Application Of Systems Theory To A Case Study

In this course, you will be asked to select one case study and to use it throughout the entire course. By doing this, you will have the opportunity to see how theories guide your view of a client and the client’s presenting problem. Although the case may be the same, each time you use a different theory, your perspective of the problem changes, which then changes how you go about asking the assessment questions and how you intervene.

The first theoretical approach you will use to apply to a case study is systems theory. In other words, your theoretical orientation—your lens—will be systems theory as you analyze a social work case study.

Different theories can be used to take a systems approach. For example, Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theoryconsiders how a system is made of smaller subsystems that influence each other and seek homeostasis, whereas Brofennerbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory focuses on how an individual’s experience is influenced by different system levels (micro, mesoexomacro, and chrono). Systems theory is commonly used to understand the interrelationships of the systems (e.g., family, community, organizations, society) of the client. If you are working with families, communities, and organizations, it is also beneficial to use systems theory to get a holistic picture of all the interrelated parts of the system.

To prepare: Select and focus on one of four case studies listed in the Learning Resources. You will use this same case study throughout the course.

By Day 7

  • Focus on the identified client within your chosen case.
  • Analyze the case using a systems approach, taking into consideration both family and community systems.
  • Complete and submit the “Dissecting a Theory and Its Application to a Case Study” worksheet based on your analysis.

Required Readings

Turner, F. J. (Ed.). (2017). Social work treatment: Interlocking theoretical approaches (6th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Chapter 14: General Systems Theory (pp. 240–247)

Turner, K., & Lehning, A. J. (2007). Psychological theories of poverty. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 16(1/2), 57–72. doi:10.1300/J137v16n01-05

Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.

Turner, F. (2011). Theory and social work treatment. In Social work treatment: Interlocking theoretical approaches (5th ed., pp. 3–13). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Social Work Treatment: Interlocking Theoretical Approaches, 5th Edition by Turner, F. Copyright 2011 by Oxford University Press – Books (US & UK). Reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press – Books (US & UK) via the Copyright Clearance Center.

Document: Comparing Individual-Related and Structural/Cultural-Related Theories (Word document)

Document: Worksheet: Dissecting a Theory and Its Application to a Case Study (Word document)

Document: Theory Into Practice: Four Social Work Case Studies (PDF)

Required Media

Sommers-Flanagan, J., & Sommers-Flanagan, R. (2014). Counseling and psychotherapy theories in context and practice [Video file]. Retrieved from

This week, watch the “Family Systems Therapy” segment by clicking the applicable link under the “Chapters” tab.

Note: You will access this video from the Walden Library databases.

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