12 September, 2009
What Is Social Work Intervention?
In social work, intervention refers to actions taken by social workers to directly provide service or support to at-need individuals. While removing a child from an abusive home is an example of a social work intervention, most interventions provide less dramatic means of giving support to people with health, education or financial needs.
Educational Support Interventions
Social workers may operate in schools and other educational institutions to provide additional academic support to students. For instance, in large, low-income schools, social work programs such as Career Academies set up small groups of students within the school to provide more personalized attention to each individual student. Depending on the program, students may also receive information and training on how to prepare for a career. Other examples of social work intervention include small high schools created to replace larger, underperforming institutions -- for example, New York City's "Small Schools of Choice" program.
Employment and Homelessness Interventions
Social work interventions can also aid those who are at risk for unemployment or homelessness. Critical Time Intervention, for instance, is a program to prevent people with mental illnesses who are leaving shelters from becoming homeless. A social worker, as well as a mental health professional, work directly with each individual over a nine-month period to find housing and develop skills to achieve their goals. Social work programs may also aid individuals suffering from unemployment. Nevada's Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment program is mandatory for those in the state who are on unemployment and provides them with information regarding their eligibility, as well as guidance for searching for a new job.
Mental Health Interventions
Social work intervention is often needed in mental health facilities, homeless shelters and nursing homes to aid individuals with schizophrenia, dementia or depression. For instance, the Social Work Policy Institute has stated that the lack of proper mental health care in nursing homes is directly related to the lack of social workers in those institutions -- and suggests the inclusion of more social workers to address residents' needs.
In these environments, social workers can intervene in place of medical staff to contain and address symptoms of people with mental health issues. For instance, given a patient showing symptoms of paranoia, social workers will attempt to engage with and respond to the patient's feelings and emotions, rather than arguing with the patient or trying to disprove his suspicions. The goal in this situation is to use engagement to redirect the patient away from his paranoia. Interventions for people with depression may include antidepressant medication or the recommendation of therapy to address their symptoms.
Abuse and Neglect Interventions
Social workers specializing in child services are trained to recognize and respond to signs of abuse or neglect in children. How social workers respond to a case of neglect or abuse will depend on the seriousness of the problem. In a less-severe case, social workers may provide informal counseling, parental education or cooperate with educational and housing authorities to help treat underlying causes. However, more severe cases will require the intervention of Child Protective Services, mandatory counseling and court services, and -- given the failure of these methods -- the child may be placed in foster care and the parents may be prosecuted.
- Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Social Programs That Work
- CSWE Gero-Ed Center: Social Work Interventions for Dementia, Depression, Delirium and Mental Health Conditions Teaching Module
- Department of Health, Social Services, and Public Safety: Intervention
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: Child Neglect: A Guide for Prevention, Assessment and Intervention
- DAJ/amana images/Getty Images