communication difficult but also retards theory creation, which is an essential step in the development of a profession, and dulls practice. Terms are shorthand designations of abstractions or generalizations; in other words, they are concepts. The development and scientific testing of concepts are important tasks of a scientific profession, and it is suggested that the task of developing concepts must, of necessity, precede the task of scientific verification.2
One of the ways in which the theory of social casework has developed is not so much by creating new concepts as by changing the meaning of old concepts under the impact of new experiences and new knowledge. For instance, when we mention the term “diagnosis,” we still understand by it the same procedural steps which Mary Richmond first described, namely, observation, classification, inference, and testing. But we have enriched the concept of diagnosis to include the impact of psychic as well as social factors on human functioning.
It seems, therefore, desirable for casework to examine its terms in order to assess their meaning, to account for inconsistent uses of terms in the professional literature, and to attempt clarification in the light of observable changes of the function of social casework in today’s society.
The task at hand obviously is an arduous one. It exceeds the boundaries of a paper and requires the concentrated efforts of many members of the profession. Fortunately, there is a great deal of interest and an increasing amount of activity in theory development. This is revealed in the attempts of teachers of social work and practitioners to state the knowledge of the field in conceptual terms rather than being content with the description of practice. This paper is designed to add to the existing conceptual material in the field of social work in the hope that it will lead us to rethink some of our assumptions, reexamine some of our practices, and remodel some of our terms.
In order to avoid the dangers of private definitions which would hold only limited validity for the field as a whole, two complementary methods of approach are suggested: (1) The assessment of social casework against the social matrix of which it is a part and which influences its scope and function; this takes into account new meanings which terms derive from new social conditions. (2) The application of the method of logical inquiry to the definition of terms; this safeguards the rationality of the undertaking.
Both methods make discussion possible, for meanings will be stated explicitly rather than left implied.
Consequently, I shall take the following steps: (I) I shall state my thinking on the scope and function of social casework against which I wish to examine the terminology of social casework. (II) I shall select from the vocabulary of social casework some terms which appear to me to be particularly in need of clarification and examine their meaning in a logically consistent way.
Before proceeding along these lines, a word of explanation is in order. We hear it said
3sometimes that the definition of a profession is a superfluous task. The argument is that medicine, law, and the ministry, the old and well-established professions, are not defined by their members. I believe, however, that we require definition of our core activities (and not of the growing edge of our activities) in order to increase for us, for related professions, and for the public, the understanding of the role that we play in society. As this role, in contrast to the concept which most people have of the position of the minister or the lawyer, is frequently unknown or distorted, it behooves us to evoke a more precise picture of the social role of the social worker.3
Social Casework: Its Scope And Function In Today’s Society
Although it might seem presumptuous to encompass in a portion of a paper so vast a topic as the scope and function of social casework, it is necessary to attempt at least a sketch of this. The reason is that social casework is in constant flux. As it responds to two sets of influences, changes in society and the findings of the social and biological sciences, it takes on a role which I believe makes it quite different from what it was twenty or thirty years ago.
An assessment of these two sets of influences, then, and their effect upon social casework practice may help us to reduce the cultural lag which tends to affect our thinking about the scope and function of social casework in modern society.
The influence of social change upon social casework.—In the past inevitable events such as migration, economic dependency, unemployment, catastrophic illness, and the social disorganization which came in their wake were among the major social factors which impinged upon individuals. People had to seek help in overcoming the effects of these forces upon their personal lives. One might advance the hypothesis that urbanization, which was made possible by the industrial revolution, gave birth to social work as a helping function, particularly in the area of economic insecurity brought about by unemployment and ill-health. As the feudal serf traded economic security for intellectual freedom, it became necessary, in keeping with the Judeo-Christian tradition of charity, to develop a helping profession.
