Mary Ellen Kondrat

in Social Work

ISBN: 9780195389678
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:


This bibliography deals with the concept “person in environment” as a practice orienting perspective for social work practice and education. This perspective is based on the notion that an individual and his or her behavior cannot be understood adequately without consideration of the various aspects of that individual’s environment (social, political, familial, temporal, spiritual, economic, and physical). A person-in-environment perspective is said to provide a more adequate framework for assessing an individual and his or her presenting problem and strengths than an approach that focuses solely on changing an individual’s behavior or psyche, or one that focuses solely on environmental conditions. This perspective is also thought to increase the range of interventions available to the practitioner—with the options to intervene directly with the individual or into aspects of the environment or both. The person-in-environment perspective has been accepted by the profession as uniquely defining and differentiating social work from related professions/disciplines, such as psychology (more person centered) and sociology (more structurally oriented). In terms of its epistemological status, the concept “person in environment” is variously described as a perspective or a framework. As such, it is said to help the practitioner organize observations, planning, and intervention strategy. In this broader understanding, person-in-environment is not a “theory” in the sense of producing statements that have been or can be verified with empirical evidence. However, this is not to say that more specific formulations linking some aspect of the environment to behavioral outcomes have not been productive. Many of such formulations have formed the backdrop for much that goes by the name “evidence-based practice” (a concept treated extensively elsewhere on this site). There is some speculation regarding when the person-in-environment framework was first clearly articulated in social work. What is clear is that there were a number of historical developments in the first two decades of the 20th century that led to the more formal expression of the concept in the emerging profession and discipline of social work sometime after World War I.

Article.  8499 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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