Why do people do the things they do?

That’s what we are here to find out – Human Behavior and the Social Environment (HBSE) – How do they connect? How does it shape us? Why do we think and feel the way we do?

This will be explored throughout this course by examining human behavior throughout life stage developments and our interactions with the social environment. This course will explore theoretical perspectives in Social Work to help provide a foundation for organizing thoughts about client needs and issues they are seeking supports for. Theories will then be connected to important developmental, social, and cultural issues that present throughout each stage of life to create an overall picture of a client’s experience and how we can use this information to have a better understanding of how people we work with are influenced and why. Knowledge of typical development in each stage of life will also inform the Social Worker if any other supports, resources, or services may be needed.

 

“Social workers are knowledgeable about human behavior across the life course; the range of social systems in which people live; and the ways social systems promote or deter people in maintaining or achieving health and well-being. Social workers apply theories and knowledge from the liberal arts to understand biology, social, cultural, psychological and spiritual development.” –  CSWE (2008, p.6)

 

There is no single definition for HBSE. I encourage you to think about what it means to you. In Social Work, rarely do we work with people whose problems are straightforward. Typically, we encounter problems that are complex and interconnected on several levels and require looking at the relationships between behaviors and environments. We like to explore as much as possible in Social Work and use of theories within various dimensions (biological, psychological, social, and spiritual) allows us to have a broader knowledge base in several different areas to have a better understanding and ability to “put it all together” to assess and intervene with client concerns.

We will utilize vignettes to work in connecting each theory, approach, perspective, and life stage of development throughout this course. Each section will begin with a vignette that will be incorporated throughout to demonstrate examples of each concept (that is not covered in your readings). Life stage development vignettes will be used as an “unfolding case” to allow you to work in critical thinking of how the theories, approaches, and perspectives connect throughout each life stage.

Social Work Values:

Service – engage in this by helping people address and hopefully resolve their problems/concerns – also engage in service through volunteering time to organizations within the community (boards, mentoring programs, etc).

Social Justice – advocate and fight against social injustices for individuals/groups – generally focusing in areas of poverty, discrimination, education, unemployment, etc.

Integrity – We must always work to be trustworthy, honest, and responsible in our work and with our clients.

Competence – always strive to improve our knowledge and expertise through continuous learning and education.

Human relationships – connect as partners throughout the process – also work to improve relationships within the client’s system to help improve overall functioning through increased connections/supports.

Dignity – value and respect each person we meet and engage with compassion and respect.

Critical Thinking Skills:

What is it?

  • Reasoning – interest in the unknown – what’s going?

  • Evaluating – challenging appearances – what do you think you see vs what you actually see?

  • Problem-solving/decision making – explore all sides and determine the best decision.

  • Analyzing – how do they connect? What does it all mean? How does it all add up? Best decision? Time for reflection.

 

Why is this important?

  1. Theories, approaches, and perspectives help lay the foundation for any realistic and rational practice in any field. Our professional values lay the foundation on which social work’s mission is based. They help guide us in decision making as they are directed towards a specific purpose and help us to grow and develop.
  2. Justification for your decisions – we must use critical thinking skills to explore and process how decisions may impact our clients and we must be able to discuss how our decisions were determined.

About the Author:

Susan Tyler, MSW, LCSW – Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

Professor Tyler has been teaching at the School of Social Work since Spring 2018. Before joining the School of Social Work, she worked in a community based mental health agency for over 10 years with a focus in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health and School-Based Mental Health services revolving around issues related to trauma, abuse, attachment, anxiety, depression, domestic violence, foster care, adjustments, disruptive behaviors, and ADHD, through use of play therapy techniques and dyadic interventions.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi

“You can do it” – Rob Schneider

References:

CSWE Commission on Accreditation. (2008). EPAS Handbook. Council on Social Work Education.

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