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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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The Long Pathway: Journey to Understanding Mental Health




Written by: Iman,  Introduction: Rosie, Billy, Anisah, and Fahim – Haverstock School Journalism Project

*Editor’s Note: UK Social Work Helper Staff Writer, Chey Heap, and myself worked with the Haverstock School Journalism Project to support budding young journalists in their pursuit to better understand mental health issues. The below work was written by an 11 year old student, and I am proud Social Work Helper was able to be apart of this effort. The article is a collection of interviews and collaboration with her classmates. They did an outstanding job of exploring and processing a complicated issue like mental health. – Deona Hooper MSW 

A recent survey stated that 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year. In the Journalism project, we choose the subjects we want to write articles on and because I personally had an experience that traumatised me when my brothers had been separated from me. It really felt like I had been deprived of the things that gave me the most pleasure, and it put me into a deep depression. No one could understand the way I felt.

If we had physical problems, people would have noticed, but the inner ones are not noticed. If you break your arm everyone knows, but there is a stigma attached to mental health problems.

I wanted to know about how psychologists and other professionals work and understand how they can help us so that young people who are experiencing mental issues will know they are not alone and can get help.

The article is titled ‘The Long Pathway’ because it takes a long time to train to become a helping professional and to research and understand different conditions, but it is also a long pathway to healing.

So, I decided to ask my classmates who have experience with mental health issues including depression and bereavement to help me with this project.

One person, we shall call him Stephen told me: His Nan had a very rare disease that messed with her head. It made her see things. “When we went to visit her she saw everybody but me! It made me feel sad and left out but no one knew how I felt”.

Another a girl called Sarah told me: “My Mum and my Nan were fighting and they stopped talking to each other and when I wanted to go out with my Nan my Mum wouldn’t let me that made me very upset and angry”.

I then wanted to know what it was like to train, work and research in the field of mental health.

Journey Through a Psychologist and her Trainees Eyes

Dr Gursharam Lotey, a young person’s clinical psychologist and Jasmeet Thandi a trainee clinical psychologist agreed to an interview at Camden Open Mind – an organisation that reaches out to young people and helps them deal with life situations including bereavement, bullying or educational issues. It gave us a unique insight into their work.

Jasmeet: I am constantly thinking about feelings. You are talking to someone you have never met before and you are asking:

“How do you feel?”

And it is probably a bit much. So we get beautiful Russian dolls, name each doll that we have made: happy doll, sad doll Yesterday, one girl put a sad doll inside a happy doll. So, on the surface, she seemed happy but on the inside, she was feeling a bit sad.

Q: Do you use your own experiences to connect with patients?

Gursharan: It is really important to be aware of your past to be able to connect with a young person

Jasmeet: A patient will tell you something and I think:

 ‘Ah I have experienced that…’

Q: How do you deal with the unexpected?

Gursharan: The best thing to do is to not panic and to just think why that person might be sharing something with you that might be a bit out of the ordinary; and to be able to hold this inside, even if you are thinking: Wow! This is not what I expected!

Q: Do you ever get scared of your patients?

Gursharan: Not scared as such… I worry about them but our aim is for them to go home and be safe.

Jasmeet: Not scared I worked on a unit where adolescents had committed crimes. Once you get to know someone you can really understand the context and why things have happened. Understanding them is really important.

Q: What challenges do you face in your work?

Gurshuram: If something really complex and serious is happening within a young person’s family and you have several families like that all on the same day it can be quite challenging to not think about it when you go home.

Gursharam and Jasmeet explained training to be a clinical psychologist was like embarking on a long pathway and it felt like we were given a fascinating peek into what that entails.

Thank you, Gursharan and Jasmeet. We think Camden Open Mind gives an invaluable service.

Journey Through a Psychology Lecturer’s Eyes

Tony Cline is a now a psychology lecturer and trains child psychologists. When Tony was twenty-one, he found himself in a room with a new computer, but this computer was gigantic. It took up a WHOLE room!  He punched information into cards and it would take three weeks to process. Unfortunately, when Tony made a mistake, it would take another three weeks to process. Since then, technology is the biggest change he has seen.

Tony specialises in research as well as teaching and over the years has worked on subjects like dyslexia and has organised dyslexia conferences. Elective mutism was another subject in which he took an interest. This is where a young person can talk but only with some people. People thirty years ago often thought the child was just being naughty, but Tony’s analysis showed they weren’t, they genuinely had problems.

An example would be a pupil refusing to communicate with their teacher. The review of research highlighted a treatment called ‘Fading In’ where the child talks to the people they are comfortable with. For example, while the child is talking to their parents about something very interesting, the teacher appears at the door but does not enter. The second time, the teacher might come in but not stay, and on the third time the teacher stays and joins in the conversation. There is now a new name for the condition is called Selective Mutism.

I asked about the difficulties his students face to become trained professionals:

Tony: One of the things students do is they carefully train and prepare for an interview and then despite what they have been told about the child before they meet them, there is sometimes much more than is said.

I wondered whether there are difficult situations whilst he was teaching.

Tony: Yes. You can sometimes see that it is making someone in the group think about their own lives and they have had a bad time; for example noticing when a student is being hit by a subject like bereavement because they have experienced it.

Although Tony has years of experience, he still says to his new students: “I am going to learn something from you.”

