By simultaneously attending to both the person and the environment, social work has been a more comprehensive profession. Yet, although social work has been inherently striving for a more integrative approach from the beginning, it has lacked a meta-theory that could address people, their environments, and integrate previously competing theories. Integral Theory supports current social work practice while bringing attention to areas of future development.
Integral Theory can help to integrate social work knowledge of prevention and intervention for response to research on adverse childhood experiences (ACE). Integral Theory also explains how intentionally working with social networks to promote resilience, recovery, and transformation can have a powerful impact on the development of individual members of those social networks. Restorative Integral Support (RIS), a model derived from Integral Theory, guides the development of HEARTS (Healthy Environments and Relationships That Support) as a powerful response to “adverse childhood experiences” (ACE) that mobilizes social networks to promote resilience, recovery, and transformation.
RIS is applied at the Committee on the Shelterless (COTS). COTS’ Staff have stated that HEARTS Trump ACEs. This Integrally-informed homeless service agency demonstrates that Integral Theory can be successfully applied to have a powerful impact on the lives of homeless people. Integral Theory supports integration of social work knowledge of resilience and recovery and the healing power of social networks, developing HEARTS to respond to ACEs among homeless people.
Integral Theory includes attention to the social worker as well as the client system, helping us recognize the importance of HEARTS for Helpers. The self care and self development of the social worker can be viewed as an aspect of prevention/intervention because this contributes to leadership abilities, presence and stability of being, living up to ethical principles, the development of therapeutic alliance, prevention of burnout and vicarious traumatization, and the ability to implement effective practice.
In addition, the Integral framework easily incorporates neuroscience research as well as explaining subtle energies, both of which help to explain emerging energy and body-oriented practices such as the emotional freedom technique (EFT) and somatic experiencing. Under the leadership of Co-Principal Investigators Dr. Heather Larkin, Dr. Lara Kaye, Dr. Ron Toseland, and Mary Sise, the University at Albany School of Social Welfare has received funds to research PTSD treatment for older adult heart attack survivors using the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
EFT is a low-risk acupressure technique that calms the limbic structures of the brain, enabling clients to regulate their over-aroused systems, and eliminating the flashbacks, nightmares and terror that plague traumatized adults and children. Thus, EFT is a trauma-focused practice that engages subtle energies and neuroplasticity to restore development. Grounded in neuroscience research and Eastern preventive medicine, pilot intervention studies of EFT with veterans are building an evidence base for EFT as PTSD treatment.
Integral Theory further helps understand how meditation impacts the brain and can help us to map and research interventions grounded in neuroscience. The following chapters from The Neuroscience of Meditation: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of How Meditation Impacts the Brain, by Eric Thompson, present an Integrally-informed understanding of meditation and neuroscience: