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Looking At The Different Approaches To Social Work Social Work Essay

Payne as cited by Wilson explains that approaches are a way of individuals ordering their minds about particular issues or problems (Wilson, 2010). David Howe also explains that practitioners rely on social work approaches to make formal sense of daily interactions between individuals and their environment. This essay aims at demonstrating an understanding of two social work approaches covered in the lectures, being Cognitive Behavioural Theory (CBT) and Task Centred Approach (TCP). Also, the similarities and differences of these two approaches as it might reflect in case scenario 1 will be discussed, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages in the use of these approaches. Furthermore, issues relating to anti-discriminatory practice in the use of CBT and TCP will be discussed in this essay.

CBT is an approach that seeks to deal with behavioural concerns by addressing the ‘’conscious and identifiable thoughts and behaviours’’ (Wilson et al, 2008, p.352). The approach has two elements, the behavioural element and the cognitive element. Wilson et al (2008), explains that behavioural element of CBT is developed on the basis that we learn our behaviour; and that behaviour can be unlearned. Cognitive theory as explained by Payne (2005) further explains that, during the process of learning, behaviour is influenced by how the environment is perceived or interpreted; so that the meaning an individual will give to his daily life experiences will reflect on his behaviour (Wilson et al, 2008). To be able to use CBT effectively, one will have to understand the process of learning as identified by CBT writers.


Classical or respondent conditioning as explained by Payne (2005), states that an individual’s behaviour (response) becomes conditioned when it is associated with triggers (stimuli) which may not normally be linked to that particular behaviour. This is based on Ivan Pavlov’s research which discovered that, ringing of a bell before a dog eats will eventually condition the dog to salivate at the ringing of just the bell even if it is done without the food (Wilson et al, 2008). For example, Mary’s fear of leaving Tom is as a result of a conditioning based on her previous experience. As the theory suggests, under new conditions where Tom is not even allowed to contact her, she still associates leaving him to being strangled hence triggering fear. According to Lindsay (2009), systematic desensitisation technique which involves teaching Mary how to manage her anxieties by relaxing, introducing unwanted triggers (leaving Tom) gradually in a setting that is likely to produce a different response will help address this phobia.

Secondly, Wilson et al (2008), explains that under operant conditioning, expected consequence encourages behaviour. In other words, an individual will learn to behave in a way in order to get what he wants. Under this conditioning, behaviour is reinforced by meeting one’s expectations (Lindsay, 2009). For example, Matt uses bullying tactics to get Mary and Chloe watch what he wants. His bullying behaviour gets reinforced by always getting them to watch what he wants. Payne (2005), talks about the use of extinction in dealing with such behaviours. This involves breaking the link between the behaviour and the expected consequence. By this technique, the Mary will be required not to respond to Matt in the same way as it has always been with previous similar situations. Positive reinforcement technique can also be employed; desirable behaviour is rewarded where as undesirable behaviour is ignored (Wilson et al, 2008).

Under Observational Learning, it has been argued that there is a social element in the process of learning (Lindsay, 2009). This is supported by Bandura’s experiment which found that children behaved aggressively or non-aggressively according to their observation of how adults behaved towards a large doll (Lindsay, 2009). This can be demonstrated by using Matt and Tom. In this relationship, it can be said that Matt has learnt his behaviour by observing Tom. This becomes even clearer by referring to the statement ‘’he is just like his father’’. By using pro-social modelling Lindsay (200) explains that the practitioner will need to himself as good role model so that Matt can learn from him. This will involve showing him respect, rewarding him for good behaviour, and being fair towards him (Lindsay, 2009). In doing all these, Lindsay (2009) also mentions that, Mary must be assertive in order to help bring out the best from Matt.

Advantages of CBT

One advantage as outlined by Wilson et al (2008) is that CBT requires thorough assessment of the needs that require changes. By this assessment, the practitioner and Mary will get a good understanding of what needs to be done, giving them a clear sense of direction. Payne (2005) also talks about the fact that it is empirically tested and proven to be effective. Lindsay (2009) has also mentioned some of the advantages to be that; it is easy to understand; it can be used for a service user in a short period of time; it involves working in partnership with the service user in its delivery.

Disadvantages of CBT

According to Payne (2005), one disadvantage of CBT includes is that it is too technical in nature; it has been loaded with jargons and formal procedures. Parker and Bradley (2005) also mention that CBT stands a chance of failure if the service user at any point gets disengaged from the process. In other words, if Mary or Matt do looses interest in the process, the social worker is likely not to succeed. It is also argue that, practitioners may perceive service user’s behaviour as being driven by his emotions, and considered unreasonable, where as a service user’s behaviour may be in response to a reasonably discomforting situation (Lindsay, 2009).