This may account, at least in rough outline, for the concern of social casework, which in the early period was synonymous with social work, with such problems as dependency and neglect. This also explains the interest in individuals as categories, such as the blind, the mentally ill, etc., the refuse of a fast-moving, burgeoning society which would pause on its onward, upward road only long enough to show grudging concern for those who fell by the wayside. However, the events of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the beginning of this century do not begin to explain either the scope or the function of social casework today. Today social disorganization is less abrupt, operates in a more subtle fashion, and, contrary to yesterday, not only affects certain vulnerable groups in our economy but makes every member of society subject to its pervasive influence. The complexity of modern society is the most important factor in this process. This is exemplified by our being exposed to vast and radical technological changes which we cannot readily understand. They leave us with a sense of powerlessness as we realize that they will affect our lives without our participation. This is further evidenced by the role the United States is playing in international affairs, a role it cannot play effectively unless it has the support of a citizenry which is psychologically prepared for the thinking and doing which this new role entails. This is also shown in our increasing alienation from the processes of government and the source of events as they are portrayed by the mass media of communication. The feeling of being manipulated, of not being part of a process, can be powerfully reinforced (by national and international events as well as national and international policies) in a society in rapid transition where technological and political changes lead to a breaking-up of tradition. In such a society established value orientations no longer serve the purpose of providing the security of belonging. In such a society the search for new values seldom leads to security and often only to unsatisfactory substitutions. This kind of subtle disorganization,4 which is an ongoing process, creates a new kind of psychosocial dysfunctioning5 which may range from a sense of personal malaise and dissatisfaction to considerable psychic disorder, such as psychosis, or antisocial behavior such as delinquency.
If this analysis of the social matrix of present-day social casework be correct, it may be said that social dysfunctioning, a breakdown in an individual’s capacity to carry out his social role in a personally and socially satisfying manner, must be viewed as one of the unavoidable vicissitudes of modern life. It may be a portion of the price we pay for living in a technologically advanced society to which our cultural, social, psychological, political, and economic apparatus has not yet learned to accommodate itself. The often-stated function of social casework has been to help individuals with those social problems which they are incapable of solving alone. If this function is reexamined in the light of present-day trends and present-day knowledge, it suggests a tremendous scope for social casework as a method of help which potentially is available to all people in all walks of life.
This view is reinforced by a look at the recent thinking in the social and biological sciences about man’s social functioning. The insights of sociology help us to understand better the effect of role, status, and power upon individual functioning. The insights of social anthropology help us to realize that behavior is partly determined by the subtle expectations of a family or a group or a national culture. These insights have augmented our knowledge of the psychodynamic growth-processes of the individual which we have gained from psychiatry. To this broadened picture of man as a sociocultural and psychological organism we have added the contribution of the biological sciences. They have taught us that the human organism is endowed with a wide range of problem-solving mechanisms which are necessary for the handling of all those factors which threaten his biochemical, physiological, psychological and social equilibrium.”6In the “problem-solving continuum” which is life, equilibrium failures sometimes occur, and, under the impact of the social forces described above, man, despite his ingenuity, will not always be able either to avoid disequilibrium or to restore equilibrium. Therefore, it is suggested again that the function of social casework is to become active in those areas of individual disequilibrium which either are caused by social factors or manifest themselves in social dysfunctioning.
An Examination Of Selected Terms Of Social Casework
Against this view of the role of social casework in the society of today I shall now proceed to examine some of the terms in our vocabulary. I shall choose two sets of terms: those which are frequently used without having originated within the do-main of social casework, namely, the terms “principle” and “concept,” the term “problem” and the term “social,” and those that are imbued with special meaning in social casework, namely, the terms “method” and “process,” the terms “technique,” “tool,” and “skill,” the term “service,” and the term “counseling.”
Terms which have not originated in social casework.—1. In the literature of social casework the terms “principle” and “concept” are frequently used interchangeably. However, there is an important difference. A principle is a rule for action or a guide for behavior, whereas a concept is an identification in abstract terms of a series of observed situations, events, or activities which are thought to be related to one another. For instance, self-determination, respect for the human personality, participation, and confidentiality are among the principles of social casework. These principles dictate certain types of behavior on the part of the worker toward the client. Diagnosis, treatment, adjustment, in-sight, etc., are concepts (i.e., abstractions) which convey certain ideas about certain activities. They do not prescribe a given behavior or action.
