In This Article Psychosocial Framework

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Textbooks
  • Bibliographies
  • Origins of the Psychosocial Framework
  • Development of the Psychosocial Framework
  • Core Principles and Techniques of the Psychosocial Framework
  • Application to Special Populations and Problems
  • Application to Families and Groups and Short-Term Treatment
  • Contemporary Extensions of the Psychosocial Framework
  • Empirical Support
  • Issues in Research on Psychosocial Practice
  • Current Status

Social Work Psychosocial Framework
Eda G. Goldstein
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0085


This entry describes the psychosocial framework and its resources. It is important to differentiate the psychosocial framework, which is a distinctive practice model, from the psychosocial or person-situation perspective that informs social work practice generally. The psychosocial framework originated in the early history of the social work profession and evolved greatly over time in response to new theoretical and practice developments. It exerted a major influence on social work practice, particularly from the 1940s to the 1960s, when it was the dominant social casework approach, particularly on the East Coast. Its goals were to restore, maintain, and enhance the personal and social functioning of individuals through mobilizing strengths; supporting coping capacities; building self-esteem; modifying dysfunctional patterns of thinking, feeling, and relating to others; linking people to necessary resources; and alleviating environmental stressors. Although it originally incorporated Freudian and ego psychological concepts, it has always drawn on both psychological and social theories. As new practice models developed in the 1960s, the psychosocial framework waned in importance, but it later underwent a resurgence. It continued to occupy an important place among an expanded repertoire of approaches and contributed to the generation of some of the newer practice models, such as crisis intervention. In recent years there have been numerous extensions to the psychosocial framework, which continues to be used widely by social work practitioners, particularly those who consider themselves to be clinical social workers. It may be more accurate today to describe the psychosocial framework as a perspective that guides practice rather than as a discrete practice model. Nevertheless, it does rely on a core of theoretical concepts and practice principles.

Introductory Works

There are many excellent descriptions of the psychosocial framework that provide readers with an introductory overview of the approach. Turner 1978 is a detailed description of Florence H. Hollis's psychosocial model that refined and systematized the psychosocial framework, and Turner 1986 is a useful summary and reference. Hollis 1970 offers an early summary of Hollis’s ideas. Recent publications that discuss the psychosocial framework and include its more contemporary extensions are Goldstein 2008 an encyclopedia entry, and Woods and Robinson 1996. The most recent and up-to-date summary of the psychosocial framework is Turner 2009.

  • Goldstein, Eda G. 2008. The psychosocial framework. In The encyclopedia of social work. 20th ed. Edited by Terry Mizrahi and Larry E. Davis, 462–467. New York and Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers and Oxford Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    This encyclopedia entry is a current statement about the crucial elements of the psychosocial framework, its historical development, and its theoretical expansions and practice applications.

  • Hollis, Florence H. 1970. The psychosocial approach to casework practice. In Theories of social casework. Edited by Robert W. Roberts and Robert H. Nee, 33–46. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    This chapter by Hollis is an early summary of the psychosocial model of practice that she put forth.

  • Turner, Francis J. 1978. Psychosocial therapy. New York: Free Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    Readable and practice oriented, this book describes the main thrust of early versions of the psychosocial framework and its broadened application.

  • Turner, Francis J. 1986. Psychosocial theory. In Social work treatment: Interlocking theoretical approaches. 3d ed. Edited by Francis J. Turner, 484–513. New York: Free Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    An updated summary of Turner 1978, this chapter provides an excellent description of the evolving psychosocial framework and its utility.

  • Turner, Francis J. 2009. Psychosocial therapy. In Social workers' desk reference. 2d ed. Edited by Albert R. Roberts, 248–252. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    The most up-to-date description of the psychosocial framework, this chapter is an excellent reference.

  • Woods, Mary E., and Howard Robinson. 1996. Psychosocial theory and social work treatment. In Social work treatment: Interlocking theoretical approaches. 4th ed. Edited by Francis J. Turner, 555–580. New York: Free Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    Written by Florence Hollis's former associate and coauthor, this chapter summarizes the extensive development of the psychosocial framework.

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