Social Work Models Used with Disabilities

When working with clients who have disabilities, social workers refer to the following models of practice:

  • The Behavioral Model
    • This model uses positive and negative reinforcement in order to achieve a more desirable behavior from clients and prevent them from hurting themselves. the focus is on the change in behavior.
  • Crisis Intervention
    • Social workers work with short term crisis intervention. In some cases, if a disability is acquired as a result of an injury or illness, crisis often occurs. It is a social workers job to help with that crisis when the client discovers they have a disability. In other cases, the client is a parent or family member of a person with a disability. It is important to address their feelings on the situation in order to come up with a plan of how to handle care for the individual.
  • Case Management
    • Case management combines elements of direct and indirect practice. It focuses on finding and connecting the client with available community resources and services that the client may need.
  • Advocacy
    • Advocacy is the importance of speaking up for a client in ways they are not able to speak up for themselves. Some clients are nonverbal, have difficulty speaking to others or have difficulty adapting to different situations. They need someone who is able to assess their needs and help them with case management services and finding agencies in the community that meet their needs.
  • Strengths Model
    • This is used in all areas of social work. It focuses on finding strengths in a client and utilizing those strengths in order to help a client achieve their goals.
  • Empowerment
    • Empowerment is very similar to the strengths model, using their strengths to empower them and create the idea of self determination.
  • Independent Living
    • Independent Living is helping individuals run their own lives. It is teaching them the skills necessary to perform every day tasks in their own house or in assisted living.


Abby Arnold

DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books

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