There is a connection between principle and concept. For instance, the term “adjustment” will be used by most social workers to mean a process of social interaction of such a nature that societal norms with which a client is in disagreement are incorporated by means other than force. This view of the concept of adjustment involves the application of the principles of self-determination and participation. In other words, concepts are inclusive terms which describe situations warranting behavior guided by principles.
2. The term “problem” has frequently been used to connote certain states of physiological or psychological pathology. The reasons for this may be cultural as well as historic and economical. Some of them have been suggested above. Etymologically speaking, problem means something that is “thrown out” for consideration, a question which requires an answer. If we think of life as a series of problem-solving opportunities and of man as having problem-solving capacities, we may be able to conceive of a problem, for purposes of social casework, as any state of disequilibrium which results in enough social dysfunctioning to cause the person so affected to be in need of or to seek outside help. This means that social casework can be concerned with any kind of psychosocial dysfunctioning. It might range from the need for financial assistance by a psychologically perfectly adequate old couple, or the need for a homemaker by a psychologically perfectly adequate young couple when the wife needs hospitalization for confinement, to the need for help with a psychologically disturbed child who is stealing because of a troubled relationship with his parents.
3. In the past there has been much loose use of the term “social.” It meant, by and large, environmental forces. In recent literature the term seems to have taken on a double meaning: it implies any factor or set of factors outside the client which in some way affect his interactions. This includes economic, cultural, political, and spiritual factors, conditions of health and illness, vocational factors and factors of housing, and relationships with members of the family and with society at large. Second, the term “social” connotes the outward expression through social functioning or dysfunctioning of psychic events within the client. This helps us to realize that the social functioning of people is different at different points in their lives. For a hospitalized patient who is in process of recovering from an operation, social functioning means the more or less effective way of playing his role as a patient, which includes interacting with the hospital personnel and with his family in a way different from a healthy person.
The value of this clarification for practice becomes apparent when the meaning of the term “social” is applied to the psychosocial diagnosis which is a daily undertaking of many practitioners. Psychosocial diagnosis means two things: the assessment of the impact of a vast array of factors in the social realm upon the psychic equilibrium of the client and the assessment of the impact of psychic factors upon the social economy of the client. A clear awareness of this relationship enables the practitioner to avoid viewing casework as an ersatz method which allegedly treats symptoms, whereas psychotherapy is supposedly concerned with causes.
Terms which have acquired special meaning in social casework.—The second set of terms which I want to discuss has taken on special meaning in the context of our professional parlance. They are the terms “method” and “process,” the terms “technique,” “tool,” and “skill,” and the term “service.”
1. Casework is often referred to as a method of help as well as a helping process. Both “method” and “process” are correct designations, but they do refer to different characteristics of casework. Casework as a method refers to specific activities which differentiate it from other activities directed toward a treatment goal. In casework the goal is to help people to cope with certain psycho-social problems. Method refers to the how and not the what of the caseworker’s operation, his way of thinking about the client and his problem, his way of operating to arrive at an understanding of the client, and his way of treatment, all of which must be characteristic and must differentiate casework from other methods of helping, such as group work or psychotherapy.
Process, however, refers to a specific element contained in the method of casework, namely, the interaction between client and worker, provided it takes place within a time span and involves a beginning and an ending and envisages the possibility of change. We can, therefore, speak of the process of diagnosis and the process of treatment. Both are component parts of the method of social casework, and both necessitate the kind of interaction between client and worker which is time-bound and the intensity of which varies in relation to treatment goals and treatment methods.
