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Western Social Work Practice in Non-Western Countries




by Anish Alex MSW, RSW

The history of modern social work practice begins in the Western world in the 19th century. Due to the complexities associated with the social change occurred during the industrialization and urbanization period affects traditional patterns of family and community support systems in the western world. As a result, a modern organized form of support and care system has been developed to supplement and complement family and community care system called professional social work. The practice of institutionalized care system was developed from an Anglo-American standpoint of liberal, Judeo-Christian, capitalist values and philosophies. Western social work practices and philosophies faces various challenges in a different ethno-cultural setting (Tsui & Yan, 2010) of non-western countries. 

The historical frameworks of settlement movements and the social care demands of urbanization in the west made significant changes in the social work profession and creates more responsive changes to the local needs of Western countries (Gray & Fook, 2004). Social work profession was developed to meet the needs of the ethno-cultural communities of the western industrialized society. The western version of this modern care profession traveled from west to fit in the local needs of other regions of the globe as part of charitable efforts of missionaries, British colonialism, globalization and open trade. This article attempts to examine the implications of western social work practices in non-Western countries with special focus on historical, cultural and social factors. I argue that western social work practice faces various challenges to meet the unique requirements of isolated, remote, and culturally diverse population in other regions. Despite of the debate about the core mission of the social work practice, this profession could achieve a good reputation among western care world by stabilizing or controlling problems of the capitalist societies.

Nagpaul, (1972) and  Midgley, (1981) explains that many developing countries like Latin American countries, several Asian countries and much of African countries were not taken ‘social work’ in to a serious account as western world has viewing this profession. There has been a substantial discourse about the insignificance of educating and practicing western model of social work to resolve the social problems of developing countries (as cited in Payne, 1998).

The indigenous thinking of social development started to question the dominance of Western social work education and its practices in non-Western countries. The profession is still trying to connect the western model of social development in to the socio-cultural, economical, historical and political landscape of developing regions like Africa and Asia. Due to the huge gap between social development and economic development of many of these countries, western social work practice faces in-numerous challenges to allocate social and economic resources for the vulnerable population (Tsui & Yan, 2010). Besides, the in-applicability and inappropriateness of western social work model in isolated, remote settings of developing countries raises the question of its relevance in diverse and complex societies. Apparently,  critical psycho-social assessments and targeted social work interventions in the local complex remote setting with a foreign ideology created new challenges to the profession (Gray & Fook, 2004). Tsui & Yan illustrates that culturally and socially liberal, Judeo-Christian and capitalist foundations of western social work education and practice possibly not developed as a trusted profession to meet the requirements of people, hence political and professional existence of professionals in the social work sector became a question in non-western countries (Tsui & Yan, 2010).

A qualitative study conducted by Brydon (2011) found that implementation of western social work model and practice in non-western countries are arguably challenging. Brydon explains that western social work is not a universal model of practice rather it is an indigenous model. There is little or no integration of wide range of worldviews and different discourses applicable to all regions. Western social work education primarily focusing on individual rights and client’s determination, but in the reality the professionals are dealing with a society where family and collective responsibility is predominantly valued than individuality (Nguyen 2005, as cited in Brydon, 2011).

A rethinking of “adapting, adjusting and modifying imported knowledge, theories, values, and philosophy” mainly from the Western work to fit in the local social context is unavoidable. However, an integration of imported knowledge base and cultural, social, economical, and political philosophies of the non-western communities can offer new solutions for this difficult situation (Tsui & Yan, 2010, p. 308). Many social work professionals from most of these non-western regions were trained in western world. In addition, social work education in many non-Western countries are following either new or a second hand translation of Anglo-American textbooks and reference materials. It profoundly reproduces the believes and values of a capitalist society. Revitalization of social work practice in these countries required a multi-dimensional approach includes local knowledge development, promotion of traditional healing models, and reinstating socio-cultural practices.

