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Theory Informed Direct Practice: SSWG 5101 and SSWG 5102

Recommended library resources for theory-informed social work direct practice with individuals and families

Assessment Definition and Approaches

  • Assessment is a continual process from engagement to termination. 
  • For graphic assessment tools, go to Genogram and Ecomap.
  • Measurement instruments can be used as part of assessment and evaluation.


"Assessment is an ongoing process of data collection aimed at identifying client strengths and problems. Early assessment models were based on psychoanalytic theory; however, current assessment is based on brief, evidence-based practice models. Both quantitative and qualitative methods may be used to create an integrative skills approach that links assessment to intervention. Specifically, assessment guides treatment planning, as well as informs intervention selection and monitoring."

Source: Jordan, C., & Franklin, C. (2013). Assessment, In Encyclopedia of Social Work. Oxford University Press.

Family Therapy

"Practitioners began to define presenting problems in terms of family dynamics, and goals for treatment focused on changing patterns of family interaction. Early contributors to family therapy pioneered interventions based on systems theories. Family interventions in social work practice are guided by systems theory and are, therefore, concerned with structure and interactions within the family as well as interactions between the family members and larger systems (Franklin & Jordan, 1999). The Ecomap, for example, is a popular family assessment tool developed within social work and helps social workers to map family communication and relationships between the family and other systems (Hartman & Laird, 1983). Family assessment approaches, such as Bowen's Genogram, are also used in practice. Family interventions aim to remove problematic patterns of family interaction rather than focusing on changing the behavior of an individual. Changing the structure and patterns of interaction within a family results in changes in the behavior of each family member (Franklin & Jordan, 1999). In addition to working with the family, practitioners consider the environmental factors affecting the family and may work to improve family connections with larger systems, such as schools and community service organizations (Hartman & Laird, 1983).

Source: Family Therapy. Franklin, C., & Hopson, L. (2008). Family Therapy. In Encyclopedia of Social Work. Oxford University Press.
For an updated full entry, read Franklin, C., & Hopson, L. (2013)  Family Therapy. In Encyclopedia of Social Work. Oxford University Press.

Strengths-Based Frameworks

"The strengths perspective represents a paradigmatic shift away from problem-focused approaches to social work practice. A strengths-based approach provides a helping foundation for clients and emphasizes personal growth, empowerment, and coping skills based on ideals that focus on strengths instead of pathology. The strengths perspective can be integrated into social work practice through strengths-based frameworks. Of particular interest is the infusion of a strengths-based framework into case management. Common themes of exploration for strengths-based casework include: case manager role, client-case manager relationship, client perceptions, and outcomes of strengths-based case management."

Source: Hall, J., Blundo, R., & Bolton, K. (2019) Strengths-Based Frameworks. In Encyclopedia of Social Work. Oxford University Press.

Bio-psycho-socialspiritual-cultural Assessment

Ecological Framework

"Ecological concepts and principles enable social workers to keep a simultaneous focus on people and their environments and their reciprocal relationships, not only in direct practice with individuals, families and groups, but also in influencing organizations and communities and in policy practice. Ecological concepts emphasize the reciprocity of person:environment exchanges, in which each shapes and influences the other over time."

Source:  Gitterman, A., Germain, C., & Knight, C (2018). Ecological Framework. In Encyclopedia of Social Work. : Oxford University Press.

Course Readings (access articles via Canvas):