2. In many instances the terms “technique” and “tool” are used interchangeably, although in recent years the term “tool” is less frequently encountered than “technique.” Technique, according to Webster, refers to “the method of procedure or to the details of procedure essential to expertness of execution in any art, science, etc. “Tool” is defined as a means to an end. We will add to terminological clarity if we agree upon the use of the term “technique” only for those aspects of a given method of treatment which have been identified as being specific to this method. In other words, technique then would mean a specific procedure which together with other procedures is characteristic of a given method. Much of the literature which addresses itself to treatment in social casework uses the terms “technique” and “method” synonymously. Scrutiny, however, shows that usually when the term “technique” is used the meaning refers to a series of techniques which have certain elements in common. To describe a series of techniques which have common elements, it would be preferable to use the term “method.”
Some semantic confusion may arise from the use of the term “method” both to designate distinct groups of techniques of diagnosis and treatment and to describe the totality of the case-work processes as different from other methods of helping. There are two alternatives: the avoidance of the term “method” to designate treatment techniques or the elimination of the term “method” in referring to casework processes. Either course would probably detract from conceptual clarity. Usually, the context in which the term “method” is used will reveal the meaning which is attached to it. This may have to suffice until a more advanced stage of conceptual development is reached.
The term “tool” might better be left unused in casework unless it be specifically applied to the interview and to recording, both being means of communication to the end of understanding the client and his problem and of being able to treat him.
One might also argue in favor of the application of the term “tool” for the professional relationship between client and worker, for the professional relationship serves as the means to accomplish both diagnosis and treatment. I believe, however, that this would do violence to the all-encompassing nature of relationship which makes it the matrix for the diagnostic and treatment processes. The terms “climate” and “medium” describe this quality, but they lack precision. More efforts are necessary to describe relationship with reference to diagnosis and treatment.
Confusion is revealed also in the synonymous use of the terms “skill” and “technique.” Technique reveals nothing about the degree of expertness. It has no qualitative connotation. Skill, however, refers to the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively; it connotes a quality of
9performance. Skill, then, would refer to the degree of proficiency with which a given technique is used.
3. In line with the orientation outlined earlier, I should like to propose that we reexamine the term “service,” that we reexamine our traditional division of services, and that we include in this term not only concrete services but also those activities which we commonly assign to the remedying of disturbed relationships. Above all, I suggest that we cease to think of casework as a service that is given by a private family agency and of relief as something not always dignified by the name of service which is provided by the public agency.
We are far from being of one mind on this thinking, as is shown in the following edited excerpt from a letter which has recently come over my desk. It comes from an agency which is looking for staff.
The type of client with whom we work frequently comes from the upper economic and professional groups in the community. We currently have in treatment children of such per-sons as scientists and businessmen. Some of our most successful work in marital counseling has been done also with this group. The client who is deprived economically represents a very small portion of our casework. As of recently we are operating on a fee basis. Because of the type of client with whom we work, it is highly important that our caseworkers possess maturity as well as skill.
If casework is a method which helps people with a variety of problems, financial and nonfinancial, we can in strict logic speak not of casework services but only of services provided by the casework method. These services might be grouped under the following two headings: (a) concrete services and (b) relationship services.
Under concrete services we would list homemaker programs, debt-adjustment programs, financial assistance, child placement, day-nursery care, etc. They involve the use of a resource out-side the client-worker relationship. Under relationship services we would list services of a nonconcrete nature such as the ones provided by the methods of support and clarification, through the disciplined interaction between worker and client exclusively. These are often thought of as primarily designed to improve disturbed relationships of parent and child, husband and wife, unmarried mother, etc.
While such a classification would underscore the use of the casework method for all types of services, it does not sufficiently convey the idea that concrete services may also serve to improve disturbed relationships. Such a classification would, however, emphasize that both tangible and intangible services rendered through the casework method are designed either to maintain or to modify the adaptive patterns of the client because they free ego strength for use in problem-solving. Nevertheless, this classification is still unsatisfactory, for it equates treatment methods in one area with services in the other. In time a better classification may be devised as we become as specific and clear about the kinds of relationship services we pro-vide as we are about tangible services.
