A Biographical Approach for Social Work

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2. . A biographical approach Why use it?ConceptsHow use it? What is it?When use it? DocumentationEthical aspects. CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009. CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009. 3. Biographical narratives in social work. for collecting factual information about clients\' lives and life situations (life hist
A Biographical Approach for Social Work

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1. CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009 1 A Biographical Approach for Social Work 28th CIF Conference, Kiljava, Finland Aug. 5, 2009 Johanna Bj?rkenheim

2. 2 A biographical approach Why use it? Concepts How use it? What is it? When use it? Documentation Ethical aspects CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009

3. CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009 3 Biographical narratives in social work for collecting factual information about clients? lives and life situations (life history) as tools for change (life story)

4. 4 EU Leonardo INVITE 2003-2006: What can vocational rehabilitation gain from biographical research? http://www.biographicalcounselling.com CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009

5. 5 How can social workers take into account the past life of their clients? CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009

6. CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009 6 EU Leonardo INVITE 2003-2006 Literature review

7. CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009 7 Why biography? The present life situation is best understood when viewed against the structure (gestalt) of the entire life story (Rosenthal 2003, Jeppsson Grassman 2001) when you know at what stage in life certain events happened, not just that they did (Jeppsson Grassman 2001) when you know what were the historical, political and social conditions at the time a certain event happened in a person?s life (Riemann 2003) when you know about the client?s own view of his/her life >>>> This has implications for social work.

8. CONCEPTS (1) Life history ? refers to the experiences a person has lived through (Rosenthal 2003) Life story, biography ? someone?s narrated, personal life story as related to another in conversation or as written down in present time (Rosenthal 2003) Life course - involves study of ?the social patterns in the timing, duration, spacing, and order of events and roles of human life trajectories (Elder & Rockwell 1979) recognizing that these elements are consequences of plans that people carry forth within the constraints of their social world? (Lopata & Levy 2003). 8

9. 9 CONCEPTS (2) Narrative interview results in a story about one or several themes Biographical interview results in a usually quite long life story A biographical interview is usually narrative but A narrative interview is not always biographical (Riessman 2001)

10. CONCEPTS (3) Biographical identity is the relationship between identity development and life history as built up over a long time flows from two sources: a) socio-biographical processes b) agency for constructing individual uniqueness (Betts et al 2007) 10 CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009

11. CONCEPTS (4) Biographical work aims at restoring the biographical identity? ?by reconciling the ?reality principle? and the ?creativity and self-empowerment principle?. (Betts et al 2007) 11 CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009

12. How? Biographical counselling Three forms? Being generally sensitive for biographical considerations in rehabilition counselling (Betts et al 2007) > ?biographical glasses? Biographical interview as intervention (Rosenthal 2003) Analysing biography in a more technical way (Betts et al 2007) CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009 12

13. 13 1. ?Biographical glasses? Possible even in short encounters? A question of relating to the client? Seeing that the person has an identity and a biography, which are thus validated even if not known? Understanding that biography has been lived in a context, psychological as well as social (micro / macro)? Noticing a possible need for a longer biographical interview? Other than verbal means of storytelling A life-span perspective CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009

14. 2. The Biographical Interview as Intervention Just telling your life story to someone can have psychological effects Helps integrating and making sense Furthers self-understanding without much interpretation Gives ideas for planning the future (Rosenthal 2003) CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009 14

15. 15 A biographical interview in social work compared to a biographical interview in research There are several, shorter main narratives, not just one There is more narrative questioning

16. 16 Disadvantages of a biographical interview in social work? Too work- and time-consuming? Effects too slow? Recording and transcription seldom possible? There needs to be a common understanding about this way of working at the work-place? Ethical issues too complicated? CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009

17. CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009 17 What? A biographical approach in social work means... ?listening to and ?respecting the life story as it is told ?respecting the line drawn by the client as to what is told ?a holistic way of working

18. What? The biographical approach in social work... ?is NOT one clearly defined working method but a way to relate to people?s lives and life stories using different methods 18 CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009

19. When? Life stories in social work (Examples from the literature) Psychosocial assessments Vocational rehabilitation Substance misuse Chronic illness, disabilities Bereavement Elderly Groups 19

20. Psychosocial assessments A psychosocial assessment is seen as an intervention in itself, and the way it is done is important In a narrative approach marginalising and oppressive dominant cultural stories are deconstructed The service user is supported to create the meaning of his/her life and to reject stories imposed by others (Milner & O?Byrne 2002) 20

21. Vocational rehabilitation The meaning of vocation/profession, education, work history Stories help to structure the future Dominant narratives may be supportive or restrictive Dominant narratives may prevent rehabilitation workers seeing and accepting alternative narratives (Valkonen 2004) 21

