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The Psychosocial Therapy Approach (Woods & Hollis, 2000; Woods & Robinson, 1996)

The psychosocial approach is a therapeutic method which focuses on the encounter between an individual and the environment in which he/she operates. This approach is concerned with creating and uncovering resources within the individual, with the goal of helping the individual reach a functioning level that is more satisfactory and complete.

Premises of the Psychosocial Approach:

  • Each individual has the capacity to grow, learn and adapt, and to change their social and physical environment.

  • An emphatic relationship with the therapist can facilitate in detecting and developing an individual’s strengths, creativity and resilience.

  • Significant thoughts and emotions are stored in an individual’s subconscious and an individual’s personality is a dynamic and flexible system of strengths, which influence his/her behavior. 

The Goals of Therapy According to the Psychosocial Approach

  • Reducing distress experienced by the individual.

  • Enhancing the individual’s personal well-being.

  • Recognizing and marking problem areas and the actions that are needed in order to change the situation.

  • Identifying coping resources, strengths and capacities inherent within the individual for coping with the problem at hand.

  • Creating optimal compatibility between the individual and his/her physical and social environment.

Intervention Methods of the Psychosocial Approach:

  • Focusing on the “here and now”: examining the individual’s behavior, emotions and thoughts in the context of the problem being coped with, while utilizing the relationship with the therapist as a touchstone.

  • Observation of dynamic patterns: identifying beliefs, thinking patterns and emotions which have become engrained in the individual and that may influence the problem.

  • Developmental observation: reference to the individual’s family of origin and to early experiences which influence the personality and the current functioning of the individual.



Olson, D.H. (2000). Circumplex Model of Marital and Family Systems. Journal of Family Therapy, 22, 144-167.


Woods, M.E., & Hollis, F. (2000). Casework: A psychosocial therapy (5th ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill.

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