Multidimensional Theory in Social Work Practice

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 4
Words: 1126
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Master

Social work is a professional sphere of paramount importance in contemporary society. Accordingly, those who engage in it are expected to meet the requirements set by the noble goal of the field. Counselors often work with some of the most vulnerable social groups, which lays additional emphasis on the vital status of method choice in social work. The sphere relies on prominent approaches demonstrating varying effectiveness across settings.

As such, the multidimensional theory possesses outstanding benefits for social workers who choose to incorporate its postulates into therapy. This model explores various strata of the broad social context surrounding a client, and it demonstrates particular applicability in the cases of troubled children. Examining the combined effect enables a better understanding of the processes, which define a client’s patterns of behavior. “Joe the King” is a piece of cinematography, which artfully illustrates the fitting context for the implementation of the multidimensional model. The purpose of this paper is to review said theory in terms of its practical applicability based on the film “Joe the King” and academic accounts.

The core principle of the multidimensional theory consists of separating the context of a client’s life into several strata. The exact pattern may comprise a person’s family, the circle of friends, classmates or coworkers, peers, community, and state. The idea of the multidimensional model served as the basis of Urie Bronfenbrenner’s theory of bio-ecological development (Houston, 2017). According to the discussed approach, an individual’s behavior and mental states become the result of the complex, multifaceted influence of their surroundings. Evidently, in the multidimensional theory, the role of the family remains considerable, as the immediate environment, indeed, plays a pivotal role in the development of a person.

However, its influence is viewed in combination with meso-, macro-, and meta-factors, ranging from friendships to broad socioeconomic context. Accordingly, the concept of the multidimensional theory is represented by a layered environment, which defines the client’s character and worldview, and each stratum is to be considered for effective social work.

The theory in question reveals its key advantages in social work with troubled children. Traditionally, such cases concentrated on in-family relations and the influence of a person’s parents. Hertler et al. (2018) state that Bronfenbrenner’s theory extends the scope of behavioral studies and social work by introducing the concept of the extra-familial environment. Young minds remain susceptible to external influence, and the messages they receive during childhood and teenage years can become embedded in the mindsets of future adults. The titular character of “Joe the King” became troubled largely because of his abusive father and inattentive mother (Whaley, 1999).

However, as the plot advances, the influence of his schoolmates and the contemporary socioeconomic concept becomes evident. The current social landscape is highly complex, meaning that it would be unwise to focus on the immediate environment. Global processes and systemic issues of sufficient magnitudes may affect people on the individual level, which, considering the aforementioned susceptibility of children to external ideas, can translate into negative mental outcomes.

Overall, the multidimensional theory is particularly effective during the assessment phase of social work. As described earlier, this model promotes a counselor’s wider perspective on the context of their client’s issues. It is vital to analyze as many features of a person’s living context to acquire a complete understanding of the problems’ causes. While it may appear easier to concentrate on a client’s family as the root of the issue, outer layers of external influence should also be investigated.

Joe’s counselor failed to explore the broad context, which ultimately forced the situation to deteriorate. The multidimensional theory provides social workers with an instrumental paradigm, which enables a clearer perspective. According to Cassells and Evans (2020), analyzing the characteristics of each layer of social context facilitates the assessment while enabling more effective interventions. As per the theory’s principles, the proposed treatment is to consider the aspects of the key strata from which a client’s issue originates.

The familial environment usually becomes the core of all stages of social work, but the multidimensional model’s scope extends beyond it. The in-depth analysis may trace an issue back to systemic flaws, from which problems on lower levels stem. As such, the multidimensional theory is demanding in terms of a counselor’s competence, the level of which was subpar for Leonard Coles from the motion picture (Whaley, 1999). Subjective assessments entail ineffective interventions, which, in turn, cause poorer counseling outcomes. In this regard, the success of the evaluation phase is conditioned by a social worker’s ability to execute the previous stages properly.

The evaluation will reveal whether the core of the problem and the counseling direction were identified correctly. By the end of the film, Joe Henry was in a worse position than when his consultations with Leonard Coles commenced, as the titular character is arrested and placed in a juvenile detention center. A competent multidimensional approach would likely have yielded better results across all three phases of counseling.

The value of the theory in question is conditioned by its immense practical potential. The multidimensional model is highly flexible, which reflects its key principle of structured, multilayered analysis. The theory refuses to discern one of the social context strata as the center of attention. Instead, it promotes globalized thinking, revealing profound underlying issues and implicit connections between various aspects of a client’s surroundings. The analysis of these links is instrumental in both individual and personal counseling. A proficient social worker may utilize the theory to highlight the interrelated nature of issues, which affect the entire family.

This way, counseling will help clients observe and understand one another’s perspectives, thus enabling effective resolutions. Joe Henry’s family suffered from a lack of understanding of internal and external factors, which entailed their unfortunate situation. A professional multidimensional approach to therapy would have made Joe’s family members realize how they hurt one another. Nevertheless, it was not done, and the hidden processes further aggravated the case, and each family member remained in a continuously deteriorating position due to a lack of global professional vision.

Ultimately, the multidimensional theory became especially relevant in the complex environment of today. Individuals do not exist in a vacuum; instead, each person is an integral element of the global social framework. In this paradigm, all parts are interconnected, even though the exact link pattern is different for each specific case. The primary objective of the multidimensional theory is to reveal these connections, enabling accurate assessment and precise, evidence-based interventions. The motion picture “Joe the King” illustrates a widespread situation of a dysfunctional family. The effect of the immediate environment synergized with the broader context of Joe’s life, leading to adverse consequences. Overall, the film shows the case of a boy whose condition could have seen considerable improvements had the multidimensional theory been applied.


Cassells, R., & Evans, G. (2020). Concepts from the bioecological model of human development. In L. Tach, R. Dunifon, & D. L. Miller (Eds.), APA Bronfenbrenner series on the ecology of human development. Confronting inequality: How policies and practices shape children’s opportunities (pp. 221–232). American Psychological Association. Web.

Hertler, S. C., Figueredo, A. J., Peñaherrera-Aguirre, M., Fernandes, H. B. F., Woodley, M. A. (2018). Life history evolution. Palgrave Macmillan.

Houston, S. (2017). Towards a critical ecology of child development in social work: Aligning the theories of Bronfenbrenner and Bourdieu. Families, Relationships and Societies, 6(1), 53–69. Web.

Whaley, F. (1999). Joe the king [Film]. Warner Bros.