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About this book

This new edition from a trusted author team bridges the gap between psychological theory and social work practice. Revisited and re-structured to reflect the changing social work context, it provides an authoritative introduction to the key ideas, skills and research from psychology and highlights their role within effective social work practice.
Whether you are a student or a practitioner of social work, this book is a vital and practical resource that will enhance your knowledge, skills and practice.

Table of Contents

Introduction: why study psychology?

Introduction: why study psychology?

This book takes over from our Applied Psychology for Social Workers, first published in 1984, since when there have been many changes in social work organization, training and delivery, as well as in psychology as an academic and applied discipline. However, the challenges remain the same even if the context, organization, process and management structures are different. Social workers work with people. That means that a working knowledge of psychology is vital because each one of us individually, in our families, friendship and work groups expresses ourselves psychologically through our thinking, behaviour and emotions.
Paula Nicolson, Rowan Bayne

Theory for Practice


Chapter 1. Psychological theories

In this chapter we cover:
  • The scope of the discipline of psychology with selected relevant examples.
  • The variety of ways it continues to be studied, including through experiments, surveys, biological indicators, attitude scales, psychodynamic clinical case examples and in-depth interviews.
Paula Nicolson, Rowan Bayne

Chapter 2. Life-span development

In this chapter we:
  • Explore key aspects of human development across the lifespan using Erik Erikson’s approach as a template.
  • Consider the concepts of ‘identity’, reflexivity’, ‘biography’ and ‘narrative’ as ‘guides’ to making sense of the transitions from birth to old age.
  • Look in detail at attachment, loss and bereavement as key transitions in the life-span.
Paula Nicolson, Rowan Bayne

Chapter 3. Psychological perspectives on social work organizations

In this chapter we introduce and explore:
  • The way that social workers themselves are subject to the influence of psychological forces in the organization of their daily working lives with colleagues.
  • How we apply psychological knowledge to social work settings and contexts of practice with colleagues and service users.
  • Systemic and psychoanalytic thinking about organizations that will be developed further in Chapter 7.
Paula Nicolson, Rowan Bayne

Skills for Practice


Chapter 4. Working with strengths

In this chapter we discuss:
  • Respect for oneself and others as a fundamental value.
  • Focusing on people’s strengths as well as their problems as a practical expression of respect.
  • Psychological type (MBTI) or preference theory as a second practical expression of respect.
  • Observing the preferences sufficiently accurately to be useful.
  • Increasing resilience (managing stress) as a third practical expression of respect
Paula Nicolson, Rowan Bayne

Chapter 5. Communication skills

This chapter discusses:
  • Skills versus personal qualities in communication skills training.
  • Experimenting with your communication skills.
  • Skills for listening and gathering information.
  • Giving information.
  • Aspects of interviewing which may be particularly difficult.
  • Assertive skills.
  • Personality and styles of communication.
Paula Nicolson, Rowan Bayne

Chapter 6. Groupwork skills for social work practice

In this chapter we explore:
  • Definitions of the term ‘group’ and what understanding this means for understanding social aspects of human behaviour.
  • Examples of the classic studies that have contributed to understanding group behaviour.
  • The influence groups have upon individual members.
  • Theoretical approaches to the development and structure of the group itself (group dynamics).
  • Why and how social workers might set up a group.
  • The skills necessary for conducting group sessions.
Paula Nicolson, Rowan Bayne

Theory in Practice


Chapter 7. Reflective and relational practice

In this chapter we develop a model of practice that offers social work practitioners in statutory and voluntary organizations, at all levels of seniority, opportunities to think and reflect on their:
  • practice with service users
  • work with colleagues as supervisors and managers
  • work with colleagues whom they supervise and manage
  • organization
  • service users’ lives in the family or institution.
Paula Nicolson, Rowan Bayne

Chapter 8. Leadership and management in social work organizations

In this chapter we show that:
  • Leadership in social work practice occurs at all levels.
  • Leadership is formally and informally transmitted across the organization in different ways according to the task.
  • Good leadership can be transformational.
  • Poor leadership can be disastrous.
  • Effective followership is vital if leadership is to work.
  • Leaders might feel powerless as well as powerful and conversely a follower may feel more powerful than a leader
Paula Nicolson, Rowan Bayne

Concluding remarks

Concluding remarks

This book is our attempt to show some important ways in which psychological knowledge, research and practice might contribute to social work theory and practice. Our plan has been to bring the student and practitioner to a rapid awareness of what psychology can offer, introducing different perspectives from research as well as recognizing psychology as underpinning aspects of practice and professional development.
Paula Nicolson, Rowan Bayne
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