Clinical vs Policy


Social Work practices are varied yet discrete, and therein lies our professional uniqueness.

In the early nineties, when I was registered in the graduate program for the Master of Social Work degree, there were three “levels” of social work practice that were referred to as micro, mezzo & macro. Expressed in Latin, these terms referred to the systemic levels at which Social Workers practice. “Micro” social work referred to direct practices with people. This included personal, family, and group work interventions and practice approaches. “Mezzo” social work referred to community-based social work. This level was thought to include a range of social practices that worked to mobilize, empower, advocate, and encourage local communities to organize and plan in accordance with their unique and authentic needs. Mezzo social work viewed community work as a level of intervention distinct from direct practice with people, family, and groups. It recognized that local communities have a distinct character and culture in common that is greater than the sum of people who live there. In community social work, practice might emerge within a particular place that self-identifies as a community such as the Peanut in the old North Toronto, or with a particular group of people who self-identify as belonging to a community even though they might not live together, such as the Deaf community. “Macro” social work referred to a level of practice that recognized the importance of governing policies on individual persons and communities on the ground. Social Workers have a longstanding history in advocacy and social welfare that validates the positive, and at times, not so positive, roles of civic policy in the lives of people in all sectors of society. Social Workers have been a strong voice in the creation of social welfare practices, programs, and policies by consistently holding powerful institutions designed for people to account for services and access to services by those who are most vulnerable. So, although part of our social work character involves a lifelong reflective practice about the various roles we fill, our collective professional desire to ensure that individual people are treated fairly, protected and respected under the law, and in prevailing governing policies and practices remains central to all we do.

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Published by Lisa Romano-Dwyer PhD, RSW

I am a registered social worker in the province of Ontario. I am currently creating professional resources for clinical practitioners.

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