4. The term “counseling” came into existence ostensibly because representatives of the functional school limited the use of the term “casework” to mean “a sphere of helping in which tangible service is predominant.” The term has penetrated the literature and is now widely used in functional and diagnostic practice alike, especially in the family field. In an article entitled “Casework, Counseling and Psychotherapy,” Herbert Aptekar7 suggests that counseling is a method designed to deal with an externalized problem which is not amenable to change by the provision of tangible services but which can be remedied by the client himself through the help he derives from the relationship with a counselor. In the first version of her book, Theory and Practice of Social Casework, Gordon Hamilton equates counseling with direct treatment.8 In the second edition of her book Miss Hamilton lists a three-way classification of treatment types: (1) administration of practical service; (2) environmental manipulation; and (3) direct treatment. Counseling is listed as a sub-type of direct treatment; Miss Hamilton explains that counseling is used under circumstances similar to those listed by Mr. Aptekar, namely, in the presence of an externalized problem of which the client is aware. The main technique used is “clarification of the problem and feelings and attitudes toward it.”9 Miss Hamilton differs from Mr. Aptekar in that she sees counseling as part of the method of social casework and not different from it.
A major criterion for the introduction of a new term into a professional vocabulary should be that the term describes a characteristic procedure or a characteristic set of techniques which sets it apart from other designations. The literature reveals nothing specific about counseling which distinguishes it from the method of social casework. Further, it appears doubtful that counseling consists of a group of techniques sufficiently distinct to warrant being called a separate method of treatment within social casework. The use of the term has caused an already insecure profession to become more insecure by permitting it to hide its identity, for the term “counseling” is used by many professions and by some whose skills are not professional at all. The term describes a great variety of activities. There are marriage counselors, vocational counselors, guidance counselors, investment counselors, and even swimming counselors.
Despite the vagueness of the term and the fact that it hides more than it reveals, many an agency has seen fit to establish counseling units. Some caseworkers who are primarily engaged in working with clients who suffer from disturbed relationships are found to call themselves counselors rather than caseworkers. Perhaps this is a public relations device. If so, it is probably doomed to failure, for misrepresentation which is ethically inadmissible and camouflage which is psychologically unsound do not add to professional security, nor are they helpful when the public finally finds out that it has been misled. Besides, a scientific profession cannot afford to sacrifice the truth for the sake of public acceptance. We do not find physicians giving the name “plastic surgery” to an appendectomy. Another consideration is that the term “counseling” tends to perpetuate the false notion of a hierarchy of treatment methods which places casework on the bottom, counseling in the middle, and psychotherapy on top.
The aforementioned ideas should serve to clarify our understanding of casework as a method of help and permit a sharpening of our comprehension of the ways in which casework is both similar to and different from other ways of help, such as psychotherapy. To recapitulate, the casework method involves the interdependent processes of diagnosis and treatment, each of which requires the use of numerous techniques in a skilful manner through the interaction or the medium of a professional relationship between client and worker. To the already great number of casework techniques new ones are constantly added through the invention of ingenious practitioners. It is desirable, for the sake of simplifying the transmission of the knowledge of social casework, to arrange for groupings of related techniques by identifying the major characteristic which several of them have in common. A most meaningful classification of the techniques of social casework has been undertaken by Florence Hollis.10 She distinguishes between environmental modification, psychological support, clarification, and insight development.
Modifying the environment is the method which consists of the steps taken by the caseworker to change the environment in the client’s favor by the worker’s direct action through such services as day-nursery care, foster placement, financial assistance, interpreting to an employer the illness of a patient, etc.
Psychological support, clarification, and insight development are differentiated by Miss Hollis from the above-mentioned method because they “take place through contact directly with the client.”11 The distinguishing characteristics between these methods lie in the fact that different levels of relationship are required,12 different levels of treatment are brought to the fore, and a different type of activity is required by the worker in each of the three methods.
