Social work has long acknowledged the importance of focusing on the strengths of people and their environments. From the early years of Jane Addams and the settle- ment house movement (1902) to Bertha Capen Reynolds (1951) to Charlotte Towle (1953) to Germain and Gitterman (1979), voices from within the social work profes- sion have repeatedly called for a focus on the capabilities, resilience, and empower- ment of people and communities that have been marginalized throughout history. The University of Kansas School of Social Welfare drew upon the voices of these early pioneers and articulated the strengths perspective in the 1980’s (Weick, Rapp, Sul- livan, & Kisthardt, 1989), challenging the field to put the strengths and resources of people, communities, and their environments at the center of the helping relation- ship. Yet, despite these calls for an emphasis on strengths, deficit-based approaches continue to dominate conventional social work practice (Saleebey, 2009).It was within this tension that Strengths Model Case Management was developed. The Strengths Model represented a significant paradigm shift for mental health, social work, and other helping professions. People with mental illnesses have his- torically been oppressed by the societies in which they live, and this has often been reinforced (albeit unintentionally) by professionals responsible for helping them. When the Strengths Model was developed, traditional case management approach- es often focused on pathology and diagnosis, held low expectations for what people with mental illnesses could achieve in their lives, and frequently used stabilization and maintenance as measures of success. The Strengths Model arose in response to this, viewing people not only as capable and possessing a unique array of personal and environmental strengths but also challenging and inviting professionals to focus their efforts and support toward helping people achieve life goals and roles that anyone else in the community might pursue.This chapter provides an overview and the philosophical underpinnings of Strengths Model Case Management. The principles, research, and tools will be presented, along with a case example to demonstrate how the philosophy and practice approach work together. The chapter will conclude with a view of the implementation process for Strengths Model Case Management within an organizational setting and implications for the model moving forward. The purpose of this chapter is to emphasize the impor- tance of taking strengths from a verbalized concept to an actionable set of practice and organizational behaviors designed to improve the lives of the people.
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