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Skidmore College
Social Work Department

Generalist Social Work Practice

The focus of undergraduate social work education is the generalist practice perspective. This means the social worker has an eclectic theoretical base that utilizes a systems framework to assess a variety of points for possible intervention. The core responsibility of social work practice is the guidance of planned change through the problem-solving process. This means social workers recognize that problems can occur at all levels of living (e.g., individual, family, group, and community levels) and that interventions aimed to address these problems can also happen on various levels. Generalist social work practice is broad in scope, and a practitioner can be called on to help a homeless family, a sexually abused child, an agency developing policies to meet new state or federal regulations, a community attempting to develop awareness of substance and alcohol abuse, an elderly person unable to care for him/herself any longer, or to advocate for a teen community center. Generalist social work practitioners can be found in many different settings such as nursing homes, domestic violence programs and shelters, community mental health programs, alcohol and substance abuse facilities and treatment programs, advocacy agencies, crisis centers, prisons, family counseling centers, hospitals and many, many more. Two key qualities for generalist social work practitioners are creativity and flexibility. The constant theme that runs through all generalist social work practice is a focus on individual well being in a social context and the well-being of society. Generalist social work practitioners have a generic set of assessment, planning, and intervention skills that they can utilize on any system size.