Class notes for October 17, 2002

 1.  Test #2 was completed and the first part was reviewed/corrected in class.

Brief lecture on The Strategies of Intervention: Chapter 3.

How does one take action in addressing human service needs? Before addressing the specifics, it is important to understand the concept of multicausality.  Human service work, unlike the 'hard' sciences, is more of an art, as the many causes of any one problem are so interwoven and there is never one simple answer as to the question "WHY?" The steps taken to address the problem, however, must be rooted in a good understanding of the causes of the problem if they are to be effective. The film "Ladybird, Ladybird" gave us many examples of  this concept.

The text lists six principles of multicausality:

  1. Even with careful research, it is never possible to be absolutely sure we fully understand the causes of any one problem. (Therefore, we have to base our approaches to solving the problem on our 'best guess' as to the cause.)
  2. There is rarely one simple cause to a problem. (Maggie stated that she 'just' needed the social workers to get her a decent place to live, but we know that this would not have solved her problems of self-esteem, her pattern of finding abusive men, her problems managing her anger, etc. She probably would have found another abusive man to move in with her in her 'decent' place.. And, on the social rather than individual side of the picture, if the women's shelter had been safe, or the society had provided a less intrusive and controlling way of monitoring her parenting skills so she could regain custody of her eldest son, she would perhaps have not had to go on to lose so many children before she had the family she so desperately desired.) 
  3. And, as the above illustration points out, the interpersonal and social forces behind a problem are intertwined. Solving only one side of the equation won't work for long The person's internal problems and the forces in the environment that are problematic both have to be addressed.
  4. Some of the causes of social problems are deeply rooted, and others, though they appear to be secondary, are symptoms of deeper problems. (Behind Maggie's problems with men is the larger society's attitudes toward women, and behind the shabby shelter is a society that doesn't value poor women and their children enough to commit resources to guaranteeing that women have a safe and healthy environment to go to when they are being abused.)
  5. Although many people may share the same problem, the causes are as unique as the individuals who have them. No two people have the same history, environment, strengths and vulnerabilities. (Another woman who might have, as a small child, had at least one adult she could turn to for love and protection as a child might have been able to deal very differently with Maggie's situation. And if her sister had been rich, maybe she could have helped Maggie find an apartment for herself and her children...)
  6. The last point is related to #5: no two people react the same way to identical situations. ( Maggie's temperament may have begun as a 'fighting spirit' from before birth, that turned to lashing out under the influence of her experiences, while another person might react by becoming suicidally depressed rather than lashing out at others.) 

When selecting strategies for intervention, it is important to consider both individual and social causes for the problem. Page 97 lists fourteen of the more common categories of intervention used by human service workers. some are direct services that address either internal problems or the specific environment of the individual, some are directed at changing 'the system', the organizations that are supposed to deliver services or even the larger society that provides (or does not provide) the needed services, and some strategies that both try to provide direct services as well as change the systems that deliver them.

In the working groups, you were asked to generate a 'pie chart', similar to that on Page 97, of the main causes of the problem your group has chosen to address.

For homework, you are to select an intervention (and explain your selection, based on information in the assigned chapter) for each of the causes your group has listed.

Read  Chapter 3, "Strategies of Intervention". 
Writing assignment:
Write up strategies to address each of the multiple causes generated by your group for the human service problem that your group is studying.