A multidisciplinary approach in social work is defined as composing a team of professionals from various backgrounds and areas of expertise, who unite to tackle a common problem or focus on a common agenda. It is often associated with joint efforts, interagency initiatives, and partnership work.
A multidisciplinary approach is ideal when working with clients who require assistance or input from more than one specific type of social work professional. For example, the mental health industry has long employed social practitioners from a wide array of backgrounds, including nurses, doctors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychiatrists, and policy fellows or political advocates.
Over the years, other avenues of social work have begun to adopt a multidisciplinary approach as well, including the fields of at-risk youth or youth offending, community development, LGBTQ issues, and gender equality.
A number of U.S. legislative and policy developments have also helped to contribute to the rise in popularity of this approach. The Single Assessment Process of 2003 was introduced as a means of providing older adults with health or social care needs an alternative to traditional care. This policy has led to the creation of new jobs, and blurred the lines between many once-distinct professional labels, giving way to larger teams of workers coming from a variety of backgrounds, all assigned to a similar case or issue.