My practice has developed over the last 10+ years. What I have found is that initially, despite deadlines and pressures, my objective with a client is engagement and relationship building. The working relationship will evolve over time but having that foundation, being able to develop the relationship right from the beginning is crucial. As Social Workers I know at times we begin working with a client or clients in a crisis or emergency situation and it feels like we’ve started the relationship on the wrong foot. However, I think it’s important, if we know we are going to be a part of their lives for a long period of time to be specific about our involvement. I think making it clear from the outset that things might move a bit quickly initially because it is a crisis but that we are interested in getting to know more about them and their life circumstances, lets the client know that we are not just a whirlwind that flies in to fix things then leaves them to get on with it. I think there are times when we don’t say things because we think they are a given or that it’s just understood how things will happen. Relationship building, from the outset is critical to work that we do.
There are 20 things I have embedded into my practice to help facilitate relationship building:
1 – I ensure that I am clear about my role as a Social Worker within the organization I work
2 – I view everyone as equal and reject the idea that anyone is inherently less than anyone else
3 – I treat all of my clients the way I would want a Social Worker to treat my family should they ever needed the service
4 – I am always open with clients about what the concerns are from the perspective of the organization
5 – I am honest about what is possible and how I am able to realistically help
6 – I am transparent in sharing information and ensuring I am telling everyone the same thing
7 – I work in cooperation with families and in partnership with agencies, sharing tasks.
8 – I respect the rights, wishes and feelings of my clients
9 – I always solicit my client’s opinions and get them to express their own strengths and issues
10 – I make my clients an active part in planning to address presenting problems
11 – I form hypotheses at the start of my work but I am open to being proven wrong
12 – I admit when I don’t know something but I always find out and feedback to clients
13 – I always do what I say I will do but if I can’t I ensure I explain why
14 – I am always on time for visits, meetings, etc.
15 – I don’t judge people by standards to which I don’t hold myself (punctuality, honesty, transparency)
16 – I hold clients responsible for their futures acting as a change agent there to guide, not do everything for them
17 –I respectfully challenge discrepancies in information.
18 – I stay in contact with and visit my clients on a regular basis not just when visits or other statutory/mandatory obligations are due
19 – I take interest in who my clients are as people not just clients
20 – I view my work as a focus on helping my clients achieve the best possible outcomes for themselves and work with them to this end.
As a matter of course I am always upfront with my clients from the outset of our relationship. In the most tactful way possible I ensure they know that they have to be active parts of the professional relationship for things to change. I inform them that I will not be working harder than they are and I ensure that I tell them the consequences of non-compliance and the benefits of working with me to address not only the concerns of the organization for which I work but also access any other services they feel that they need in order to be the people they want to be.