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SWPAPA Social Work Application A
Summarise and critiquing two explanatory theories
Student Name: Tanaka Muponda
Student Number: 18960338
Chosen case scenario: Fred
Explanatory theories are attempts to describe and explain social and human behaviour which are validated by research evidence (Payne, 2014). Social workers use these theories as sources of professional understanding on the causes of the issues and also inform the likely outcomes and actions to be taken. This essay will compare the two explanatory theories namely the psychodynamic and ecosystems. Key elements of each theory will be summarised, then a comparison highlighting the theories’ differences and similarities. Finally the ecosystems and psychodynamic theories will be applies to a case study scenario to contrast the different aspects that each brings to human social problems.
Summary of the two Explanatory Theories
Ecosystems Theory
This theory recognises that people exist in social, physical and cultural environments (Gitterman ; Germain, 2008). It stands for a return of the importance of the person-in-environment perspective adopted by Mary Richmond (Healy 2014). Accepted by ecological thinking which looks at the interdependence of living systems, the ecosystems theory highlights the reciprocal nature of the person and environment relationships and how they influence each other (Gitterman ; Germain, 2008). Ecosystems theory, in an addition of Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) explanation of child development using ecological terminology ( cited on Payne, 2014). His model of the ecosystems is recognised (Healy ,2014)
Figure above (1) shows the levels of interaction between a person and their environmental surroundings, further as described by **Gilgun (2005)** . The micro system level is where the personal connections and relationships are made with friends, family, schools and workplace. The meso-system level explains the interaction that happens between the two micro-level settings such as work and home or school and home. The eco-level involves the enrichments whereby an individual may not be directly in contact with by still influences their personal interactions. Such as economics, religion, and politics. The macro-level includes the beliefs, norms and custom which form society ( by age,class, gender,race and sexual orientation) and grant power and privilege appropriately.
The eco systems perspective gives an overall view of the difficulty of people’s lives and allows for many points of intervention (Meyer, 1992). It acknowledges that there is not always a direct link between the cause and effect. As Meyer (1992) argued, the outcomes cannot always be over seen in complex systems giving as exemplified by a stone being thrown in water, we cannot tell or predict the number of ripples that will spread from such events. The problems that people face are believed to stem from an unbalanced fit between their needs, environmental resources, capabilities,rights and goals (Gitterman ; Germain, 2008). This may come from other life issues such as poverty, retirement or chronic environmental stressors (Healy, 2014). Adapting is crucial in the individual and environment or both so as to accomplish the goodness of it. Therefore ecosystems theory is known as a framework for the profession of cycle work as it uplifts and encourages interventions for both the psychological and social levels (Healy, 2014).