Each of these “methods” as we would call them in the light of the foregoing remarks, can be broken down into numerous specific activities in which the caseworker engages. They are, however, not objectives in and of themselves. They are the means whereby the client is helped to achieve certain objectives. This is particularly true of the methods designed to improve disturbed relationships. For example, the objective may constitute one of the steps on the road toward the treatment goal, such as reducing a client’s reluctance about applying for relief or in-creasing a client’s awareness of her part in the marital conflict. Or the objective may constitute the end product of the treatment process such as helping a client to obtain relief or mend a damaged marital relationship. The objectives may be reached through the use of techniques which belong to such methods as clarification or psychological support or insight development or several of them in combination. “Objective” then becomes tantamount to “service” as it has been defined above.
It is evident now that, while this classification constitutes an important advance in the field, it does not distinguish clearly enough between service and method. The first method in Miss Hollis’ classification, environmental modification, actually is characterized by the services which are the objectives or the end result of environmental modification, but it does not identify the ways whereby this is accomplished. In contrast, the other three methods are clearly defined. This state of affairs may be explainable by the fact that they are similar to psychotherapeutic methods, and it bespeaks our close tie to psychoanalytic practice. As efforts toward the classification of social casework techniques continue, we may advance toward the identification of specific entities of social-psychological dysfunctioning and discover techniques appropriate to their diagnosis and treatment. In the meantime we shall try to avoid a cleavage between social intervention and psychological intervention. In general terms our objectives are to maintain, strengthen, or modify the adaptive powers of the ego.
This signifies that we work with the intellectual aspects of the ego such as judgment, planning, making decisions, and choosing alternatives as well as with those emotional aspects of the ego which are intact. This approach requires careful evaluation of the client’s past social functioning. It requires determination of whether his present dysfunctioning is the result of temporary stress, inner or outer, or both. It requires asking the question: Is this a state of disequilibrium which the client can be helped either to bear or to remove? Or is it the result of a more or less well-established intrapsychic pattern which is not modifiable through help in an area of ego functioning? In the latter situation psychotherapy13 is required, and in the former casework treatment may provide the necessary relief.
The differences between the considerations of the psychotherapist and of the social caseworker have been well expressed by Dr. Neubauer as follows: “The therapist is aware of biological and social cultural factors but he deals with them only as they are reflected and rep-resented in the psychic conflict. Social work takes a different position in this regard. It is oriented toward the psychic forces which are available for the interplay between social experience and psychic reaction.”14
A similar point of view is taken in a recent Family Service Association of America publication entitled Scope and Methods of the Family Service Agency. This report distinguishes between treatment aimed at “maintaining adaptive patterns,” and treatment aimed at “modification of adaptive patterns.”
Each type of treatment has one of three purposes: (1) to maintain ego strength; (2) to recover previously available ego strength that was lost under stress; and (3) to develop potential ego strength that so far has not been brought to bear upon reality situations.15
It is noteworthy also that this report does not distinguish between environmental modification and psychological services and lists among the “techniques used to maintain adaptive patterns” manipulation of the environment, reassurance, persuasion, direct advice and guidance, etc. Dr. Neubauer is even more specific in pointing to the strengthening effect upon the family as a psychological unit of the services of the homemaker, the agency nurse, etc.
The preceding examination of some of the terms of social casework helps us to realize that clear definition of terms has a direct bearing upon effective casework practice. We have also become aware that in the United States of the sixth decade of the twentieth century the subtle effects of social disorganization are no more avoidable for the individual than are the risks of accident or ill-health and that social casework can play a major role in the alleviation of these hazards. Therefore, continued effort to clarify terms takes on particular importance.
What about the future?
Social changes will continue to impinge upon us. Social workers are aware of the population
14changes that are giving us more aged, more children, and more working mothers. One writer has described the situation as follows:
The complexity of modern life with its strains and stresses showing up in such social indices as illegitimate birth, divorce rates, juvenile delinquency, crime and suicide rates will continue. . . . Today eighty-five million Americans live in cities; by 1980 the number may reach one hundred and twenty million. And cities are a primary market for welfare services. . . . The rate of widowhood is growing persistently. . . . In spite of better care, better nutrition and higher standards of living, illness will continue to be a major cause of insecurity.16
This means that by 1980, in addition to needing a great deal more financial security for millions of aged, widows, ill, and unemployed persons, we shall need many varieties of social services.
