Basic casework concepts: Social roles and functioning, Need, Adjustment, Adaptation, Person-in-environment, Client as unique individual.


Casework, a fundamental practise in social work, involves providing individualised assistance to clients facing various challenges. In this blog, we will delve into several basic casework concepts that are crucial to understanding the dynamics of client interactions. We will explore social roles and functioning, need, adjustment, adaptation, the person-in-environment, and the client as a unique individual. These concepts form the foundation for effective casework practise and help social workers facilitate positive change and support individuals in their journey towards well-being.

  1. Social Roles and Functioning: Social roles refer to the expected behaviours and responsibilities associated with an individual's position in society. They can include roles such as parent, employee, friend, or community member. Social functioning, on the other hand, refers to how well an individual performs these roles and meets societal expectations. Understanding social roles and functioning helps social workers assess a client's strengths, limitations, and potential areas of intervention.

  2. Need: The concept of need in casework refers to the discrepancy between a client's current state and their desired state of well-being. Needs can be categorised into various dimensions, including physical, emotional, social, and environmental. Identifying and understanding a client's needs is essential for creating an individualised plan to address their specific challenges and support their overall development.

  3. Adjustment: Adjustment refers to the process of modifying behaviours, attitudes, or beliefs to adapt to new circumstances or challenges. In casework, clients often seek assistance when they are experiencing difficulties adjusting to changes in their lives, such as a loss, transition, or trauma. Social workers help clients explore strategies and develop coping mechanisms to facilitate their adjustment process and regain a sense of stability and balance.

  4. Adaptation: Adaptation goes beyond adjustment and involves a more profound transformation in response to challenges or changes in the environment. It encompasses a broader range of psychological, behavioural, and emotional adjustments necessary to meet new demands successfully. Social workers assist clients in identifying their strengths and resources, fostering resilience, and supporting their adaptive capacities to navigate through complex life circumstances.

  5. Person-in-Environment: The person-in-environment perspective recognizes that individuals are deeply influenced by their social, cultural, and physical surroundings. It emphasises the interplay between a person's internal characteristics and the external factors shaping their lives. Social workers adopt this perspective to gain a holistic understanding of a client's experiences, identifying the reciprocal relationships between the person and their environment. This approach helps social workers recognise and address the impact of various systems, such as family, community, and society, on an individual's well-being.

  6. Client as a Unique Individual: Recognising and honouring the uniqueness of each client is a fundamental principle in casework. Every individual has distinct qualities, experiences, and aspirations that shape their identity and journey. By embracing the client as a unique individual, social workers acknowledge their subjective perspectives, preferences, and goals. This approach promotes a collaborative and empowering relationship between the social worker and the client, allowing for personalised interventions and solutions tailored to the client's specific needs.


Basic casework concepts provide a solid framework for social workers to engage with and support clients effectively. By understanding social roles and functioning, need, adjustment, adaptation, the person-in-environment, and the client as a unique individual, social workers can develop comprehensive and targeted interventions. These concepts help foster a client-centred approach, empowering individuals to overcome challenges, make positive changes, and enhance their overall well-being. Through a collaborative and compassionate approach, social workers can truly make a difference in the lives of their clients.


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