Social work education and classrooms should create a space to incorporate the challenges of local social work practices in the context of regional social development. Moreover, a remedial approach with all levels is inevitable; social work educators can raise the awareness about the roots of current social work paradigm in their country with a critical point of view. And help the new generation social workers towards the transformation of more localized social work practice. It is important to engage social work education with local practices, and teaching materials produces locally. However a successful social work intervention in non-western countries requires an integration of western knowledge and local wisdom especially those who are practicing western social work.

Original Source:


Brydon, K. (2011). Offering social work education in an offshore context: A case study of an Australian programme delivered in Singapore. International Social Work54(5), 681-699. Doi: 10.1177/0020872810382527

Gray, M & J. Fook. (2004). The quest for a universal social work: some issues and implications. Social Work Education. 23(5), 625-644. Doi: 10.1080/0261547042000252325

Ming-sum, T., & Miu Chung, Y. (2010, May). Developing social work in developing countries: Experiences in the Asia Pacific region. International Social Work. pp. 307-310. doi:10.1177/0020872809359746.

Pawar, M. (2010). Looking Outwards: Teaching International Social Work in Asia. Social Work Education29(8), 896-909. doi:10.1080/02615479.2010.517018

Payne, M. (1998). Why social work? Comparative perspectives on social issue and response formation. International Social Work41(4), 443-453.

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Group Work: How to Make it Work




Cooperative learning, collaborative strategies, group rotations—whatever we decide to call it, the research behind group work in the classroom makes a strong case for embracing collaborative learning. As beneficial as it is, however, group work can easily go awry if the planning and structures are not in place. Here are some suggestions for well-managed group work in the classroom.

Consistency is key when introducing group structures and routines.

Rotations, stations, and group collaboration involve much more than having students circulate through different activities together. Before you can even begin the actual group work, students need to be explicitly instructed on how they will form and work in their groups. Devote some time to having students practice moving into their groups in a quick and organized manner. Encourage students to have only necessary materials out during group work. Practice timed cleanup so that groups familiarize themselves with the amount of time needed to wrap up a work session.

Teacher-derived groups should be deliberate on multiple levels.

Be sure that groups contain personalities that will jive and complement one another. Also be careful to level the groups so that there are higher-ability and lower-ability group members in each group. When possible, groups should be gender-balanced and small enough that every person will play a vital role in the process and product. For the typical classroom, groups should be kept to 4 students or smaller to allow for accountability.

Begin implementing group work by stressing the importance of the process, not necessarily the product.

Of course the end result is important; however, cooperative dialogue, perspective-taking, and synergy are the foundations for a successful group—perfecting the product will come later. You want the groups to work like a well-oiled machine in the sense that each person knows that her individual input is necessary to achieve the end goal.

Have open dialogue about that end goal.

Part of the nuisance of group work is the fact that every group member has a different work ethic, mindset, motivation, and concept of the result. We have all experienced the headache and stress of completing “group work” individually because a partner or group mates were banking on someone else completing the job. To avoid this common pitfall, encourage groups to discuss what each individual’s end goal is and work on compromising from there.

If one person’s goal is to complete the task in as little time as possible, assign that person one of the initial planning, prewriting, or beginning tasks for the project. If another person expresses a deep desire to perfect the group’s project, put that person in charge of checking the final product against the rubric and making edits or adjustments as needed. If one person simply aims to turn something in for credit, put him or her in charge of organizing materials, brainstorming ideas, keeping the group’s notes, etc.—the key is to play to each person’s strengths and desires so that everyone’s intrinsic motivation leads the group to the same end goal.

If one person simply aims to turn something in for credit, put him or her in charge of organizing materials, brainstorming ideas, keeping the group’s notes, etc.—the key is to play to each person’s strengths and desires so that everyone’s intrinsic motivation leads the group to the same end goal.

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5 Motivational Books That Will Help Improve Your Relationships



Sometimes, motivation is necessary for students and teachers to enhance their relationship. In many cases, teachers criticize their students without understanding the challenges they face both at home and at school. During my school years, I was bullied because I was considered soft or not being a tough guy, and I never fought back. To be honest, it was some of the worst years of my life, but I endured it. I also experienced that some of my teachers couldn’t control their attitude towards students especially with me. Maybe you have a difficult relationship in your life, but how do you get through it or try to change the outcome?

