Colleague 2: Lorraine

Your description of how micro-, mezzo-, or macro-levels of practice aid social workers in assessing families. Assess Paula Cortez’s situation using all three of these levels of practice, and identify two strengths and/or solutions in each of these levels.Assessing families is an important part of what we will do as social workers.

Understanding the family unit and how the intricate  parts of this unit interact and affect one another is essential.  On the Micro level it is important to understand each individual unit and the family’s dynamic.  This understanding of the family helps social workers identify how the  influences exist within the overall unit.  On a Mezzo level it is important to understand the families interaction as a group and the groups interaction with the community in which it lives and works.  The families access to resources and whether these resources are being utilized or not.  On a Macro level we examine how this family fits into the social environment on a larger scale and how social policies impact the family as a whole.  According to Holosko, Dulmus & Sowers (2013),  “The key challenge here is to recognize how the common themes of making available material and social resources and achieving health and well-being for all family members are constructed within the global economy and have different meanings across different contexts” (p.244).As I review Paula Cortez’s situation from a Micro level I can see several areas of strength.  However, the strengths I identify here have to do with Paul’s level of resiliency.  Paula has faced several life altering medical conditions, one being her HIV positive status.  Paula has been diagnosed as bipolar, yet has been able to remain out of the hospital of over 5 years.  On a  Mezzo level Paula has been admitted to a skilled nursing facility due to paralysis on her right side, yet has been able to progress within that facility and regain some mobility within her right arm and the ability to walk again.  Paula became pregnant and despite her overwhelming medical condition she has been able to request and receive 24/7 in home services for her child.  On a Macro level Paula is identified as low income.  Although Paula is part of a larger issue regarding poverty and the imbalance of societal wealth,  she is doing her best to utilize public assistance to help her in providing a stable environment for her self and her child.  Paula is utilizing many social resources to assist her with her childcare as well as her health issues (Plummer, Makris & Brocksen, 2013).

Describe the value in strength-based solutions.

I am a overwhelming fan of strength based solutions.  Strength based solutions provide he client with a strong focus on their abilities and on what can be done as opposed to what can’t.  There are key themes social workers should incorporate when assessing families.  According to Holosko, Dulmus & Sowers (2013), “A commitment to the belief that families bring strengths and resources to the helping relationship, and these can be harnessed in finding solutions. This means that the assessment can provide opportunities for exploring both problems and resources within the family” (p.247).  It is important for clients to focus on the genuine possibilities and work towards realistic, measurable and obtainable goals.  When clients are operating from a strengths perspective, they can begin to envision their goals as actual possibilities.  Operating from a strength perspective does not discount the serious nature of the families issues at hand, it incorporates the understanding of the risk involved with the family’s situation while incorporating a strength based approach to it.  According to  Holosko, Dulmus & Sowers (2013), “An understanding that a focus on strengths does not diminish the importance of identifying risk and safety issues and finding ways to protect clients from harm and causing harm” (p.247).

Holosko, M. J., Dulmus, C. N., & Sowers, K. M. (2013). Social work practice with individuals and families: Evidence-informed assessments and interventions. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Chapter 9, “Assessment of Families” (pp. 237–264)

Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen, S. (Eds.). (2013). Sessions case histories. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing. “The Cortez Family” (pp. 23–25)


Respond to two colleagues whose assessments of family cohesion differ from yours. Resolve the differences or explain how each viewpoint is valid.

Colleague 1: Farren

The Circumplex Model of Marital and Family Systems is a tool that is used when working with families. The models address three dimensions which are cohesion, flexibility, and communication (Olson, 2000). The model is designed for treatment planning and clinical assessments and focuses on treating marital and family system and focuses on togetherness (Olson, 2000). The goal of this model is to promote flexibility and provide balance amongst the members and create ways to effectively communicate.

The Cortez family would benefit from the Circumplex Model as they appear to lack togetherness and everyone appears to be doing their own separate things. The family would benefit from cohesion as it balances togetherness as the family appears to be very distant from one another (Plummer, Makris, & Brocksen, 2013). Balanced families have better communication skills than unbalanced families (Olson,2000). The Circumplex model would also assess the family’s flexibility as it would assess how the family reacts to change. In the Cortez family, Paula is pregnant and has numerous health issues, and the father had remarried and Miguel was in school and had a job. The family system appears chaotic and the family is distant and has their own lives, however, Miguel did step in and provide some support but it was limited (Plummer, Makris, & Brocksen, 2013). Communication reinforces the previous 2 dimensions (Olson, 2000). In the Cortez family, it does not appear that there is effective communication going on however, Paula and Miguel appear to communicate more together then they do with David.

Assessing these dimensions can assist the social worker in treatment planning as it can help the social worker create goals by assessing the gaps in the family dynamics. In the Cortez case communication amongst the family members appears to be very limited. Also, the family lacks cohesion. The Circumplex Model would have identified these issues and create goals that will alleviate some of the family’s issues if they are able to successfully achieve their goals as the model is designed for clinical assessment and treatment planning (Olson, 2000).


Olson, D. H. (2000). Circumplex Model of Marital and Family Systems. Journal of Family Therapy, 22(2), 144–167.  Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.

Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen, S. (Eds.). (2013). Sessions case histories. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing. “The Cortez Family” (pp. 23–25)

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