I learnt lots from everyone I met on this fascinating journey and hope this article will be the first of many that shed light on an area that is difficult for people to understand.

Thank you. Gurasharam, Jasmeet, Tony, and classmates.

Brief description of the project:

The Haverstock School Journalism  Project exists to give underprivileged young people a very high standard of journalism training and proper assignments.

The students have interviewed all sorts of people from a lady firefighter to Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey, recently they contribute to the University College London, Amnesty Journal, and provide regular articles for On the Hill Magazine. The project is funded by the John Lyon’s Charity.

The Project Co-ordinator

Danielle Corgan worked in broadcast documentaries for over a decade, mainly with the award-winning documentary company Goldhawk Media Ltd. She helps the students research their subjects, prepare interview questions, organises the interviews, and write and structure print quality articles. She strongly believes every child can write well and encourages them to develop their own voice. She has worked with youngsters with Special Education Needs and Looked After children on the project with very good results.

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Social Workers Can Now Learn Medicare Online and Earn Continuing Education Hours




Social workers can now earn continuing education hours while they learn Medicare at their own pace, anytime and anywhere with Medicare Interactive (MI) Pro, an online Medicare curriculum powered by the Medicare Rights Center.

MI Pro provides the information that social workers and health professionals need to become “Medicare smart,” so they can help their clients navigate the Medicare maze. The online curriculum contains information on the rules and regulations regarding Medicare—from Medicare coverage options and coordination of benefits to the appeals process and assistance programs for clients with low incomes.

“For over 25 years, social workers have been turning to Medicare Rights’ helpline counselors for clear and concise information on how to help their clients access the affordable health care that they need,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “Now social workers can enroll in MI Pro and learn—or enhance—their Medicare knowledge at their convenience while fulfilling their continuing education requirements.”

The Medicare Rights Center, a national nonprofit consumer service organization, is the largest and most reliable independent source of Medicare information and assistance in the United States.

Licensed Master Social Workers and Licensed Clinical Social Workers can earn continuing education hours when they successfully complete any of the four MI Pro programs: Medicare Basics; Medicare Coverage Rules; Medicare Appeals and Penalties; and Medicare, Other Insurance, and Assistance Programs. Each MI Pro program is comprised of four to five course modules.

All MI Pro programs are active for one year following registration.

MI Pro courses are nominally priced. Additionally, social workers who purchase all four programs at once will receive an automatic 20 percent discount.

Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.

Available only through the Medicare Rights Center, Medicare Interactive (MI) is a free and independent online reference tool that provides easy-to-understand answers to questions posed by people with Medicare, their families and caregivers, and the professionals serving them. Find your Medicare answers at

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Cyber Safety for Today’s Teens




It goes without saying that technology has fully inserted itself into most aspects of our day-to-day lives—and children and teens are no exception. Children are learning to swipe smartphones before they learn to turn the pages of a book, and many of them are swiping on their own devices. For parents, the endless exploration of technology raises many concerns for children and teens.

Parents need not only be aware of what their children are getting from the constant connectivity, but also what they may be putting out into the digital universe. Yes, the horror stories surrounding teens and technology are vast and worrisome, but these hard-learned lessons can provide other families with safe cyber practices that will make all the difference for security and peace of mind.

Limit screen time, especially for youngsters. We may have grown to rely on our devices in the adult world. I, myself, use my phone for everything from navigation, to paying bills, to making grocery lists—the list (no pun intended) goes on and on. However, for children, it is essential their screen time be limited and purposeful. Use screen time as an occasional reward, but make sure that everyone is clear about how long they can use the device and for what purposes.

If you feel that your child must have a phone for staying in touch, consider phones or plans that provide programmed options for usage. For instance, there are ways to program children’s phones so that they are only able to call or text a set list of phone numbers. You can also set restrictions on how data is used or what websites or apps your children can access. The key here is to keep your children’s circle small when introducing them to their first phone—the stricter the parameters, the more peace of mind parents will have about children using technology.

Be aware of your child or teen’s social media presence. Keep a very watchful eye on your child’s use of social media and limit access to devices when concerns arise. You should insist on access to or control over your teen’s social media accounts whenever necessary. If you suspect that your child is cyberbullying or being cyberbullied, take the phone.

Keep records of any evidence that your child is being bullied, including text messages, screenshots, profile posts or photos, etc. Schools today are cracking down on bullying; however, parents must present documented, repeated instances of harassment or bullying before school officials will intervene.

Along the same lines as cyberbullying concerns, parents should monitor social media accounts to ensure that children are protecting themselves and being digitally responsible. Teens today are so concerned with obtaining “likes” and gaining “followers” that they lose sight of how vulnerable they may be making themselves online. Explain to them that, even with privacy settings, nothing is 100% private when it comes to posts, comments, photos, etc.

Make sure that teens are not using personal information, like a full name, specific address, current location, or school. Social media sites make it extremely easy to tag one’s location, but too often teens fail to consider who might be keeping tabs on their location. Gently, but firmly, remind your children that not everyone on social media is who they claim to be.

Talk about the permanency of our digital footprints. This means once posted online ownership no longer belongs to you. Even deleted material is not ever fully erased if even one person has captured, saved, or screenshotted the post.

Not only can deleted posts resurface, people can edit or manipulate the photo or post in any way they choose. Teach children and teens to think carefully before making a post.

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