Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Gerald E. Markle

Second Advisor

Dr. John Flynn

Third Advisor

Dr. James Petersen

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Subhash Sonnad


This study seeks to initiate a much needed reassessment of social work practice. Recognizing the criticisms and contributions of recent radical critics of social work, a theoretical model is constructed. This model incorporates aspects of both the professional and the radical perspectives. Specifically, the model focuses upon social work treatment planning as the dependent variable. Ideological, organizational structure, and perceptual variables are assessed as potential determinants of treatment planning.

A questionnaire was mailed to a sample drawn randomly from a list of certified social workers in Michigan. This selected sample received three mailings which resulted in a response rate of 67% for a total of 256 usable responses.

Findings indicate associations do exist between the major constructs of the model. Ideologies, structure, and perceptual variables are associated with social work treatment planning. The orientation of the social worker to an expertise or equalitarian stance is associated with social work treatment planning. Further, the social worker orientation to the helping environment is associated with social work treatment planning. Organizational size is not associated with treatment planning, while organizational complexity is associated. The social worker's identification with the client and the organization does not appear to be associated with treatment planning. A detailed analysis suggests that the professional model is misleading to an understanding of social work. The radical model provides explanation for most of the social work process but overemphasizes on the social change as the exclusive legitimate practice strategy. From this study, a social work practice model emerges which is characterized by strong client commitment, positive evaluation of the helping environment, and an individual change orientation to client service.

The implications of this new model for the student of social work is to provide a basis of assessment of social work practice. The model demonstrates the utility of ideological and perceptual variables in accounting for variations in social work treatment planning. A dialectic explanation provides the bases for interpreting the existence of variables which appear to be incompatible, yet are predominant characteristics of the practice model. Thus the practice model presents a portrait of social work as a unique occupation influenced by historical trends which have led to attributes which reflect both a professional and radical base.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Social Work Commons