This term paper in social work practice will cover five specific concepts in the area of study, and use them to analyze a client system that was used in the course of learning. I will choose a client system which has been successful when I have implemented it practically. The paper will explore the five given concepts in terms of definition and what they usually involve in their application in the field of social work. After each of the examples has been given, the paper will also look at the strengths and weaknesses of the exchanges that occurred between me as the social worker, and the clients who have drug abuse related problems. The paper will use self reflection as a way of offering a road map solution into how the encountered problems could have been handled in a better manner (Kirst-Ashman & Hull, 2011).
Social work involves assisting individuals who might be in situations that need alleviation or rehabilitation. Transforming what clients are feeling into paper, getting back to the client to get a follow up, establishing relationships that can help assist clients, empathy, analyzing situations that need prioritization of duties are some of the duties that social workers have to perform. Social work is a very rewarding career; you get to see people’s lives change for the better (Kirst-Ashman & Hull, 2011). The paper will also discuss my personal feelings on the relationship that is formed between the client and the social work professional to ensure that a best possible solution is reached. There are professionals in the field that experience a conflict between their own personal thoughts and values, and those that they are supposed to further during the work process (Shulman, 2011).
This report will include a report of my experience as an intern at Integrity House – a substance abuse treatment center located in Newark, New Jersey. Integrity house is supposed to send its representatives as part of drug abuse court case procedures. This requirement is geared towards ensuring rehabilitation of the drug abusers back into the society.
Practice skills are the professional rules that are put into action in relation to the social work field. Ethics and ensuring that a professional relationship is maintained between the social worker and the client are some of the best ways of ensuring that the best outcome is achieved for the client. The social worker should advocate for the client to get the social work services that he/ she needs consistently and a constant manner. A social worker should also work with his/ her colleagues so as to share knowledge and ideas on the issues that they face. I ensured that I used supervision where it was required because social workers who have been in the field have knowledge about the areas where changes can be made to acquire so as to make the outcome better. I also made sure that I made ethical decisions in accordance with the code of ethics that are given by the National Association of Social Workers, and International Federation of Social Workers. The code of ethics as stipulated by social workers states that individuals should ensure that their actions are seen as being morally upright and representative of the social work profession.
According to the practice skills that social workers should follow, one should also ensure that their personal values are aligned to those of the profession. As a social worker, one should be empathetic towards their clients, and have passion for helping individuals improve their situations. Practice skills also dictate that individuals should use the knowledge that they have used in other cases, and use the results to make decisions that affect current cases. Social workers should also conduct thorough research on cases that they are working on so that they can find out whether there are similar cases that have occurred elsewhere, that are similar to what they are what working on. When working with individuals from diverse cultures, religious and racial backgrounds, it is important to get as much information as possible about their beliefs and cultures. What might be simple advice might be offensive to individuals from a certain group or different backgrounds.
Particular case encountered
I had the chance to interview a client who was coming to the House of Integrity for the second time. He had been appointed as a counselor, and those that had issues in his group home would come and talk to him. However, he was feeling overwhelmed as he was feeling that he also had his own issues to sought through. He seemed angry, and I had to use practice skills to make him feel that what he was doing as a counselor was quite commendable, and it would prepare him for his future role as a counselor, which is what he aspired to do (professional counseling). He opened up further about the frustrations that he was going through, and expressed that he would like some time to deal with his own personal issues that he was going through, before he could be of assistance to others. When asked about felt that acting as a guardian at the group home was annoying, and expounded on it by saying that “he could not cause feelings”. This helped me identify one of my weak areas which are the lack of knowledge about local community policies and local language (slang). Based on the information given by the client, and outcome of our interview, I would have to ask fellow social workers that have worked in the area about what the client might have meant.
I think that I used my practice skills such as using proper communication so that the session remained professional, yet the client was able to communicate what he was going through; leading to a recommendation that the client should visit a psychologist so that he is treated for his depression. Failure to treat his depression might lead him to get involved in the vices that he had previously engaged in, so that he could use it as a means of coping.
Engagement is the ability of the social worker to ensure that the client is involved in a form of communication that would lead to his/ her talking about the issues that they are going through. It is only after the client communicates, that the social worker can be able to properly categorize the level of social welfare assistance that he/ she requires.
