HOLISTIC ENGAGEMENT, ATTUNEMENT, AND INTEGRATIVE CAPABILITY
Our model fuses familiar terms in new ways, simultaneously considering the what, how, and why of social work education. We define the core construct, holistic engagement, as an intentional practice of using the whole self to tune into and creatively respond within a dynamic, globalizing social work environment. We recognize this idea as a practice—a developing, active, and malleable set of four skills: presence with the whole self, whole self-inquiry, empathic connection, and compassionate attention. Each of these is defined and discussed in detail.
To warrant a shift in social work education, holistic engagement and its four pillar skills are needed en route to something specific—that is, an enhanced way of practicing social work. This enhanced way of practicing requires the capacity to develop these skills in students and in ourselves as educator-practitioners. Our intentions are to examine how we can better prepare social workers to practice in a rapidly changing world—to engage, respond, and grow as they encounter the inherent and unique challenges that social work requires. Our resultant constructs include a refined definition of “attunement” so that it is understood as a skillful means of using and synthesizing all sources of data/ways of knowing to inform and shape professional practice. We also offer a new way of considering and assessing professional development, coining the term “integrative capability.” Thus, we define integrative capability as using the dynamic process of engagingfully, responding, and learning through dynamic attunement, experience, and context to continually improve professional practice.
Defined and discussed in detail later, we combine these constructs—holistic engagement, attunement, and integrative capability (Figure 2.1)—with traditional social work education foci (i.e., competencies, theory, and research). This model for social work education incorporates many ways of knowing, sources, and types of data; global (i.e., both Western and non-Western) premises; a clear focus on the centrality of human relationships in context as the core of social work; and the developmental nature of professional practice in evolving and dynamic environments.
We view the retention of current, effective social work education efforts as essential, continuing to support student immersion in the history, theories, research methods, and skills development currently practiced in social work education. Immersion in these “traditional” social work topics, infused with grounded theoretical knowledge, along with existing and evolving evidence, fortifies a robust platform for building an enhanced model for social work education. From these traditional social work education foci, our model adds holistic
Holistic Engagement, Dynamic Attunement, and Integrative Capability.
engagement, relying on its four skills, to produce more comprehensive ways of knowing and human transformation, which become the sustenance for attunement. Attunement, as a skillful synthesis of these ways of knowing, via experience and context, results in the lifelong development ofsocial workers' integrative capability.