Psychodynamic Theory
This theory is closely associated with Freud’s theory of personality which is known to have a persuasive influence on popular culture (Deal, 2007). It consolidates other ideas such as motivational drives, ego defences and psychosexual development (Healy 2014). The psychodynamic theory assigns human behaviour to the unconscious psychodynamic theory and the repetition of interpersonal patterns originating in childhood (Deal, 2007). At the centre of the psychodynamic theory is the idea of an inner psychological world, embracing both conscious and unconscious mental processes, which interacts with the outside world and sway our thoughts, behaviour and feelings (Connolly and Harms, 2015).
Another key element of psychodynamic theory is the effect of the prior life in shaping our personality. The past experiences build up like layers and effect our present and current lives (Connolly &Harms, 2015). The layers can be good or bad, as they help to protect us as we live our daily lives, or stopping individuals from realising crucial need and wants (Connolly and Harms ,2015) . Previous problems which are inadequately resolves lead to psychological barriers which constrains resolutions of current issues (Payne, 2014).
Another component of this theory is its focus on relationship dynamics. Relationship patterns which are interiorised by individuals in early childhood year are then repeated in relationships in their adult hood (Deal, 2007).
Comparison of Two Explanatory Theories
The psychodynamic and ecosystems theories have some similarities. They recognise that current interactions can be effected by interpersonal patterns of the past (Gilgun, 2005). The theories prominence of the individuals environmental relationship is demonstrated by features of the psychodynamic approach, with examples of the attachment theory Bowlby’s (1982) model of instinct , in which the important drives are the need for protection and safety, consider the interaction between the environment and the individual (cited in a page and Norwood, 2007). Cannolly ; Harms (2015), claimed that the psychodynamic approaches can relate with the ecosystems theory a centre focus on systems, the
systems of self stemming from structure of relationships with others ( Connolly and Harms 2015). These two approaches have been critiqued for minimising the person’s responsibility and ability for self courage. Psychodynamic theory is seen to be deterministic in its views of a person personality and later life choices being shaped by much early on experiences (Deal, 2007). In the ecosystem, the primary focus on on systemic interactions potentially undervalues the uniqueness of the person’s own capacity for change (Healy, 2014)
Psychodynamic and ecosystems theories can be compared in different ways. A crucial difference is the way they can change (Duncan and Miller, 2001). Psychodynamic approaches look at the impact of past occurrences on present behaviour (Payne,2014). People can change when they acquire personal insights into their past (Howe, 1997). The ecosystems’ perspective acknowledges that issues happen when there is a poor for between a person and their environments (Gitterman & Germain, 2008). Change occurs through adjusting which then improves person-environment interactions.
In conclusion , psychodynamic theory focuses on the person’s inner psychological world, whereby ecosystems is worried about the present. Psychodynamic approaches focus on what has causes the problems, but the ecosystems approach is worried with what is continuing the problems. Ecosystems’ theory sees the specific features of the environments rather than the specific features of the individual which the psychodynamic theory focuses on. (p0sition)
Being based on the person centred approach, psychodynamic theories signals the unique differences of a person (Healy,2014). It has also been condemned for pathologising people and lacking in being able to see the structural obstacles in the environments which can cause impacts upon self establishment (Egan , 2009). On the other hand an ecosystems perspective recognises the macro level forces, which includes opportunity, beliefs and customs and socialisation, which are not in the persons awareness or control but have such a impact on their lives (Gilgun, 2005). It draws attention on the fact that social disadvantages are cause not by personal scarcity or individual options (Gilgun, 2005). In comparison to the psychodynamic approach, which intravenous at the level of an individual, the ecosystems approach sees the need for social workers to advocate and be a voice for policy, legislative and organisational changes in order to aid social justice (Gitteman an Germain, 2008).
Applying Explanatory Theories to Case Scenario
The case scenario (Appendix 1) describes a widowed father, Fred, and his daughter, Suzanne ,who is 6 years old, who are socially isolated . A psychodynamic approach would pay attention into the influence of their past on their present relationships. Based on the case information about Fed history, theres a possibility that suzanne may have dated an idea of relationships being distant and aloof, and could also have internalised an ideal image of a mother based on fantasy rather than reality (Deal,2007) , which she may have transferred onto a potential mother figure such as Sarah.
Using psychoanalysis its possible to seek more into Fred and how he has dealt with the wife death. Did Marita’s death begin to bring up feelings that he once repressed after the death of his parents? Maybe this has activated his ego defines mechanisms such as projection or denial (Deal, 2007). On the other hand Fred could just be projecting his unfocused feeling of loss onto his daughter (Connolly and Harms, 2015).
Using an ecosystem approach we can get Fred involved in an ecological assessment using the ecomap tool
(Gitterman and Germain, 2008) a diagram showing the family members within the social context. (Appendix 2) is an overview of Fred and suzanne’s family and relationships . Lines will present the nature of their relationships at the meso level would indicate wether theres possible supports and stresses in the families environment (Gilgun, 2005). With the few meso level relationships, Fred and his daughter Suzanne can be considered to be very isolated (Gilgun, 2005) Developing a map with Fred can be empowering (Chenoweth and McAuliffe , 2005) and would be a calm way of initiating the possibility that he and his daughter are experience some social isolation. It could possibly help Fred recognise the female role models who could have a supportive relationship with his daughter suzanne.
The Life Model of Social Work was developed by Gitterman and Germain (2008) to enhance the capabilities between people and their environment. Fred and Suzanne have encountered problems on all three aspects of the in the Life Model : life transitions or crises ( example is the death of wife and parents), dysfunctional relationships, and the environmental force caused by a lack of help within physical, social and organisational provisions. Interventions would be directed towards Fred’s ability to adapt and improving the fit between his environmental and personal resources (Gitterman and Germain, 2008). In this case its achievable to use an ecosystems approach to decide the things in need of intervention within the person and environment relationships, then involve psychodynamic methods to consider interpersonal problems at the micro-level.