SSWG 5102 Readings

Social Work with Families

  • Thomlison, B. (2016). Core Tasks of Family Assessment (Chapter 4). In Family assessment handbook (4th Edition) (pp. 63-90). Cengage Learning.
  • Thomlison, B. (2016). The Family System (Chapters 3). In Family assessment handbook (4th Edition) (pp. 37-61). Cengage Learning.
  • Barker, P. & Chang, J. (2013). The family diagnostic interview. In Basic family therapy (6th Edition) (pp. 70-79). John Wiley & Sons.
  • Collins, D., Jordan, C., & Coleman, H. (2012). Chapter 3: Family systems. In An introduction to family social work (4th Edition) (pp. 68-99). Brooks/Cole.
  • Hepworth, D. H., Rooney, R. H., Dewberry Rooney, G., & Strom-Gottfried, K. (2017). Assessing family functioning in diverse family and cultural contexts (Chapter 10). In Direct social work practice (10th Edition) (pp. 251-278). Cengage Learning.
  • Sommers-Flanagan, J. & Sommers-Flanagan, R. (2013). Interviewing in a diverse and multicultural world. In Clinical interviewing, 5th ed. (pp.365-397). John Wiley & Sons Inc.
  • Hodge, D. (2001). Spiritual assessment: A review of major qualitative methods and a new framework for assessing spirituality. Social Work, 46(3), 203-214. doi:10.1093/sw/46.3.203
  • Myer, R. A., & Conte, C. (2006). Assessment for crisis intervention. Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session, 62, 959-970.

Social Work with Groups

  • Birkenmaier, J., Berg-Weger, M., & Dewees, M. P. (2013). Social work practice with Groups: Engagement, assessment and planning (Chapter 8). In The practice of generalist social work (3rd Edition) (pp. 344-355). Routledge.

SSWG 5101 Readings

  • Singer, J. (2007). Bio-psychosocial-Spiritual (BPSS) Assessment and Mental Status Exam (MSE). Social Work Podcast. Retrieved from
  • Cormier, S., Nurius, P., & Osborn, C. (2009). Chapter 8 Conducting an interview assessment with clients. In Interviewing and change strategies for helpers (6th Edition) (pp 189-228). Brooks Cole.
  • Review: Alice’s Garage. Gender genograms: A resource for the families of older trans and gender diverse people.

Assessment Search Terms

Examples of controlled vocabulary and subjects

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)

Family assessment is a LCSH used to index or catalog library books and media about family assessment. 

Search in Library Search Advanced Search using Family assessment in Subject OR Title OR Description field

LCSH: Family assessment

Broader Term: Behavioral assessment

Library Databases

  1. Ebscohost thesaurus terms:
  2. ProQuest thesaurus term
    Use Sociological Thesaurus in Advanced Search for the Social Services database
    Use Sociology Thesaurus for all ProQuest databases
  3. ERIC (education) thesaurus: Assessment and Evaluation
  4. PubMed Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):  Needs Assessment (health services), Personality Assessment, Social Work. Add keywords to focus on individual and family problems and outcomes.
    Article example:  Family assessment in child welfare services: instrument comparisons

Measurement Instruments


"The genogram provides information about the family as a system, as well as the internal and external structures of a family, to help you understand family relations. Family of origin, culture, and attachment genograms are commonly used by practitioners (DeMaria, Weeks, & Hof, 1999). The genogram is a pictorial chart of the people involved in a three-generational relationship system." ***

"The Family Genogram.  The intergenerational family genogram collects and organizes data along genealogical lines. Information depicting the family along intergenerational and historical lines is drawn using symbols. With these symbols, a practitioner can display various details of a family such as family history, current family membership, events such as births, deaths, miscarriages, adoptions, separations, divorces, education, and illnesses, and other relevant information about the family that will be valuable in assessment.... "

Source: Thomlison, B. (2016). Core Tasks of Family Assessment (Chapter 4). In Family Assessment Handbook (4th Edition). (Pages 75-77) Cengage Learning.

How to Guides and Tools

Temple provides current faculty, staff and students with free access to software that can be used to create graphics and other visuals, such as Microsoft Office 365 suite and Adobe Create Cloud.  A few tools for making graphic are suggested below.  Search additional free or alternative software with YouTube and Alternative to and find reviews on Captera.


Standard genogram format


The ecomap shows the interactions the family has outside the family environment. Ecomaps reveal the systems in the larger environment by pointing out connections beyond the immediate family. Identifying important relationships with friends, relatives, churches, schools, social groups, organizations, work, and other life settings gives the practitioner and family a sense of current environmental connections to other systems. The social network map and grid capture family behavior in the context of its social network and social support—emotional support, concrete support, and informational support. They allow a pictorial assessment of needed resources for the family.



Visuals and Accessibility

Presentation Resources

Temple Libraries Guides