Motivation to endure is what kept me going no matter what circumstances I was facing. Now that my school days are in the past, I still need motivation when it comes to facing barriers and challenges in my daily life. Reading inspirational books have given me insight into myself and others, and they help to give me the energy and excitement to continue my journey no matter how bad my situation is. Not only do they apply to improving teacher-student situations, but the lessons learned from these books can be applied to any relationship.

Without further ado, I would like to share five motivational books that would help build a long lasting relationship:

1 – Hit Your Life’s Reset Button by Marc V. Lopez

Marc V. Lopez is a guy who prioritizes God before anything else. He preaches and attends a Roman Catholic praise and worship group known as The Feast founded by Bro. Bo Sanchez. When I participated in a bible study session, he inserted himself promoting his book. I immediately bought it from him, with his signature on it. Marc and I are friends in real life, and I consider him as one of my mentors in life.

For those who lean towards spiritual guidance, this book may appeal to you more than the others. It focuses on improving your relationship with others by putting God at the center of everything. The book costs $4.99 on Amazon.

You can find out more about Marc’s book here.

2 – The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard

When it comes to personal power, Brendon Burchard is my man. Ever since my friend introduced me to Brendon Burchard, it changed the way I look at life. Sometimes it is easier to gain insight into oneself by reading their journey of someone else. I was inspired by Brendon Burchard’s story from his struggles to success. The main concept is how to look at every situation in a positive way, even if you’re at the worst point of your life.

The Motivation Manifesto is free of charge, and you only need to pay for shipping. I pay something around $7+ for shipping, and it arrived at the post office in less than a month.

You can find more about Brendon’s book here.

3 – Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Another motivational book that I want to recommend is Simon Sinek’s Starts With Why. I bought this book a couple of years ago, and it’s something that inspired me to develop my leadership skills. I firmly believe that this book would be great for anyone looking to become a better leader or manager. It shares inspiring stories from great leaders from the past on how they were able to lead their people to achieve success. If you want to become a better leader, start with this book.

The book itself cost around $10 in the bookstore. You can buy this on Amazon marketplace too. There’s paperback, hardcover, Kindle version and more.

You can find more about Simon’s book here.

4 – How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People teaches you how to navigate stressful relationships. Even if you meet difficult people, the book can teach you how to manage them very well. If you’re a teacher who has problems in handling difficult students, or a student who has an arrogant advisor, this book is for you to read.  If you want to learn how to have more success in your relationships and becoming influential in your social networks, this book will help start your journey.

The book cost you $9 in average. It may be only $9 to spare, but reading the whole thing might get you thinking that it’s worth millions.

You can find more about Dale’s book here.

5 – 25 Ways To Win With People by John C. Maxwell

John C. Maxwell’s 25 Ways To Win With People. It teaches you how to be a better communicator and help you learn skills to change the dynamics of your relationships. This book gives principles to guide you to better love and treat others well, and it also discusses leadership and how to understand different personalities. Once you are able to see your relationships from a different lens, it will be easier to develop and improve them.

For the price of this book, it’s around $15.99 for a paperback cover.

You can find more about John’s book here.

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. – Carl Jung

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Passion Through Lived Experience: Krystal’s Journey to Her MSW




A few months ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Krystal Reddick who is a blogger, a social work student, and overall someone with so much passion and drive. At the age of 23, Krystal was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder during her Master’s in Education grad program.

Ten years later, through her own self-discovery and recovery towards mental wellness, Krystal has decided to pursue a career in social work. Having lived experience and the professional background gives her a unique outlook on the field, and she plans on continuing to share her story in order to help others along the way.

Prevailing research states 1 in every 4 individuals suffer from a mental illness which equates to approximately 61.5 million people in the United States. Also, current research tells us that 50 percent of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14, and 75 percent of all chronic mental illness will manifest by age 24. – Social Work Helper

In the spirit of sharing her experiences, you can view our conversation below:

SWH: Being someone with lived experience and a working professional, what perspective do you bring to the field that differs from your peers who do not have lived experience with a mental illness?

