Person-in-Environment Model in Social Work

Person-in-Environment Model in Social Work

 Utilizing the Ecological Theory and the General Systems Theory, Germain (1991) developed the Person-in-Environment (PiE) Model. He strongly advocated for looking at the bio-psychosocial development of individuals and families within cultural, historical, communal, and societal contexts, a perspective that requires us to look as well at all the events in the person’s life. She characterized the nature of relationships between systems as “reciprocal exchanges between entities, or between their elements, in which each change or otherwise influences the other over time” (ibid., p. 16). 

Germain (1991) rightly identifies adaptation, life stress, coping, power, and human relatedness as important concepts for understanding the nature of the interactions of person-in-environment. Adaptation is the act/ process of changing oneself in order to meet environmental opportunities or demands, in response to human needs, rights, goals, and capacities. 



Person-in-environment interaction leads to normal tension, also referred to as life stress. Whenever different entities interact with each other, the ebb and flow between them create some friction. In other words, two people in exactly the same environmental situation may have different experiences owing to their differing perceptions of that situation. The next concept is coping. 

The ability to cope requires both problem-solving skills and the ability to regulate negative feelings. The outcome of these factors leads to increased self-esteem, which helps diminish the negative feelings caused by a particular stressor. Power has its derivation from a source extrinsic to the individual. Dominant groups in society use their position of power to influence subordinate groups through transactions in which resources are either provided or withheld. 

The abuse of power by a dominant group can also be a source of tension in person– environment interactions. These tensions affect whole segments of the population, not just one individual. How the individual experiences this tension and is able to adapt to the tension-producing situation determines that individual’s capacity for negotiating power inequities and imbalances. Paramount in the concept of person-in-environment is the individual’s ability to develop purposeful and meaningful relationships and attachments with oneself and the others.

Source: Yesudhas, R. (2015). From Functional to Social Justice Stance: A Review of Social Work Approaches.

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