Social Workers Assessment Basics

It may feel like you’re forever assessing your client, student, family, etc…if so -trust me, you are NOT alone.  All great social workers are doing it!

Assessment is the beginning and never ending process that is the basis of our work with clients.  Social Workers assess clients in order to identify and understand the factors that are causing and maintaining the problem.  As part of a social work assessment we are examining key areas including a client’s motivation for change, capacity, or opportunity for change, inner and environmental resources, adaptive capabilities and goals.  A Social Work assessment allows the client to formulate a working definition of the problem. 

There are 2 phases of assessment: The phases of intervention can be thought of as “Product & Process”.

1) Product:  Data Collection in which the client’s point of view as well as others view of the problem are gathered.

2) Process:  Organization of Data:  Once information is gathered hypothesis are created about the client’s problem(s).  The second phase of assessment also includes evaluating the client’s functioning.  The client’s strengths and needs are assessed as well as the success of interventions.

The principles and techniques of interviewing

I don’t believe there is any one way to interview a client.  My only advice is to remember that you set the tone for the conversation.  I have interviewed a variety of clients -it is not easy to remain neutral with some of the clients we meet but it is crucial to keep one thing in mind–  Most clients, whether they choose to admitt it or not, are in need of hope.  Some may need help as well but hope is the key that they need to unlock their potential.

I strive to be a person that sees them differently.  That sees past the problem to the person.  That being said the best ways of eliciting information during an interview is to set a non-judgemntal atmosphere.

Verbal Following Skills:  Ways to help clients open up

Furthering:  Encourage client to continue talking about their concerns through your verbal and non verbal messages.  There are two types of furthering:  1) Minimal prompts, which include your facial expressions, nodding and brief messages to clients & 2) Accent, basically repeating a word that a client uses in a questioning tone.

Paraphrasing:  Rephrasing the client’s words, to show understanding and listening skills.

Close & Open Ended Questions:  Closed questions elicit specific information while open ended questions allow a client to freely express their thoughts.

Seeking Concreteness:  Utilizing conrete messages and helping clients to move from generalizations to specific messages about their experiences.

Focusing:  This skill sets the helping relationship apart from social relationship.  We assist clients to focus on problem in greater depths and remain focused until they accomplish their desried change.

Summarizing:  tying together not only a client’s feeling but the related elements of your expeience with them throghout the hrlping process.

The components of a biopsychosocial assessment

Biopsychosocial assessements are the most common and effective ways of beginning your assessment.  This assessment involves gathering information regarding a client’s biological, psychological, and social functioning.

The use of collateral contacts to obtain relevant information

Don’t stop with the client.  It is important to gather as much information from the client’s environment as possible.  The following places are great to include in your assessment:

1)  background sheets or other forms the client fills out

2)  Observation of interaction between family members or others

3)  Family members, friends, physicians, teachers, coaches, etc. may have valuable information about the client and their struggles.

“Each one of you is correct; and each one of you is wrong. Because each one of you had only touched a part of the elephant’s body. Thus you only have a partial view of the animal. If you put your partial views together, you will get an idea of what an elephant looks like.”

Standardized Instruments

including psychological tests, screening tools and assessment tools are another source of information.  Some tests can be administered by social workers, including WALMYR (measures depression and many other clinical conditions), Beck Depression Inventory and Beck Scale for Suicidal Ideation.  Other tests must be completed by professionals trained in administering and scoring such tests.  Social Workers then utilize the instruments in psychological assessment and treatment plans.  Examples of professionally administrated instruments include WAIS, WISC (intelligence), Bender & Gestalt (neurological), Rorschach & TAT (projective),

Please share any information gathering techniques with us…

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