Anti-discriminatory and Anti-Oppressive Practice

Payne (2005) underscores that CBT focuses on specific behavioural problems that are considered unacceptable in the society; it becomes oppressive to alter such behaviours so as to line up with societal expectations without consideration to the wishes of the service user. Wilson et al (2008), also argues that using reward and punishment technique on a service user will lead to oppression and discrimination especially in a residential home. This happens when service users are punished or rewarded because of their behaviour.

Tasked-Centred Practice

Task Centred Practice (TCP) is an approach that has been developed to focus on dealing with situations that service users know about, accept and are willing to work on them (Wilson, 2010). Reid and Shyne as cited by Wilson et al (2008) who initiated this approach were of the view that, planned short term treatment was comparatively more effective than that of long term treatment. TCP identified that service users could rely on their own resources in dealing with their problems, hence the need for collaborative efforts between the social worker and the service user (Wilson, 2010). By this collaboration, service users are empowered to resolve their current and sometimes future problems (Wilson, 2010).


Lindsay (2009) has identified six stages in the application of TCP as will be explained in the paragraphs below. Lindsay (2009, p.55) identified the first stage to be ‘‘Clarification of problems experienced’’. This stage requires the social worker to support Mary to identify and clarify problems for which she needs help (Lindsay, 2009). Beresford as cited by Lindsay (2009) stress the importance of including the views of Mary about her problems and its impact on her life. The second stage involves the ‘’Identification and prioritisation of agreed problems’’ stage Lindsay (2009, p.56). At this stage Mary will be required to prioritise the identified problems she wants to tackle (Wilson et al, 2008). During this prioritisation, Mary will also need to state what results she expects to achieve (Wilson et al, 2008).

Discussion will also focus on her willingness to deal with the identified problems (Lindsay, 2009). Stage three of TCP involves the practitioner and the Mary clearly agreeing on the task and goals involved in the process and putting their signatures to the agreement (Lindsay, 2009).

At the fourth stage, various tasks and their time scales are determined and agreed (Lindsay, 2009). Wilson et al (2008) expresses that, the agreed tasks and their time scales should be achievable to the service user. During the fifth stage, there will be the implementation of tasks to be accomplished by both the service user and the practitioner (Wilson et al, 2008). The final stage involves taking stock of what has been done so far and reviewing progress so far (Lindsay, 2009). It involves considering the problems of the service user before the process, and the service user’s view of the problem as it is at this stage (Wilson et al, 2008).


Lindsay (2009) explains one of its advantages as; its attempt to empower the service user to deal with identified problems makes it anti-oppressive. Service users gain skills that enable them to tackle problems on their own. Wilson et al. (2008), supporting this argument mentioned that service users who have undergone TCP were unlikely to go back to their practitioners for help within a short time after completing a cycle. It has also been noted by Lindsay (2009) that setting time limits on task that are meant to be accomplished serves as a motivation for the service user. Furthermore Wilson (2010) also writes that the approach stands a high chance of success because goals and tasks are chosen because they are achievable.


Limitations of TCP include what has been identified by Wilson (2010) as the difficulty that may arise if the approach is used when working with service users who are unwilling cooperate. It has also been identified that the approach may not be effective if working with service users who have long history of psychological problems (Wilson et al., 2008). The approach also relies on the service user being able to reason rationally. However, in the absence of rational reasoning, the approach stands a high chance of failure (Wilson et al., 2008). It is also important to mention that the approach may fail to identify and deal with root cause of problem a service user may be facing since it relies on the service user to raise (Lindsay, 2009).


According to Wilson et al (2008) CBT gives the practitioner and the service user a clear focus as to what is required to be done. Similarly, TCP also requires the practitioner to support the service user to clarify the problems that are meant to be dealt with, hence giving both of them a clear focus as what is going to be done. Lindsay (2009) identified one of the characteristics of CBT to be a short-time limited approach. Likewise, Wilson et al (2008) identifies TCP to be a short-time limited practice. Another similarity between both approaches is that, they both require collaborative efforts between the practitioner and the service user. Parker and Bradley (2005) talked about the threat to the success using CBT if the service user disengages from the process. Wilson (2010) also mentions that TCP is likely to fail if the service user does not cooperate with the practitioner in the process.


According to Lindsay (2009), TCP requires the practitioner and the service user to sign a formal agreement as to what is meant to be done. CBT on the other does not require signatures even though the service user is required to collaborate with the practitioner. Parker and Bradley (2005) mention that when using CBT, how change comes about is the decision of the practitioner. However, under TCP, the practitioner supports the client to rely on his own resources to bring about chance (Wilson, 2010).

In conclusion, it can be seen that knowledge of social work approaches prepares practitioners during field work. It helps in preparing practitioners as to what can be done in addressing issues presented by practitioners. However, knowledge of only these two approaches will not be enough in practice.

It essential that other approaches that support intervention are learned so as to place social work practitioners in the position where they can lend informed support to service users.

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