The social worker should engage the client so that he/ she can be able to clearly see what the problem is, and what can be done so as to come up with a solution that would be long term. If the client is able to understand their own problem, then they are at a better position to be receptive and use the advice that they are given through the justice and social welfare system, to make their life better. In the third case, the client felt that he was wasting time through the rehabilitation schedule that he had been asked to attend. However, I was able to engage him to a point that he red me a letter that he had written; which he felt expressed his feelings in a good way. I felt confident in my skill of engagement that the client was sufficiently comfortable to want to share such a personal item with me. The case appeared to have a possibly good outcome especially if the client would implement the advice that he would be given.
In the third case where a 23 year old male Caucasian had been incarcerated as a result of his involvement in drugs, I was able to get him to open up. He was comfortable to open up to me and talk about his issues as a counselor through the conversation that I engaged him in.
Reaching inside of silences
Being able to “make” a client talk is one of the most valued assets in the field of social work. It speeds up the process of being able to assist the client. It is only after the client has communicated their problem that they can be assisted and a way forward forged between the client and the social worker’s decision. As a social worker, you get to talk to many individuals; and some of them might not be willing to talk about their problems. But it is up to the social worker to talk to the clients and get them to open up so that they talk about the problem and a road map to finding a solution is found. The social worker can tell the clients of a story that appears interesting to the clients or one that the client can relate to; based on their case, so that he/ she (the client) can get to open up and the social worker would find out what the problem/ real issue is.
Most of the individuals that use social work and welfare services know how it works; for example those that have been through the foster care system. They might have gotten into drugs as a way of coping with problems that they felt were too challenging for them to handle.
The social worker as a voice
The social worker is supposed to be a means through which the people in the community (clients) can get a vice and get the issues that they are going through be addressed.
The social worker also acts as a voice for the client by assessing and interpreting what the client is going through, and putting it on paper. The justice and social welfare system needs for the cases that the social worker is working on, to be put in a manner that can be analyzed, not just for statistical purposes, but to also ensure that there are existing records to the current state of the welfare of people in the community. The information is also used to make decisions such as to decide on the amount of money that should be used “injected” into the different projects that the social care system works on.
Practical case application
In the case of the 52 year old Caucasian man, he had been incarcerated for involvement with drugs in seven months. I advocated for him to try and put his life together so that he could get money to cover his expenses. The client was afraid that he would not be able to secure a job because of his record of having been incarcerated in the recent past. He felt that most employers are afraid of giving jobs to people who have been convicted of a crime, since they might get involved in a crime which would bring losses to the organization.
One of the strengths that I felt I exhibited was the ability to remain calm and try and convince the client that he could still pull his life together even though he had encountered many challenges in his life. He could still make some changes in his life, which could enable him to lead a good life. He could start making the changes by adopting a different attitude so that he can live happily.
One of the weaknesses I detected was that I got annoyed with the client’s response. He was being so negative and unresponsive to the suggestions that I was making that would enable him to lead a better life by making minimal changes in his life. Feeling frustrated might lead to further discouragement for the client because he/ she might feel as if there is no hope for their situation to get better. It would be better to remain professional and not let personal views get in the way of a case. Most individuals would reason that the client had gotten a second chance by getting released from jail. He was also being given a chance to get clean from drugs, and he would probably get a job if he persisted in his job search. The disease that he got is easily manageable, and would not interfere with his life in a major way. I took this as a learning platform to improve the future undertakings that I would pursue in terms of dealing with clients who felt as if they had lost hope in their lives.
Reading both verbal and non verbal cues
Due to the nature of their work; working on many social welfare cases, social workers are able to “read” signs of communication that individuals might not verbalize. One of the most common cases where social workers are able to read non verbal cues is cases where individuals have been abused especially young children. They might not want to verbalize what they have been through, because they would feel that telling another person what they have gone through would only place them in worse situations.
Verbal cues might also be enhanced by the tone that individuals use. It is up to the social worker to be keen during conversations so that he / she can notice any changes in talking or behavior when certain questions/ areas are talked about. Sometimes, individuals do not want to talk about the bad experiences that they have been through, and the only way to find out about they have been through is through watching their body language.
