SW0509 - Systemic Intervention

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This module aims to develop students’ knowledge of systemic approaches to social work practice, their understanding of some core principles underpinning this way of working, and to enhance their practical ability to successfully intervene with individuals and families.
Students will consider the importance of developing an understanding of the lived contexts of service users, the significance of transitions / key life events and the importance of language in constructing shared meanings when undertaking assessment and intervention in social work practice.
The module will introduce systemic tools and techniques for use with a range of service-user groups in a variety of contexts. Students will have the opportunity to develop their skills, ability and confidence in applying these in practice. Shared learning across the programme will be enhanced by core themes being built upon in modules SW0518 and SW0615.
Throughout the module participants will be encouraged to reflect on and consider how they can utilise their developing knowledge and skills to enhance their ability to engage with and form meaningful and effective working relationships with service users.
Summative assessment will require application of systemic tools, techniques and concepts during the practice learning experience and evaluation of their use. Formative assessment will be offered from staff and students during interactive seminars.


Books and Reports
Burnham, J. (1988) Family therapy: First steps towards a systemic approach. London: Tavistock.
Carr, D. (2012) Family therapy: Concepts, processes and practice. 3rd edn.
Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley- Blackwell.
Dallas, R. and Draper, R. (2000) An introduction to family therapy: Systemic theory and practice. 3rd Edn. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Hills, J. (2013) Introduction to systemic and family therapy: A users guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
Hoffman, L. (2002). Family therapy: an intimate history. New York: W.W. Norton.
Howe, D. (2009) A brief introduction to social work theory. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lowe, R. (2004) Family therapy: A constructive framework. London: Sage Publications.
Parker, J. and Bradley, G. (2010) Social work practice: Assessment, planning, intervention and review. 3rd Edn. Exeter: Learning Matters.
Nichols, M.P. (2013) Family therapy: Concepts and methods. 10th edn. London: Pearson.
Rivet, M. and Street, E. (2009) Family therapy 100 key points and techniques.
Hove: Routledge.
Ruch, G., Turney, D. and Ward, A. (2010). Relationship based social work. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Salans, M. (2004) Story-telling with children in crisis. London: Jessica Kingsley.
Vetere, A. (2003) Working systemically with families. London: Karnac Books.
Walker, S and Akister, J. (2004) Applying Family Therapy. Lyme Regis: Russell House Publishing.
Walker, S. (2012) Effective Social Work With Children, Young People and Families: Putting Systems Theory into Practice. London Sage Publications.
Wilson, K et al (2011) Social Work: An Introduction to Contemporary Practice. 2nd edn.New York: Pearson Longman.

Journal Articles
Anderson, T, (1987) ‘The Reflecting Team: Dialogue and Meta Dialogue in Clinical Work’, Family process, Vol26: pp415-428 Article first published online: 3 Aug 2004 DOI: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.1987.00415.x ( access via NORA and available online)
Brown, J. (1997) Circular questioning: An introductory guide. Australian and New Zealand journal of family therapy, Vol 18, No 2 pp. 109-114.


The syllabus will include:
- A critical understanding the origins of systemic thinking and underpinning theory.
- Key systemic principles and approaches and how these can inform effective social work practice
- Applying systemic principles, tools and techniques to enhance assessment and intervention skills in practice.
- Enhancing ‘people skills’ – developing further the ability to engage with and form relationships with people.
- The importance of language in the process of communication
- Skills in listening effectively and asking questions informed by systemic approaches
- Systemic tools and techniques for use with a range of service-user groups/contexts and develop ability to use these in practice.
- Critical reflection on practice
- How to give and receive feedback constructively.


This module builds upon learning in SW0412 and SW0413 and aims to support learners to move from a beginning level to a more thoughtful and informed approach to social work practice by the end of the second year of their professional education. Learners will have the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge developed on this module during the practice learning opportunity. Learners will develop their confidence and take responsibility for their conduct, practice and learning within a social care setting.
The module aims to enhance student’s understanding of family systems and the importance of the contexts within which relationships and behaviours are formed and maintained. It will offer a theoretical framework to help students make sense of the world – developing their understanding of, and ability to engage in, effective social work with service users in a constructive and meaningful way. It aims to improve their intervention skills and equip them with knowledge of systemic tools and techniques, such as the use of genograms, sculpting and ecomaps that can be applied in the placement setting and which will enhance their ability and confidence to undertake social work practice.

The module is one of two at level 5 in the thread which scaffolds learning in relation to intervention and skills in the Professional Capabilities Framework


On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Analyse knowledge and understanding of systemic principles and approaches
2. Develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding of underpinning theoretical constructs that inform systemic approaches to social work practice
3. Appraise how principles, approaches and theories can usefully inform and be applied to their practice
4. Use systemic approaches to engage with and form relationships with service users and other key stakeholders
5. Employ systemic tools and techniques in practice in order to undertake effective assessment and intervention
6. Evaluate the impact of systemic approaches to social work practice.


SW0411, SW0412, SW0413, SW0414, SW0415, SW0416


SW0507, SW0508, SW0510, SW0511, SW0512



Learning will be promoted by the use of lectures, seminars and directed learning. Small workshops will focus on applying systemic principles and approaches in practice and to develop practical ability to use some useful systemic tools as aids to intervention. A key focus will be to enhance student understanding of how systemic approaches, and some associated practical tools and techniques can help facilitate a process of meaningful communication with service users in a range of practice settings.


a. Summative assessment and rationale for tasks
Students will be assessed by an assignment in which they will consider how their understanding of systemic principles informed their approach to a practice situation. They will apply knowledge and outline how they utilised systemic tools and techniques to facilitate the process of social work intervention.
Assignment 2000 words. 100%.
b. Additional formative assessment – detail of process and rationale
Students will practice applying systemic principles, tools and techniques in workshops. This will provide an important opportunity to reflect on skills development and identify future learning needs. Formative learning will be shared in group activities.
c. Indication of how students will get feedback and how this will support their learning
Students will complete a short reflective commentary which will receive written feedback from tutors. Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment work.

Course info

UCAS Code L502

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time

Department Social Work, Education & Community Wellbeing

Location Coach Lane Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2020 or September 2021

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