Macro, Mezzo And Micro Social Work

Social work can be divided into three broad categories based on its scope. These categories are macro, mezzo and micro.

Macro level social work refers to interventions carried out on a large scale that affect entire communities and systems of care. Mezzo social work happens on an intermediate scale, involving neighborhoods, institutions or other smaller groups. Micro social work is the most common practice, and is based on direct interaction with an individual client or family.

These three levels of social work practice at times overlap and always influence each other. Understanding the nuances of each level enhances understanding of the responsibilities of social workers at each level of practice.

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School Program Description
University of Denver
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Fordham University
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Simmons University
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Case Western Reserve University
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University of Southern California (USC)
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Baylor University
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Macro Social Work

The practice of macro social work is based on intervention of large-scale systems. Examples include lobbying to change a health care law, organizing a state-wide activist group or advocating for large-scale. A social worker tackling these tasks is likely to be a social work administrator, or a social work manager.

Macro practice is one of the key distinctions between social work and other helping professions, such as psychiatric therapy. Macro social work generally addresses issues experienced in mezzo or micro social work practice, as well as social work research. Although macro practice may not result in much face-to-face time with clients, it ultimately empowers them by involving them in systemic change.

Mezzo Social Work

Mezzo social work practice deals with small-to-medium-sized groups, such as neighborhoods, schools or other local organizations. Examples of mezzo social work include community organizing, management of a social work organization, or focus on institutional or cultural change, rather than dealing with individual clients.

Social workers engaged in mezzo practice are often also engaged in micro or macro social work. This ensures the needs and challenges of individual clients are understood and addressed in tandem with larger social issues.

Micro Social Work

Micro practice is the most common kind of social work, and is how most people imagine social workers providing services. In micro social work, the social worker engages with individuals or families to solve problems. Common examples include helping individuals to find appropriate housing, health care and social services.

Family therapy and individual counseling would also fall under the auspices of micro practice, as would an individual or family, and the treatment of people suffering from a mental health condition or substance abuse problem. Micro-practice may even include military social work, where the social worker helps military service members cope with the challenges accompanying military life and access the benefits entitled to them by their service. Many social workers engage in micro and mezzo practice simultaneously. Even the most ambitious macro-level interventions have their roots in the conversations between a single social worker and a single client.

Regardless of the level of social work a social worker pursues, a Masters in Social Work (MSW) degree will strengthen their knowledge of their practice and broaden their career possibilities.

Further Reading