Preparation for Generalist Social Work Practice
Undergraduate field instruction is the final and most complex element of the generalist social work curriculum at CMU. This is accomplished through the integration of theoretical knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and professional identity in a guided, professionally supervised educational experience within an agency setting. The intent is to deliver an educationally oriented experience in which the student has the opportunity to develop competency in generalist social work skills. Students will experience, and become equipped, to handle increasingly more challenging practice situations. By the end of the field placement, social work interns will be ready to assume the responsibilities of a beginning level generalist practice social worker.
While undergraduate field instruction is individualized for each student, there are two common areas of expectations for students in the field setting. These include student participation in direct practice experience and generalist practice preparation.
Direct Practice Experience
Students need the opportunity to practice the skills used in generalist social work practice. This includes direct client system contact and communication. Observation of the work of others is appropriate for the first weeks of placement and for new activities introduced throughout the placement. However, the majority of the student field practicum experience needs to be direct practice activities with clients and client systems, and should include relevant policy. Clients may be individuals, groups, families, organizations, and/or communities.
Preparation for Social Work Generalist Practice
Undergraduate social work education is of a generalist practice nature as articulated in CMU Social Work Program Statement of Generalist Practice. This includes actions of social workers that:
1) empower client systems;
2) use the generalist intervention model;
3) align with social work values and ethics;
4) are sensitive to the uniqueness of diverse groups and cultures;
5) promote positive relationships and effective communication; and,
6) are consistent with BSW broad-based professional competencies.
Students should not be engaged in Masters Level Advanced Practice activities, such as psychotherapy and non-crisis counseling.
Diversity and Cultural Sensitivity
Generalist practice includes social work knowledge, skills and values that respect the unique characteristics, needs and resources of diverse, at-risk and multi-cultural groups, e.g., people of color, women, children, elderly people, immigrants, rural people, people who are disabled, people with diverse religious affiliations, people with diverse ethnic backgrounds, and especially, people who are economically disadvantaged. The generalist practitioner recognizes and uses his or her professional competencies to combat oppression and discrimination including racism, sexism, and group stereotypes. At the same time, culturally competent generalist practitioners recognize that individuals are unique and that there are great differences within at-risk and multi-cultural groups.
Relationship Development and Communication
Generalist practice includes a strong emphasis on the development of positive relationships with client systems, colleagues, community resource providers, and policy makers. Generalist practitioners communicate effectively with a wide range of people of the purpose of helping client systems move toward attainment of client system-generated goals and objectives. Effective communication includes listening skills, empathic responses and awareness of verbal and non-verbal communications. Communication with client systems includes collaboration and respect.
The generalist practitioner is not a specialist. Specialized training is available to the generalist practitioner either through an advanced educational experience or through additional in-service training. The generalist is prepared to provide competent service to clients in settings that require a broad and non specialized provision of service. That level of service is appropriate to BSW level practitioner who, like those trained at Central Michigan University, work in a very rural and geographical isolated settings and see a large variety of clients with other professionals when the limits of the generalist model require more specialized service. Further, the generalist practitioner understands that immediate provision of services in crisis situations may not permit continued work that may require specialized services. Finally, the generalist practitioner understands that specialized service is a function of advanced training and is prepared to create educational opportunities to permit more training as need and interest become apparent.