This essay has shown two explanatory theories – psychodynamic and ecosystems, and hoe they each offer insights on the beginning and treatment of psychosocial issues. The two approaches are unalike in terms of their theory on adjusting . Psychodynamic theory identifies past exercise as the origin of personal problems on the other hand, ecosystems theory allocates personal problems to poor person:environment fit , which can be solved by encouraging adaptation in the person. Advantage of ecosystems theory is its framework which allows for various points of interventions for the individual. it recognised that no single method can enclose the complexity of human problems. Nathan (2010) stats that there is not one model which can fit the various situations that work with all clients (Nathan, 2010). instead of making the situation fit into one methodology ( Myer,1979), this essay has demonstrated how Fred and His daughters case could can benefit from both the Theories.
Bowlby, J. and Ainsworth, M. (1991). An Ethological Approach to Personality Development. American Psychologist, 46(4), pp. 333-341.

Deal, K. (2007). Psychodynamic Theory. Advances in Social Work, 8(1), pp. 184-195.

Chenoweth, L. and McAuliffe, D. (2005). Plunging in: Engagement, assessment, intervention, termination and review. The Road to Social Work and Human Service Practice: An Introductory Text, pp. 154-184.

Connolly, M. ; Harms, L. (2015). Onion Peeling Theories. Social Work: From Theory to Practice (2nd ed.). Port Melbourne, VIC: Cambridge University Press.

Gilgun, J. (2005). An ecosystemic approach to assessment. In Compton, B., Galaway, B. and Cournoyer, B. (Eds.), Social Work Processes (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Gitterman, A. and Germain, C. (2008). The Life Model of Social Work Practice: Advances in Theory and Practice (3rd ed.). New York: Columbia University Press.

Healy, K. (2014). Three Waves of Systems Theories. In Social Work Theories in Context (2nd ed.). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Howe, D. (1997). Relating Theory to Practice. In Davies, M. (Ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Social Work. Oxford, UK: Blackwell
Meyer, C. (1979). What directions for direct practice? Social Work, 24(4), pp. 267-272
Nathan, J. (2010). The place of psychoanalytic theory and research in reflective social work practice. In Weber, M., Nathan, J., Godin, P., Zulueta, F. de, and Brand, D. (2010), Reflective practice in mental health: Advanced psychosocial practice with children, adolescents and adults. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Perry, B. (2001). Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children: Consequences of Emotional Neglect in Childhood. Retrieved from HYPERLINK ;;
Appendix 1 : Case Scenario
Scenario 3: Fred
Fred (40) was widowed soon after his wife Marita gave birth to their daughter Suzanne. As an only child himself, Fred thought it was normal for him and Suzanne (6) to spend a lot of time quietly at home together. His parents had died when he was in his twenties so he had few relations, none living in the same state. Marita’s parents Josie and Ray thought he was strange, in their family, the extended family lived in the same neighbourhood and were in and out of each other’s houses. Her family lived on the other side of the state from Fred, so he only saw them, on average, once a year. Suzanne likes to be at home with Fred, though she is used to having to go somewhere else during the day while Fred is at work – was to childcare, now she goes to school as she is six. Fred and Suzanne don’t do anything else socially and say they are contented just being together, though Suzanne does sometimes play with her friend, Chris. A month ago Chris’ mother, Sarah, who is divorced invited Fred and Suzanne to have lunch with them on Sunday. They went and enjoyed the lunch, but afterwards Suzanne told Fred that she thought it would be good if he married Sarah. Fred didn’t know how to handle this and so has come to see you.

Appendix 2 : Ecomap of Fred and Suzzane’s Family
key: 20618452495542061845382904
Strong relationship =271335423431523336252343151925954234315
Weak relationship =
Stressful relationship = +-+-+-+-+-+-+4725670389890
4712970422909Suzanne’s friends (Chris)
Suzanne’s friends (Chris)

27597101508760Fred and Suzanne
Fred and Suzanne


556387014363694139859491784403952940415456515001821179Marita’s family of origin
Marita’s family of origin
2171701430019Fred’s extended family
Fred’s extended family
99821931648393449320358140011188703442970Fred’s Job ??
Fred’s Job ??
36283903859529Suzanne’s school??
Suzanne’s school??

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