Because man is plastic and resourceful, he will find ways of mastering renewed challenges in his environment; but his mastery will not be without a price. Social casework can become a means to help keep this price within bounds. In the light of this trend it becomes even more urgent to develop the soundest possible practice. Theoretical clarification is one of the means whereby we can forge the tools for dealing with the problems of social dysfunctioning which social change and social disorganization inevitably wreak upon man.
School of Social Work University of Minnesota
Received June 3, 1954
Source: Boehm, Werner. The Social Service Review. Vol. 28, no. 4 (December 1954): 381-391.
1 Paper read at the Eighty-first National Conference of Social Work, Atlantic City, New Jersey, May 12, 1954. I am indebted to my research assistant, Mrs. Eleanor Gorham Otterness, for the help she has given me in the preparation of this manuscript.
2 Some sociologists will argue that operational definitions are preferable because of their research ability. Others will prefer traditional logical definitions for two reasons: (1) the social sciences are not so precise as the physical sciences from which the vogue of operational definitions come and (2) traditional definitions refer to all the experiences which the term covers, and, therefore, there is less danger of leaving out important elements of the concepts. Cf. William J. Goode and Paul K. Hatt, Methods in Social Research (New York: McGraw- Hill Book Co., 1952), pp. 42-54.
3 For an elaboration of this point see Maurice F. Connery, “What Is Social Casework?” Minnesota Welfare, IX, No. 10 (May, 1954), 14-18.
4 Arnold M. Rose, Theory and Method in the Social Sciences (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1954), chap, i, “A Theory of Social Organization and Disorganization.”
5 Isaac L. Hoffman, Toward a Logic for Social Work Research (St. Paul: Amherst Wilder Department of Research and Statistics, 1952), pp. 19-22.
6 Eleanor Cockerill, “The Contribution of Medical and Psychiatric Social Work to Social Work Practice,” in Social Work Practice in the Medical and Psychiatric Setting (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1954), p. 29.
7 Herbert Aptekar, “Casework, Counseling and Psychotherapy,” Jewish Social Service Quarterly, XXVII, No. 2 (December, 1950), 163-71.
8 She distinguishes between direct and indirect treatment: indirect treatment means working through other people and is tantamount to environmental manipulation, whereas direct treatment means accomplishing change through the client-worker relationship.
9 Gordon Hamilton, Theory and Practice of Social Casework (rev. ed.; New York: Columbia University Press, 1951), p. 241.
10 Florence Hollis, “The Techniques of Casework,” in Principles and Techniques in Social Casework (New York: Family Service Association of America, 1950), pp. 412-26.
11 Ibid., p. 415.
12 The nature of relationship, whether it be an object or transference relationship, does not necessarily say anything about its intensity. An object relationship may be very intensive; a relationship based on transference need not always be intensive. It is the origin of the feelings that determines the kind of relationship, and it is their meaning to the client that determines its intensity. A transference relationship can be shallow, it would seem, if the relationship to the parent from whom the feelings have been transferred was shallow. This matter is not clearly enunciated in the literature and warrants further examination with the help of psychoanalysts.
13 For purposes of this paper psychotherapy is defined as aiming at personality reconstruction such as is frequently provided by the psychoanalytic method. No doubt there is an area of overlapping between the methods and objectives of casework and psychotherapy. However, there is also a vast area of difference. It is with the latter, and specifically with the unique aspects of social casework, that this paper is concerned.
14 Peter B. Neubauer, M.D., “The Psychoanalyst’s Contribution to the Family Agency,” in Psychoanalysis and Social Work (New York: International University Press, 1953), p. 120.
15 Scope and Methods of the Family Service Agency (New York: Family Service Association of America, 1953), pp. 19-22.
16 John J. Corson, “Can We Afford Welfare?” Community, XXIX (March, 1954), 131-32.
Source: Werner Boehm Papers. Box 1. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Social Welfare History Archives. Minneapolis, MN.