Krystal:As someone with lived experience and an aspiring mental health professional, my perspective feels like a combination of an insider and an outsider. As an insider, I know what my personal experiences have been with my bipolar disorder; I’ve been manic, depressed, and stable. At the same time, once I finish graduate school and become a social worker, I’ll have to have a certain amount of distance and firm boundaries. I hope to be a social worker that can draw on my lived experience; I hope it makes me more understanding and compassionate and patient.

SWH: You stated that you sought out help at your school but it wasn’t helpful. How was that process for you? Did you feel comfortable asking for help? What about it didn’t make it helpful?

Krystal: While I was depressed in graduate school it took me weeks to get up the coverage to seek help from a college therapist. My energy levels were low, and I had practically no follow through. But I eventually made an appointment with a therapist on campus. The process wasn’t that helpful. And I understand why now, a few years removed from the experience.

The therapist recommended I seek outside care through my mother’s health insurance as the grad school’s system was swamped with students. At the time I thought he did not take me or my depression seriously. But I understand now that it was a resource issue. However, his response wasn’t helpful at the time and I never sought help again. It took all I had to come and see him. The only reason I got help was because a subsequent manic episode ended the depression, and I landed in the hospital.

At the time, I thought he did not take me or my depression seriously. But I understand now that it was a resource issue. However, his response wasn’t helpful at the time and I never sought help again. It took all I had to come and see him. The only reason I got help was because a subsequent manic episode ended the depression, and I landed in the hospital.

SWH: What made you have a career change from education to social work?

Krystal: I have been in the education field for 9 years. My own lived experience along with the experiences of a few of my family members coupled with my time as a high school English teacher, have all prompted me to switch careers from education to social work. As a teacher, I felt constrained in my attempts to work with the students. As a teacher, I had to focus on the academic side of things. But I found myself also concerned about my students as people, concerned about their social-emotional development and their development as human beings.

SWH: Can you tell us about the process you took when you had to take a leave from school? What was that like for you?

I experienced my first bout of depression while in my last year of graduate school for education. It was debilitating. I lost about 15 pounds. I didn’t sleep or eat or bathe. I barely left the house. And I avoided family and friends. However, a few months later I became manic. The mania was disruptive in ways that the depression was not. And resulted in a 3-week hospitalization during the spring semester of graduate school.

There was no way I was going to graduate on time, so I withdrew from school to focus on my health and recovery. I felt like a failure for having to “drop out.” All of my college friends were either still in law school or medical school, or were already in the workforce making good money. I felt like a bum in comparison. However, I’ve since learned that “comparison is the thief of joy.” I try not to compare myself or my journey to others. Life is a lot less stressful that way.

SWH: What would you say has been the most helpful in your recovery?

Krystal: I can’t pinpoint just one factor that has been helpful for my recovery. In fact, it has been a combination of medicine, therapy, my support system, and a solid sleep schedule that have helped me most. The medicine, if I take it regularly, keeps me stable and even-keeled. Therapy has been great because my therapist keeps me accountable to myself and the goals I’ve set for my life. Goals that have nothing to do with being diagnosed. He has tried hard to get me to live as normally as possible and not to be debilitated by a mental health label. Next, is my support system: my fiance, my family, and my friends. They all let me know if they see signs that an episode might be looming. They visit me in the hospital, they pray for me, and they love me

Next, is my support system: my fiance, my family, and my friends. They all let me know if they see signs that an episode might be looming. They visit me in the hospital, they pray for me, and they love me despite things I’ve done while manic that are not too nice. And lastly, a regular sleep schedule and good sleep hygiene are important to keep episodes at bay. I don’t sleep much during manic and depressive episodes. So trying to get as much sleep as possible, allows my brain to stay calm.

SWH: What advice would you give to other college students who find themselves struggling with their mental health?

Krystal: For other college students struggling with their mental health while in school, I’d encourage them to seek help. They do not have to go through this alone. I actually wrote an article for The Mighty about navigating mental health concerns while in college or grad school.

Check it out here:

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