Social workers work from an ecological perspective. We understand that, regardless of origin, all problems are systemic. Because problems are maintained by an imbalance within and between systems and contain biopsychosocial/spiritual elements, our assessment of problems must examine them through this lens, as well.
The biological dimension refers to the role of biological systems—be they within our bodies (e.g. genetic predispositions), or outside (e.g. airborne pathogens that impact our functioning)—upon our health and well-being.
The psychological dimension refers to the role of thoughts, emotion, and behavior on individual, group, or community functioning. Inclusion of this dimension also requires us to look at the mind-body connection in the assessment of a variety of common social work phenomena such as the emotional regulation of stress.
One of your connections to the issues in Riverton is through your employment at the community mental health center. How do mental health needs contribute to the problems experienced in Riverton? Conversely, what are the mental health effects of the current situation? How do these effects differ among different stakeholders?
With so many different attitudes about the problems of homelessness and community litter, it is going to be difficult to come up with a solution that is satisfactory to everyone. What principles of community conflict resolution that you think would be most helpful? How will managing people’s emotions figure into your community practice?
The social dimension refers to how individuals relate to various groups and institutions in society–and how groups and institutions relate to individuals, or classes of individuals. Our mission to assist not only the immediate client system but also the larger society is one of the things that separates social work from the other helping professions. The social lens allows us to see the impact of "isms" such as racism, sexism, and ageism on the ability of people to reach goals. It also reveals key strengths in the social systems that surround clients, which can be leveraged to help solve the problem.
How do forces of oppression contribute to the community’s conviction that people experiencing homelessness are responsible for the problem of neighborhood litter? How might your community practice intervene to advance social, economic, racial, and environmental justice, in this case?
What strengths do you identify in the social landscape of Riverton? How could those strengths figure into the community’s efforts to resolve the problems experienced?
The spiritual dimension refers to the role of religious or spiritual belief on well-being. Here, while it is not clear what role spirituality plays in the lives of the individuals in the Riverton case, you can examine the potential contributions of faith institutions to the community’s functioning, and to the resolution of the problems identified.
How might the faith institutions present in Riverton contribute to people’s identification with their community?
How might faith institutions engage to help address the concerns in Riverton? Which stakeholders’ interests might be less well served by faith institutions’ involvement?
Compare social work values with your own personal values.