Social Work Generalist Practice and Advanced Generalist Practice
Ronald Rooney, Pa Der Vang
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 October 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0228


Generalist practice is at the foundation of social work’s attention to multiple systems utilizing multiple methods toward goals of empowerment, attention to diversity, and social and economic justice. It is often framed as the foundation of social work education and is found at the baccalaureate level. Advanced generalist practice refers to graduate-level generalist social work education and practice. It implies a deeper level of study and fine tuning of generalist skills that still focuses on the practitioner’s ability to work across different settings, with different populations, and in different contexts without specificity of one particular practice model or theory.

General Overview

Generalist practice forms the foundation perspective for social work marking the profession’s focus on the integration of attention to the person and their situation. It reflects the profession’s commitment to practice that is attentive to work across levels of systems and facilitating access to resources. Regardless of client level, the intervention may be at any level, depending on the type and goal of the intervention. It is both central to BSW education and includes foundational competencies for MSW education. There are common factors in social work’s use of the generalist approach described below. This chapter includes a review of those critical enduring principles, a review of the history of generalist practice, and a discussion of the relationship between generalist practice and evidence-based practice (EBP).

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