Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Did you notice how limited the man's (we will call him Michael) interactions are? Did you notice that he and the cat made eye contact for a short time but Michael did not make eye contact with the staff member?

The next clip shows Michael after 3 weeks of animal-assisted therapy. What are some of the changes you notice?

The man's real name and history is not included to protect confidentiality.

This segment is featured in the Delta Society Pet Partners Team Training Program. Contact:deltasociety.org for more information.

To demonstrate the power of the environment and experience for human functioning, a short video of animal-assisted therapy is included. Animal-assisted therapy is a goal directed intervention in which an animal meeting specific criteria is incorporated in the intervention by a specially trained human service provider working within the scope of their profession.

The man (called Michael but not his real name)in the video is living in a long-term care facility for the last several decades. He is non-verbal, and non mobile.

The occupational therapist has decided to incorporate a cat into therapy sessions with Michael to see if she can encourage interaction from this client. During the clip note the man's facial expression, the degree to which he makes contact with others and the ways he responds to the cat initially.

The man's real name and history is not included to protect confidentiality.

This segment is featured in the Delta Society Pet Partners Team Training Program. Contact:deltasociety.org for more information.

Friday, March 03, 2006

So How do the Celts fit in?

If one enlarges the overlap of these areas we find a very common Celtic sacred form. Thturned over you can see this form in many Celtic designs, weavings and art. The Celts saw these three orders as physical, mental, and spiritual. Each of these had three depths and thus the world was seen as multi-dimensional not linear and flat as my childish drawings depict.

Within the middle of this intersection, that area where all three circles intersect is a triangular area. If we think of this as the being of humans, we can better visualize the orders or influences of being human. This symbol the 5 is also known as the Greek letter 'delta'. Delta is a symbol for change but perhaps we can also think of this as adaptation.

In my experiences with viewing ancient art, studying the language and symbols of ancient civilizations it seems that this line of Archer's is more consistant with our progress as humans that the current premise that people are products of social and culture. It is my thoughts that we are creations of the natural world, we survive and live as biological creatures and what seperates us is not the culture but our awareness.

It is our early stuggles in art and language that traces our attempts to express the EXPERIENCE of being human. Not the abstraction of being human but the strangeness of our awareness of our own expeience in each and every moment.

This expeirience of each interaction within the three orders is multi-dimensional and contectual. It is our biological seperateness that gives us different perceptions. As the work of David Lee is showing, our visual perception informs our brain and contributes significantly to our sense of self and action.

However, while it is our perception that separates us it is our emotion that unites us. For example, think of the theme song for the movie "Jaws". Many of us will immediately experience a sense of dread or at least that cold little chill crawling up your back. Now isn't this interesting?

While I may write these very learned and studied words, I need to structure sentences carefully and select my words precisely to increase the likelihood of your understanding. But by invoking a picture I can create an emotional commonality.

I believe that social work has for too long ignored the dual orders of practice and nature in our response to problems developed in the social order. It is the natural order that initiates our experience of being human and colors our opportunities for practical action and our interaction with the social order.

It is, in the 21st century, that the overlap of these orders is beginning to pull apart and dissolve. I believe it is this seperation that creates our challenges. As James Lynch discusses in his book, A Cry Unheard: New Insights into the Medical Consequences of Lonliness (2000), the electronic disembodiment of dialogue has contributed to the rise of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. All three diseases have been repeatedly demonstrated to be linked with emotional health, state of mind and physical health.

Social work, I think, then has an opportunity to see itself as the profession that works within the overlap of these orders. To work within the spaces of our being to assist eachother in pulling the oders together, balancing our priorities within them and in advocating for structural, political and cultural responses that honor these spaces.. Maureen MacNamara, MSW 3/3/06.


Mararet Archer (2000) writes in her bookBeing Human: The Problem of Agency, humans find their identity not from socialization with the structures of language and the boundaries of culture but rather through their experience with the natural world. Archer repeatedly asserts that "practice is primary" (pg. 150). Intuitively, we know this to be true, but scholarly writings have for centuries asserted that people's being comes from interaction with the social world.

Recent studies in neurobiology and emotion are begining to show that our experience is the driver to language not the other way around. Studies in language, music and motion at the University of Edinburugh by David Lee, PhD. are demonstrating the ways that infants learn to communicate in order to access their world. In other words experience envigorates the urge to communicate.

Thus we have an overlap of the practical order of the world, with the social order and the natural orders.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Another contributor to an ecological perspective is that of Urie Bronfenbrenner, co-founder of Head Start.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

And a review of Ecological Systems Theory

So now let's look at ecological systems theory. There are essentially two perspectives to ecological systems theory, a biological ecology perspective and a sociological perspective.

Whithin social work, ecological systems theory had its beginnings with writings from Kurt Lewin.

Carol Germain and Alex Gitterman formulated the life model of social work practice (1996).

Carol Meyers proposed the ecosystems perspective.

Additional authors included Besthorn, 1997; Kemp, 1994; Kemp, Whittaker, & Tracy, 1997; McDowell, 1994. These writers developed specialized practice models.

Where shall we start?

Theories related to human development and thought changed significantly in the 20th century. Certainly Lev Vygotsky's model for human development was and still is a significant addition to our thoughts. System therories have added to these constructs.

Let's look first at the ways ecological systems theory differs from systems theory.

Monday, February 27, 2006

What does ecological theory have to do with the ancient Celts? (Pronounced with a "K", the basketball team is not a Celt)

Here's a hint: Check out the art work.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The following comments are taken from my website at www.animalsystems.org.

What do these statements mean to you and to what extent if any do these statements apply to social work proactice?

"The systems theorist Gregory Bateson, once noted: "The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way man thinks." The distortions in the way humans think have arisen from our loss of contact with nature.

We live over 99 percent of our adult lives knowing nature through detached words, stories and pictures. This detachment of our psyche from its biological and psychological origins stressfully and hurtfully estranges us from nature's supportive, non-verbal wisdom, spirit and love within and about us. This loss creates the insatiable wants and greed that underlie our disorders. In today's frantic world we have a growing number of people who are failing to adjust to the pressures put upon them. They become psychologically addicted to rewarding technologies and relationships that often have destructive side effects."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ecological Theory and Social Work Practice

In the beginning there was dirt.....................