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Main / SocialWorkTheoriesList

Note: This is not a digital scholarship project. Rather, I was looking for a list of social work theories to provide to my students in 2A06D at McMaster, and could not find one. I chose to create a reference list, and wanted it to be publicly accessible. This list is in no way exhaustive nor prescriptive, and is meant to serve as a starting point for further research and reading. Neither this list, nor the web resources listed here, should be cited or seen as academic resources.

Theories Used in Social Work


  • clinical theories (largely based on psychological models)
  • modern social work theories (from Payne)
    • psychodynamic
    • crisis intervention/task-centred
    • cognitive-behavioural
    • systems and ecological
    • social constructionism
    • humanism, existentialism, spirituality
    • social and community development
    • anti-oppressive practice (called anti-discrimination), see Carniol)
    • empowerment and advocacy
  • some classical sociological theories applicable to social work
    • conflict
    • symbolic interactionism
  • some contemporary sociological theories applicable to social work
    • anomie
    • engaged
    • grounded
    • interpretivism
    • positivism
    • phenomenology
  • feminisms
    • there are a wide array of feminist theories. Wikipedia provides a list of 18 different branches of feminist thinking that can serve as a good starting point, although this list should not be seen as exhaustive.
  • some  branches of critical theories applicable to social work
    • Marxism
    • postcolonialism
    • structuralism
    • poststructuralism
    • deconstruction/reconstruction
    • postmodernism
    • psychoanalysis
    • queer theories
    • semiotics
  • mad studies (consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement, see  LeFrançois, Menzies, Reaume)
  • critical race theory
  • critical disability studies (see Kafer)
  • posthumanism (see Wolfe and Braidotti)
  • affect theory (see Boler)
  • embodiment (from feminist tradition, see Davis)
  • Indigenous knowledges

Page last modified on November 14, 2016, at 04:40 PM