Psychology for social work practice

Social work practice derives its knowledge base from various branches of social sciences. Different settings have their own specific requirement of knowledge base. When we are working with individual clients, understanding and application of psychological concepts plays a crucial role.

 Other branches of social science like sociology, economics, anthropology, political science etc. study different aspects of human life and are helpful in macro and mezzo level of intervention.

Psychology as a scientific discipline

In this section we will get an introductory understanding about psychology as a discipline of study. The following points details about it:  

Psychology is a study of human as well as animal behavior. Not only humans but animal behavior is also studied in psychology. Various experiments are conducted on humans and animals to understand and predict behavior. 

The study of behavior is done to know about the mental processes of individuals, hence the name psychology which means study of the mind. A researcher cannot see or hear mind. The mind can be sensed only through the behavior of a person.

The study of psychology is scientific in nature as it uses systematic and measurable approach for the study. A systematic study includes organisation of observed facts adding to the theory base. It is made measurable by observing the no. of times a particular response is made or a behavior is exhibited.

Application of this scientific study is made to solve human problems. For example, once the cause for a specific undesirable behavior is established the cause can be modified to induce a desirable behavior.  To better understand this if a child starts to stammer, then this behavior can be modified by finding the cause behind it. Psychological treatment is provided to solve this undesirable behavior.

Some of you might be curious why to study psychology for social work profession.  As stated above it is required when working with individual clients. No two individuals are same. Psychology helps us to understand individual differences by getting insights to personality traits of human beings. Therefore the cause of difference is addressed by social workers to solve behavioural problems. It can also be used to understand which person is fit for a job and which is not or in other words who is fit for which job.

Study of behavior helps us to understand why some  accomplish certain things whereas others fail at it. Life accomplishments and failures are a result of continuous traits and the process involved in reaching the situation is studied. Social workers can  work with clients who face depression or failures to imbibe these traits and change their attitude.

Psychology helps us to understand the difference between normal and abnormal behavior and the causes behind them. Social workers can work with such clients to better adjust to their environment

Psychology also helps us to understand the human potential to facilitate and achieve a better quality of life. Since behavior can be modified, social workers through their knowledge of human behavior , change the bahaviour of their client for a better adjustment to their life.

Branches of Psychology

Psychology in itself is a vast discipline which is further divided into several branches. Following is the description of each branch.

Clinical psychology

It deals with diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses and other behavioural problems. Treatment is done by giving psychotherapies and counselling to the patients. This branch of psychology focuses on psychopathology and its solution.

Social psychology

It studies how and why people behave in a certain way in a social environment. It focuses on how an individual thoughts, perceptions, beliefs etc. are shaped as a result of its interaction with the social environment. Social psychology is more focused on the study of the behavior and indirectly contributes in the treatment of maladjusted behavior.

Industrial psychology

It tries to study and understand human behavior in an organisation. It studies how and why some employees perform and some do not. What are the situations which boost an employee’s performance and vice versa. Knowledge generated is thus applied to introduce environment which would help in the performance of the employees.

School psychology

It tries to solve the behavioural issues of children and adolescents in a school situation. It makes use of the knowledge of different branches of psychology such as developmental psychology, social psychology, educational and clinical psychology. 

Educational psychology

It deals with the study of how people learn. What are the factors which contribute in learning and which one hinders learning. It studies the differences in learning progression of two individuals, learning disability as well as the instructional process in education.

Developmental psychology

It focuses on the study of the change taking place in an individual lifespan from infancy to old age. The changes include physical as well as mental and their interrelationship with each other. 


It examines or investigates the paranormal phenomena and mental abilities which are beyond logical explanation. For example, phenomena like telepathy, near death experience, people having premonitions etc. Studies takes place but no scientific observations are made, hence restricts predictability.


After reading the article you might have got an understanding and clarity about what is psychology and its importance in social work practice.   


Leave a Comment