SWSP6033 Social Work Theory and Practice (Individuals and Families)

Level: Master
Credit Points: Six
Prerequisites: SWSP6003 and SWSP6013
Mode(s) of delivery: On-campus (Sydney)
Core/elective: Core

Unit Description

This unit explores social work theory and practice for working with individuals and families. Linking individual life course with family systems and life cycle development, this unit incorporates understandings of individual and family strengths, weaknesses and tensions with their rights and safety. Students will explore skills associated with both direct practice and family work (strength-based and solution-focused) as a way of working towards the most effective outcomes for their health, wellbeing and life chances. Cultural influences will be discussed in relation to dominant ideas about what a family is.

Unit Workload

The workload for this unit is 9 hours per week. This includes timetabled class time and private study time.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Explore theory and skills linked to direct practice with individuals and families.
  2. Link current social, cultural and political conditions to individual and family problems.
  3. Explore knowledge about the family, family systems, family life cycles, multi-issue families, and family resilience.
  4. Demonstrate understanding of solution-focused and strength-based interventions. 
  5. Demonstrate cultural awareness and sensitivity to work with individuals and families.
  6. Apply direct practice skills including risk and safety assessment and family interventions and resource and networking for all members of the family group.

Learning and Teaching Approach

  1. Learning is an active process – which involves both questioning and challenging.
  2. Learning is a shared process – where others’ thoughts and ideas are presented, critically analysed, exchanged and respected.
  3. Learning is a collaborative and empowering process for self and others.
  4. Learning is thoughtful and reflective.
  5. Learning requires integration with prior knowledge and other arenas of knowledge development in the program.
  6. Preparation for lectures and seminars and reading the recommended texts and references is essential.

The content of this unit has been designed to maximise both online and face-to-face learning to integrate the subject matter.

Students are expected to:

  • Complete all activities
  • Complete readings
  • Complete all assessments
  • Attend all classes

It is also recommended that students:

  • Keep a record of new terminology that is introduced in this unit
  • Keep a copy of assessments and other correspondence
  • Make notes on unit content and readings

There will be learning activities linked to all lecture materials which are designed to encourage students to deliberate and reflect and to provide opportunities for further learning. The activities are designed to help students think through and practise the specific skills and general concepts presented in this unit as well as provide valuable learning opportunities.

Assessment Summary



Word Count

Week Assessed

Learning Outcomes Assessed

Group Presentation and Group-led Discussion




1, 3

Assessment Report and Critical Reflection


1,500 words


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6



3,000 words


1, 2, 3


Recommended Text

  • Adams, R. (Ed.) (2011). Working with children and families: Knowledge and context for practice. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Recommended Readings

  • Adams, R. (2012). Working with children and families: Knowledge and context for practice. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Adams, R., Dominelli, L., & Payne, M. (Eds.) (2002). Social work: Critical issues and critical debates (2nd ed.). Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Cocker, C., & Allain, L. (Eds.) (2011). Advanced social work with children and families. Exeter, England: Learning Matters.
  • Connolly, M., & Harms, L. (2011). Social work: From theory to practice. Port Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press.
  • Corcoran, J. (2012). Helping skills for social work direct practice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Hart, A., Blincow, D., & Thomas, H. (2007). Resilient therapy: Working with children and families. Hove, England: Routledge.
  • Healy, K. (2005). Social work theories in context: Creating frameworks for practice. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Healy, K. (2012). Social work methods and skills: The essential foundations of practice. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Jones, E. (1993). Family systems therapy: Developments in the Milan-systemic therapies.  Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
  • Lynch, E. W., & Hanson, M. (2004). Developing cross cultural competence: A guide for working with children and families. Baltimore, MD: Paul H Brooks Publishing.
  • McGoldrick, M., Carter, B., & Garcia-Preto, N. (2011). The expanded family lifecycle: Individual, family and social perspectives (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
  • McKie, L., & Callan, S. (2012). Understanding families: A global introduction. London, England: SAGE Publications.
  • O’Hara, A., & Pocket, R. (2011). Skills for human service work: Working with individuals, groups and communities (2nd ed.).South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.
  • Skolnick, A., & Skolnick, J. (Eds.) (2011). Family in transition (16th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson Books.
  • Shulman, L. (2009). The skills of helping individuals, families, groups and communities (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
  • Trevithick, P. (2000). Social skills: A practice handbook. Buckingham, England: Open University.
  • Ungar, M. (2008). Handbook for working with children and youth – pathways to resilience across cultures. Moorabbin, Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.


  • Australian Social Work
  • ADVANCES: Journal of Social Work and Welfare Education
  • Australian Journal of Social Issues
  • Critical Social Work
  • Journal of Social Work Education (USA)
  • Journal of Social Work (UK)

Academic Misconduct

Ethical conduct and academic integrity and honesty are fundamental to the mission of ACAP. Academic misconduct will not be tolerated by the college. Please refer to http://currentstudents.acap.edu.au/assets/Managing-My-Course/A-Z-Policies/Academic-Misconduct-Policy.pdf for full details of the Academic Misconduct Policy.


This unit outline may be updated and amended from time to time. To ensure you have the correct outline please check it again at the beginning of the trimester. For a list of required textbooks for the upcoming trimester, please click here.