Session: Relational Processes As Mechanisms of Change Affecting Program Outcomes (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

262 Relational Processes As Mechanisms of Change Affecting Program Outcomes

Friday, January 22, 2021: 5:00 PM-6:00 PM
Cluster: Social Work Practice
Symposium Organizer:
Jeanne Marsh, PhD, University of Chicago
John Brekke, PhD, University of Southern California
Social service providers know the relationships they develop with clients at the micro, meso and macro level -- and those that clients develop outside their organizations -- make a difference and have an impact on program outcomes. Historically, relational processes have been a central concern in social work theory and practice. However, in recent social work research, the role of relational processes in predicting outcomes and facilitating changes is understudied. In fact, relational processes are often viewed as at odds with the development of evidence-based practices or identification of mechanisms of change. In statistical models seeking to identify the variance accounted for by specific elements or mechanisms of change, relational processes are often relegated to the error term.

Emerging research on the science of social work is recalibrating relational processes in the context of evidence-based practices by considering them as two elements of social work practice that are closely related and increasingly scientific. They are considered as essential to understanding (1) how treatments and programs work and how they affect positive outcomes, as well as (2) how they may operate in practice innovations such as patient-centered care and shared decision-making. A fundamental difference in these two developments is the conceptualization of mechanisms of change. While evidence-based approaches often define and measure the intervention activities and techniques as mechanisms of change, relational process research identifies and measures the nature and quality of relationships as mechanisms of change. Research methods relevant to the operationalization of change mechanisms, whether technique-based or relationship-based, are at a nascent stage of development.

The purpose of this symposium is to elaborate on social work research that advances understanding of relational processes as mechanisms of change in effective social work practice. Drawing from four original research projects examining relational processes at the individual, group, family and organizational level, this symposium will address three key questions:

1. What is the currents state of knowledge about how relational processes work and how they contribute to social service outcomes? 2. What conceptual frameworks guide the study of relational processes as mechanisms of change in social service delivery? 3. What methods and measurement strategies are relevant the study of relational processes as mechanisms of change in social service delivery?

The discussant will highlight cross cutting themes from the presentations and identify challenges and opportunities for social work scholarship and practice moving forward. This includes leveraging its enduring focus on relational processes, including such contemporary models as intersectionality and anti-oppressive practice approaches to advance practice research

* noted as presenting author
Relationship As a Mechanism of Change: Community Doula-Mother Relationship and Parenting Behavior in Home Visiting Servicess
Yudong Zhang, AM, University of Chicago; Renee Edwards, PhD, University of Chicago; Hans Sydney, PhD, University of Chicago
Examining Relational Work at Three Different Homeless Shelters
Ines Jindra, PhD, Idaho State University; Michael Jindra, PhD, Boston University
Sharing Stories Eases Pain: Core Relational Processes of a Group Intervention and Syrian Refugees in Jordan
Mary Bunn, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago; Marsh Jeanne, PhD, University of Chicago
Variance Decomposition Approach to Studying the Relative Importance of Relationships in Program Outcome
Jeanne Marsh, PhD, University of Chicago; Hee-Choon Shin, PhD, National Center for Health Statistis
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