Social Work With Individuals
Describe the preliminary phase of the counseling work and the beginning (or contracting) phase.
As Shulman demonstrates, each phase of the work of counseling requires its own specific skills and techniques, and all phases have their own importance and necessity within the counseling process as a whole. Each phase has a skill set and knowledge base required by the counselor for the success of the work of counseling. The very first phase is the preliminary phase. This phase is one which the counselor completes alone, when the counselor attempts to make himself or herself aware of the phases which might emerge during the counseling session (Shulman, 2008). During this stage, the counselor should also draft strategies for responding to the cues, both direct and indirect, made by the client. The counselor needs to brush up on all possible ways of putting the client's feelings into words.
On the other hand, the beginning phase is distinct from the preliminary phase but is also an extension of it. This phase is necessary for the smooth foundation and trajectory. "The beginning (or contracting) phase refers to the first sessions in which the worker develops a working contract with the client and begins developing the working relationship… Within the beginning phase, it's up to the counselor to determine what the client is concerned about at the present moment. Sessional contracting skills are used to clarify the immediate work at hand. In some cases, the worker will bring up issues that need to be addressed, and these will then be included in the contracting session" (Shulman, 2008). In many ways this is a very crucial phase which can set the tone and the objectives for the rest of the therapy partnership as a whole. During this phase, it's really up to the counselor to be as proactive and attentive as possible, particularly since clients will often communicate in an indirect fashion at times. During this phase, it's absolutely essential and helpful for the counselor to use and have mastery over elaborating skills: in this way, the counselor can be the one to help the client share his story if necessary. This can be essential in the overall process of directing the focus of the counseling partnership, and helping to illuminate the overall needs and priorities of the client. Many of these needs and priorities, the client might not even be aware of himself.
Discuss the required skills for effectiveness with the client as detailed in the text. Include some discussion on developing a culturally diverse practice and some of the challenges involved.
One of the most essential skills for effectiveness with a client and fir effectiveness overall in relationships with other individuals is having a strong command of empathy. "The skill of acknowledging the client's feelings appears to contribute substantially to the development of a good working relationship between worker and client as well as to the worker's ability to be helpful… it was the second most powerful skill in my research, ranking only behind the skill of sharing worker's feelings…" (Shulman 2008). In scenarios such as social work, being able to express empathy for the client in a consistent and meaningful manner is one way in which a strong bond can be established with the client. The expression of concern for the client corresponds to the term caring…" (Shulman, 2008). Shulman has found that when clients feel as though a counselor really, truly and genuinely cares for them they are in a place where they are more likely to make progress and continue with forward momentum in therapy and treatment. Many clients don't actually feel like anyone in their lives has a vested interest in them. A social worker who genuinely cares about them can make them feel as though they have someone in their life who wants them to succeed. This can make all the difference.
Another skill that a counselor should possess is the ability to engage with the client without pretense. "An essential skill relates to the worker's ability to present himself or herself to the client as a "real" human being" (Shulman 2008). This refers to the ability of the social worker to aptly integrate the professional with the personal; Shulman believes that the notion that the counselor should be detached, objective and clinical is something of a plague in the profession as a whole and can be damaging and ineffective when it comes to working with a client. Being able to put oneself in the shoes of one's client and to empathize and show real human understanding and sympathy can work wonders when it comes to effectiveness with the client as a whole. The client starts to view the counselor as a caring human being and not some cold professional. It allows trust to better flourish between the two parties. Essentially, Shulman advocates for the honest expression of human emotions between a counselor and client, so that there is a strong bond of honesty and acceptance between them.
Another skill which is crucial for working effectively with a client, is the skill which requires one to put an honest investment in the success of a client. A counselor's "…statement of feeling can integrate a highly personal and at the same time, highly professional response. The worker's feelings are the most important tool in the professional kit, and any efforts to blunt those results in a working relationship that lacks substance" (Shulman, 2008). Essentially, what Shulman has discovered is that clients respond to authenticity, and that the more a counselor allows him or herself to be authentic, the more effective this behavior is with clients. Authenticity inspires trust and it inspires reciprocal authenticity.
In this hypothetical session, the immediate environment is a counseling office. The office is very professionally designed and decorated, but with soothing decorative accents and a cool color scheme of blues, greens and gray shades. The client is a troubled youth, who has been harboring a drug addiction which is slowly spiraling out of control ever since she was sexually assaulted. Building trust and a strong sense of rapport with the client is something which has taken a great deal of time, energy and patience, and is an on-going process for the therapist and the client.
Counselor: Describe how you felt when you woke up this morning.
Youth: I felt really sad, like really down and depressed, and I felt like I didn't want to get out of bed. I just wanted to keep laying there.
Counselor: So what did you do?
Youth: I shut off the alarm and I pulled the covers over my head. I slept for two more hours. Then my cell phone rang and it was the school calling me. So I got up and got dressed.
Counselor: Did you go right to school after you got dressed?
Youth: I did. Well, I started to. I started walking to school, and I felt so scared and depressed, I just had to buy a little rock and smoke it before I went to school. I just didn't feel like I could face anyone there if I didn't do that.
Counselor: Where did you buy the drugs?
Youth: I bought them from this guy that runs a bodega that's on the way to school. I bought the rock and then smoked up with him in the alley behind his store.
Counselor: What did you do after you smoked the rock?
Youth: The store-owner tried to make out with me, so I ran off and I got to school and by then it was lunch time, and all the kids were out in the courtyard, eating their lunches, so I went around to the back entrance and entered the school that way. But then I ran into one of the…[continue]
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