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Intro to Social Work: Understanding Macro, Mezzo, and Micro Levels of Analysis

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Barriers to a Healthy Lifestyle: From Individuals to Public Policy via JOE

The debate about micro versus macro concentrations within the social work profession continues to rage on. For me, it was not that much of a debate until I began engaging with social workers around the world via social media. Since then, it has changed my lens of how I view the world into a more  of macro thinker.

Up until the last year, I was happily living in my own micro bubble.  The trend or message from others on social media is that Macro Social work has lost it’s appeal or the profession is being skewed into a clinical/micro focus. There also continues to be a lot of discourse about social workers’ roles on a larger stage. When students take Intro to Social Work, are we fully explaining the inter-connectivity between micro, mezzo, and macro levels of analysis in social work?

Has our role been stymied by this Micro and Macro separation? In my opinion, the strength of social work is it’s versatility, but the profession can’t seem to get out of its own way. Rather then widen the debate, we need to strengthen the two concepts, and Social work programs need to focus on “the space between”. Mezzo social work, also referred to as “meso” in other disciplines, is often left out of the conversation. Micro, Mezzo/Meso, Macro are levels of analysis which are the cornerstones of  ecological systems theory and practice. The application and understanding of these levels are not only germane to social work, but they are integral in the analysis of business, finance, politics, science, and more.

According to Social Work Degree Guide website,  it has this to say about mezzo level social work:

Instead of working with an individual or a familial group to promote individual change, you will work with groups to focus on promoting cultural or institutional change. Because social workers practicing mezzo work face unique challenges, they generally will have experience in both micro and macro work and use this experience in tandem. You will need to be experienced with both interpersonal relations and community involvement when you choose this level of work. Read More

In a recent Twitter chat about Sustaining innovation in macro social work, the importance of macro social work came up. Most importantly, Carly Levy responded to the chat stating that “Our desire to be recognized as licensed clinicians dominates social work culture and distorts macro social work purpose”. As a direct clinical provider with a growing appreciation for Macro work, this perfectly illustrates the impasse social work is facing. Rather than clinical social work distorting macro social work, we need to examine ways clinical social workers can enhance macro process as well as ways macro theory can enhance clinical practice.

To illustrate my point, the first therapy group I ran was about 4 years into my career. I had already been practicing family and individual work for quite some time. During this time of clinical growth into groups, the individual skills I learned dovetailed well with group work. Also, I was learning more group work theory  which enhanced my family work. Although work in groups enhanced my thinking about organizational change and the tone an organization sets, facilitating organizational change is where social work can excel. Taking clinical skills and growing them into macro skills can make for a powerful combination.

Individuals with Macro social work skills for systems analysis, community organizing, grant writing, and coalition building in policy making positions will affect how we practice. Community Organizer, Mozart Guerrier, stressed in his TedxSyracuse talk the need for listening and consensus making. He says without listening to what people need, it will limit trust and change will not happen.

As social workers we are often referred to as “change agents”. Change can happen through direct practice but also can be achieved through change at the organizational and community level. There is a huge space between what happens in an individual therapy session and what happens on Capitol Hill. We should attempt to get away from where change happens but how it happens.

No matter what our concentration in graduate school, social workers all have a notion of how change happens. By making the micro distinction this distorts how change happens, and we have the tools and the talent to make change happen at many levels. It is where micro and macro meet that can cause a significant amount of change. Utilizing the macro, mezzo, and micro levels of analysis in all of our practice areas is the best holistic approach to helping our profession and our clients improve outcomes.

Sean Erreger is currently a Clinical Case Manager for youth with a mental health diagnosis.I have a decade of direct social work practice experience including adolescent day treatment, psychiatric emergency room, adult inpatient, and foster care prevention. Blogging and sharing social work resources at Stuck On Social Work

12 Comments

I want the shirt!!!

Thanks ,just in time for my class.

Helping me study, thanks. 🙂

I am not sure if a call for a more mezzo focus is the solution. I more favor the point earlier in the article that the whole theory be reflected in education and practice. But, most importantly in SW Identity.

Nancy Zachar Fett

Wow, a flood of academic memories!!

Education

Group Work: How to Make it Work

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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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Education

5 Motivational Books That Will Help Improve Your Relationships

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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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Education

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

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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: https://themighty.com/2016/08/how-to-navigate-college-or-grad-school-and-mental-illness/

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