Generalist Social Work Practice

The Seattle University Bachelor of Social Work Program's conception of generalist practice involves the use of social work knowledge, professional values, and array skills that can be adapted to work with diverse client systems of all sizes in a variety of settings. Generalist practitioners are prepared to employ critical thinking to flexibly choose among practice skills and roles employed through a process of planned change to intervene with individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations and a variety of social problems.

Definition of Generalist Social Work Practice

The Seattle University Bachelor of Social Work Program's conception of generalist practice involves the use of social work knowledge, professional values, and an array of skills that can be adapted to work with diverse client systems of all sizes in a variety of settings. Generalist practitioners are prepared to employ critical thinking to flexibly choose among practice skills and roles employed through a process of planned change to intervene with individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations and a variety of social problems.

Students educated for generalist practice are prepared to assist clients from an ecological and systems perspective, which locate the focus of work within the person in the environment interaction. Together these perspectives influence and inform the elements of practice by situating the difficulties and remedies within the nested systems (i.e., micro, mezzo, and macro) and the interactions between the systems. This holistic view of the client allows for comprehensive assessments and intervention plans that address all systems that are implicated. Within the macro system, students in social work at Seattle University are prepared to understand the impact of the organizational realities in which they practice as it affects clients, workers, and the client-worker relationship. In addition, global factors that influence international, national, and local social climates and thereby the human condition is also a part of the macro system knowledge. Overall, this framework prepares graduates to look broadly at the nature and context of the concerns and needs identified so that they may identify the full range of factors involved and all the levels at which intervention may be desirable.

Social work knowledge provides the breath and scope to inform the ecological and systemic perspective to better understand clients within the context of their social environment. It is therefore built upon a liberal arts foundation, which includes courses from the social sciences. Social Work education for generalist practice builds upon this base with content on human behavior and development in the social environment; historical and contemporary U.S. social policy; the use and application of research to inform practice; knowledge about and appreciation for diverse populations; and social and economic justice and populations at-risk for oppression and discrimination.

Central to competent generalist practice are the Social Work’s profession’s values as articulated by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW)’s Code of Ethics. These values include: service to others, social justice, human dignity and self-worth, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence. As students are prepared to work across settings with a variety of clients with an array of difficulties, values of the profession remain a common thread and point of orientation for practice. In particular at Seattle University given our Jesuit Catholic tradition and resulting articulation of undergraduate education, social justice is at the heart of our program and preparation. Social justice focuses on social problems and contemporary policies and programs enacted to address them. Students therefore in social work are heavily steeped in the understanding of inequities, poverty, oppression and discrimination and strategies to pursue justice within the core liberal arts curriculum, social work curriculum, and campus life. In Seattle University’s preparation of generalist practitioners, students are taught and trained to engage in community, organizational, and civic efforts to enhance client system wellbeing through systemic change.

Social Work skills for generalist practice are based on a strength-based perspective and empowerment theory within a process of planned change. Practice that incorporates empowerment theory views the client as possessing the capacity for change and central to the process. Collaborative practice engages and incorporates a client’s strengths when identifying areas within systems for desired change and unmet needs to improve well-being. The process of planned change including engagement, assessment, contracting, intervening, terminating, and evaluation is taught within practice to be used with client systems of all sizes. Successful engagement for collaborative practice is informed by knowledge, respect and valuing of diverse populations and developed through strong communication skills. Identification of client strengths within their environment is a component of assessments. Contracting and intervention techniques use empowerment strategies to assist clients to resolve areas of concern and unmet needs. In addition to a variety of skills, generalist practitioners may assume various roles including that of broker, educator, advocate, case manager, community organizer and counselor depending on what is needed and the organizational setting and services.

Contact Us

Mary Kay Brennan, DSW, LICSW
Director
206.296.5906
mkbrenn@seattleu.edu

Riva Zeff
Field Director
206.296.2537
zeffr@seattleu.edu

Naomi Rosenberg
Administrative Assistant
206.296.5906
rosenbe4@seattleu.edu

Location: Casey 3W