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Personal practice model (social work)

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Title: Personal practice model (social work)  
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Subject: Social work, Anti-oppressive practice, Institute of Medical Social Workers, British Association of Social Workers, Social injustice
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Personal practice model (social work)

A Personal practice model (PPM) is a social work tool for understanding and linking theories to each other and to the practical tasks of social work.

Mullen[1] describes the PPM as “the art and science of social work”, or more prosaically, “an explicit conceptual scheme that expresses a worker's view of practice”. A worker should develop a PPM pragmatically over their entire career by reflecting on, and the absorption of, a variety of sources. They are an important basis for the delivery of good practice and the evaluation of such. Bowles, Collingridge, Curry and Valentine [2] stress the importance of deriving the guidelines for good practice from a text such as the Australian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics.[3]

As the name implies, they are fundamentally personal and idiosyncratic, and to be effective, they must be rationally constructed, by a self-conscious worker. Fook [4] identifies the need to maintain “a broader vision of the mission of social work” to transcend everyday workplace distractions.

Mullen describes the dimensions and sub-dimension of a PPM, outlined below. It contains all elements of social work theory, linking what Payne [5] describes as the three tiers; models of practice, explanatory theory and world perspectives.

Dimensions of the model

Social Welfare and the Profession

This requires a practitioner to have an understanding of the concept of social welfare, and the role of social work within this concept as well as any specialisations of social work.

Social Work

A practitioner needs to understand the missions and objectives of social work, as well as philosophies that underpin it.


A PPM needs to explain how the model centres around clients, and conceptualisation of the clients that is in line with the philosophies of social work.


The use of self is fundamental to social work, and a practitioner needs to be self-conscious, and know what parts of themselves to use in practice, and which to leave out.


The relationship between client and practitioner is the most crucial workspace in social work, and the context that the relationship occurs is therefore a vital part of a PPM. A practitioner needs to consider which elements of a relationship are important, and which may be contrary to the notion of social work.


The strengths and shortfalls of an agency can greatly help or hamper the social work process, and a worker needs to be aware of these to maximise the agency's benefit to the client.


The technique a social worker uses is defined by all the preceding dimensions. The processes that a social worker uses needs to be consistent with the orienting theories that form their conception of social work.

Monitoring and Evaluation

To maintain a validity with a PPM, social workers need a systemic plan that takes into account the relevance and effectiveness of practice.

Strengths and weaknesses of the concept

Payne [5] identified that an eclectic approach to theory has the benefits of increasing a workers effectiveness, but that this should not come at the expense of being “internally inconsistent or debas(ing) the full theory.” Mullen[6] offers several criticisms of PPMs, that they are duplicative, time consuming and overly subjective. He offers responses to these three points, firstly in refuting the claim that they simply duplicate existing General Practice Models (GPM). A PPM allows for development and tweaking of GPMs, making them more relevant to individual practice. He concedes that they can be time consuming, but mostly in their inception, and that maintaining and developing them is much easier. As for the subjectivity of a PPM, workers need to be aware of this, and critically engaged with GPMs to bring esoteric theory and research into contact with everyday practice.


  1. ^ Rosenblatt, A. and Waldfogel, D. (1983) Handbook of Clinical Social Work. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Ltd.
  2. ^ Bowles, W., Collingridge, M., Curry, S. and Valentine, B. (2006). Ethical Practice in Social Work:An Applied Approach. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin.
  3. ^ Australian Association of Social Workers (2000). Code of Ethics. Canberra: Australian Association of Social Workers.
  4. ^ Fook, J. (2002). Social Work: Critical Theory and Practice. London: SAGE Publications.
  5. ^ a b Payne, M. (2005). Modern Social Work Theory. Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan
  6. ^ Rosenblatt, A. and Waldfogel, D. (1983) Handbook of Clinical Social Work. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Ltd.
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