Micro, Mezzo, and Macro

When many people hear the term “social worker” they associate the career with commonly known roles such as behavioral therapist, school counselor, case worker or mental health counselor. What aspiring students and other outside the practice may not realize is that the social work profession actually splits its key practice spheres into three areas: micro, mezzo and macro.

While each practice has its own unique approach, in the grand scheme of things, the three are inevitably intertwined.

Micro-Level Social Work

Micro-level social work is most familiar to those outside the profession. It involves working directly with a single individual or a family on a range of issues, from guiding people to housing, healthcare or social services to diagnosing mental, behavioral and emotional disorders. Hands-on clinical social workers form the largest group of mental health providers in the United States.

Mezzo-Level Social Work

The next area, mezzo, can vary in definition, but as the National Association of Social Workers defines it, the work entails helping people in small groups and organizations, such as in schools or community-service organizations.

Macro-Level Social Work

At the macro level, social work practitioners often focus on effecting systematic change to help people at a societal level, such as marshaling evidence to advocate for improved healthcare laws, organizing statewide activist groups or pushing for regional, national and even global social policy change.

As of 2011, only 8.8 percent of social work students were enrolled in macro areas of study, though the profession as a whole is currently the middle of a far-reaching initiative to increase the number of students enrolled in macro programs.

Read more about Macro Social Work in 5 Misconceptions of Macro Social Work.

Micro, Mezzo and Macro: The 3 Key Areas of Social Work Practice

Infographic – Micro, Mezzo and Macro: The 3 Key Areas of Social Work Practice

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