22. Substance misuse How the misuse started, changed (and stopped) The role of substances in a person?s life (also before the person started to use them) (Lev?lahti 2005) 22

23. Chronic illness, disability Causes life changes Is not always a static condition that you adapt to once and for all There may be a certain course which includes deterioration of function The dynamic element and changes appear clearer viewed from a life course perspective People?s experiences are different (Jeppsson Grassman 2001) 23

24. Elderly and dying people? usually want to talk about their life? ?and get help to find positive aspects in the life lived (Molander 1999) 24

25. Bereavement The wish to talk about the deceased person with others who knew him/her? ?and together build a story about the deceased person?s life and reconstruct one?s own place in it ?can be more important than the emotional ?working through? of the grief aiming at continuing life without the deceased. (Walter 1996) 25

26. Peer support groups Sharing of life experiences in self-help groups, reminiscence groups (Saarenheimo 1997) etc. 26

27. CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009 27 Documenting life stories Openness about what is being documented Documenting in collaboration? (Mann 2001) Documenting separately? Written autobiography, diary? What happens with the client?s material later? Written narrative feedback to the client? (Milner & O?Byrne 2002)

28. 28 Ethical considerations about the biographical interview? For what purpose? When and when not? Raises expectations of help that cannot be met? Analysis and interpretation ? by whom? How will it be used? By whom? Confidentiality? Informed consent? CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009

29. CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009 29 Conclusions Naming your way of working enables reflection and developing it in a more conscious, systematic and methodical way. Life stories should be used with discretion: With whom? When? For what? How? ?Biographical glasses? can be used with most clients The biographical approach at its best is holistic and empowering

30. CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009 30 *** Thank you! ***

31. 31 References (1) Betts, Sandra & Griffiths, Aled & Sch?tze, Fritz & Straus, Peter (2007) Biographical Counselling ? an Introduction. Module 0 in EU Leonardo INVITE Biographical Counselling in Rehabilitative Vocational Training ? Further Education Curriculum. http://www.biographicalcounselling.com Elder, Glen & Rockwell, RC (1979) The Life Course and Human Development: An Ecological Perspective. International Journal of Behavioral Development: 2:1-21. Jeppsson Grassman, Eva (2001) Tid, tillh?righet och anpassning. Kronisk sjukdom och funktionshinder ur ett livsloppsperspektiv. SVT 8 (4), 306-32. [Time, belonging, adaptation. Chronic illness and handicap from a lifecycle perspective] CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009

32. 32 References (2) Lev?lahti, Johanna (2005) ) ?Egen vilja och andras hj?lp. Om sociala n?tverk och socialt st?d i f?r?ndringsprocessen fr?n alkoholmissbruk till nykterhet.? Master? thesis of SW. University of Helsinki. Lopata, Helena Z & Levy, Judith A (2003) The Construction of Social Problems across the Life Course. In Lopata & Levy (eds): Social Problems across the Life Course. Lanham, Boulder, NY, Toronto, Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Mann, Sue (2001) Collaborative representation: Narrative ideas in practice. Dulwich Centre Publications. http://www.dulwichecentre.com.au CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009

33. 33 References (3) Milner, Judith & O?Byrne, Patrick (2002) Assessment in Social Work. Second edition. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Molander, Gustaf (1999) Askel lyhenee, maa kutsuu. Yli 80-vuotiaiden kuolema eletyn el?m?n valossa. Suomen Mielenterveysseura. Riemann, Gerhard (2003, September) A Joint Project Against the Backdrop of a Research Tradition: An Introduction to ?Doing Biographical Research? [36 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research [On-Line Journal, 4(3). Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/fqs-texte/3-03/3-03hrsg-e.htm [Date of access: November 1, 2006] CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009

34. References (4) Riessman, Catherine Kohler (2001) Personal Troubles as Social Issues: A Narrative of Infertility in Context. In Shaw, Ian & Gould, Nick (2001) Qualitative Research in Social Work. London/Thousand Oaks/New Delhi: Sage. Rosenthal, Gabriele (2003) The Healing Effects of Storytelling: On the Conditions of Curative Storytelling in the Context of Research and Counseling. Qualitative Inquiry. Vol 9(6), 915-933. Saarenheimo, Marja (1997) Jos etsit kadonnutta aikaa. Vanhuus ja oman el?m?n muisteleminen. Univeristy of Tampere. Valkonen, Jukka (2004) Kuntoutus tarinoina. In Karjalainen, Vappu & Vilkkumaa, Ilpo (eds.) Kuntoutus kanssamme. Ihmisen toimijuuden tukeminen. Stakes. Walter, Tony (1996) A new model of grief: bereavement and biography. Mortality, Vol. 1, No. 1, 7-25. CIF Aug. 3-8, 2009 34


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