Practical case application
In the second case, the client seemed withdrawn during the group meeting which was possible to tell through his body language. He would shift in his seats as if there was something troubling him in his thoughts. He admitted to having felt depressed, but luckily, he had been put on Lexapro by his psychiatrist. However, the client appeared like he could get attached to the meetings that I was holding with him. He cited that our meetings were the only factor that he felt beneficial that he would get from the Home Integrity program. Just like the older male Caucasian client, this client would also have to change his attitude. He would have to start viewing the opportunity to attend the meetings as a means through which he could interact with individuals that were going through the same challenges that he was going through, and know that they would understand him well. It is easier to relate to individuals who are in the same situation as you are or have been in a similar situation in the past.
The client should stop viewing the meetings as a bother; but instead as an opportunity through which he can better recognize his weaknesses, and how to overcome them. He complained too highly about the group sessions not assisting him in any way and being a waste of time. He felt that he was being patronized by being told what to do, and at what time.
Challenges in social work practice
All careers have their own challenges since every activity and plan cannot go as originally meant to. As a female social worker, one of the challenges faced was that some male clients would flirt with me. They might have thought that I was naïve or did it to try and get a way out of not answering the questions that I was asking them. I handled this issue by remaining focused and telling them that we were handling a professional interview, and as such, we were both expected to act in a serious manner. I also made sure that I set boundaries in the beginning of the said interviews and informed what was expected of them, which did not involve any flirting with me or any other person at the office or involved in the court process.
One of the other major challenges in my line of work is that some individuals seem to constantly and consistently make choices that contribute negatively towards their lives. However, this does not seem to stop them from making the wrong choices to their detriment. This can be quite frustrating especially when working with drug addicts. They know that the illegal drugs that they get into are harmful to their health, and negatively affect those that are around them, but they still continue to use them. However, I try and understand that these individuals are struggling to stop, but the circumstances that surround them make it difficult for them to stop. I show that I am working with them, to assist them overcome their problems, and not against them.
As a social worker, successful implementation of a client system involves being keen on issues that might be seen as bringing diversity and differences among the individuals that are involved such as race, religion, mental health and religion. Factors such as the status of the individuals in terms of migration might also be an issue. Some of the drug abusers who come to the Integrity House center do not have the correct papers to allow them to legally be in the country. This is a sensitive issue because such individuals require assistance for the good of their health and welfare, yet they are illegally in the country. Gender is also a big factor since the different genders respond different to the problem that they face. Most of the women drug abusers even though “hardcore” can open up even if it takes some time. For the male drug abusers, there is an ego issue which appears to make them not want to admit that they have a problem that should be addressed, and that they need assistance in dealing with the said issue.
The sexual orientation of an individual that needs/is seeking assistance from social welfare services is also a big factor especially for the client.
Conclusion & Recommendations
The paper has successfully looked at five concepts that are used in the field of social work, and how they can be applied into the field. The paper has also analyzed several cases that had been encountered during the internship at Home Integrity and the concepts that they are related to. Some concepts such as interpreting body language came into play when the social worker noticed that a client seemed withdrawn during a group session that was being held at the center. The client later opened up to the social worker and informed her that he had been depressed and that is the reason why he had been feeling down. The social worker confirmed that the client had been put on medication for his condition, and also encouraged him to view the group sessions in a positive manner. Social workers should be able to remain positive and non judgmental during the sessions that they hold with clients. The positive attitude and encouragement to clients goes a long way in ensuring that the clients follow the advice that they are given so as to ensure recovery.
It is important to ensure that the social worker learns to separate personal views from the cases the he/ she encounter. In the three cases discussed, I interacted with different clients who have gone through different things which have shaped their lives. These encounters have shaped the attitudes that they have in life. Though the social worker might fail to understand why the individuals’ reason in the manner in which they do, he or she should prioritize their well being and apply professional knowledge in treating them. The social worker should be the first one to reason and talk positively as the way forward for a case so that a client feels the need to feel that there is hope for their situation to get better (Kirst-Ashman & Hull, 2011). The social worker should also interact with other social workers so as to share on the best practices that they have used, in accordance with the rules and guidelines that have been recommended in the field. The social worker should also read widely so as to learn about the different concepts that aroused in the field of social work.
Integrity House. About us.
Kirst-Ashman, K.K.& Hull, G.H. (2011).Understanding Generalist Practice 6th Edition.
Lawrence,Shulman (2011). The Skills/Helping Individuals, Families, Groups &Communities
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