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Unit Overview


Modern professional standards, the courts, society in general and clients specifically, demands that your practice be guided by theoretical frameworks that have developed legitimacy over many years of research and clinical practice. Doing what ‘feels right', being guided by ‘good intentions' and adopting an atheoretical position is professionally and legally unacceptable.

SWSP5630 Social Work Methods 1: Introduction to Psychosocial Theory is the first of four units specifically focussing upon social work methods. Each methods unit from 1-4 will build and expand upon the previous methods unit. The philosophical framework governing this unit is the biopsychosocial model, which consciously attempts to synergistically incorporate all of the significant dimensions in human existence in order to optimally conceptualise our understanding of the human condition in general and mental health specifically.

This unit examines explanatory (explaining how and why, but does not necessarily inform you how to intervene) and practice (specific instruction on how to intervene) theoretical frameworks that assist social work understanding. Where possible evidenced base practice theories will be empathised. Social work is a profession that relies on the understanding that theory provides in order to first conceptualise a clinical presentation, formulate appropriate assessments and ultimately intervene in a case. The fundamentally important areas of trauma, loss and grief will also be examined in detail.

Introduction to Psychosocial Theory will assist students to appreciate the ways in which a range of explanatory and practice theories, clinical assessment and the relationship with your client combine to influence professional social work decision making. Clinical discussion will be used to examine appropriate social work assessment and intervention strategies in regards to case presentations and general psychosocial issues. To assist this process, complex case studies will be examined to optimally reinforce the application of theory and psychosocial assessment.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Non-standard teaching periodUWA (Perth)Face to face

Students are able to (1) examine competing micro, meso and macro level theoretical frameworks for defining the purpose and place of social work; (2) critique human development, behaviour and needs across the life cycle, including consideration of: systems, attachment relationships, major life stage transitions and culture; (3) critique dominant discourses and constructions of mental and physical health, with a critical awareness of the issues inherent in using deficit models; (4) analyse loss, grief and trauma as it impacts individuals, groups and communities; (5) examine the impact of socio-economic status, life opportunities, trauma and environment on the mental and physical health and wellbeing of individuals, groups and communities; (6) demonstrate an understanding of evidenced based practice, and how this informs contemporary social work practice; and (7) demonstrate professional attitudes, workplace behaviours and communication skills appropriate to the profession of social work.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) test; (2) reflective paper; and (3) professional behaviour. Further information is available in the unit outline.

To pass this unit, a student must: (a) achieve an overall mark of 50 per cent or higher for the unit; and (b) achieve the requisite requirements(s) or a mark of 50 per cent or greater, whichever is higher and specified in the unit outline, for the professional behaviour component.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Katie Carter
Unit rules
Enrolment in
11550 Master of Social Work (ID 127)
Contact hours
3 hours per week x 12 weeks
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.