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Social Work Skills. Introduction Chapters 1 and 2. General Social Work Skills. As a social worker, You will serve people in all walks of life and in all kinds of situations. The range of settings in which you might serve is wide and varied.

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social work skills

Social Work Skills


Chapters 1 and 2

general social work skills
General Social Work Skills
  • As a social worker,
    • You will serve people in all walks of life and in all kinds of situations.
    • The range of settings in which you might serve is wide and varied.
    • The contexts for practice are often complex, demanding and challenging.
    • Competence requires adequate knowledge, ethics, accountability, and proficiency
social work skill

Social Work Skill...

... fundamental to social work practice.

are you in the right place
Are you in the right place?
  • 47-304-01
  • Tues-Thurs
  • Room
  • Fall 2007

If so...Welcome!

about me

Maritime School of Social Work

About Me
  • Hail from East Coast of Canada
  • Born and raised in a coal mining town
  • Went to university to study philosophy
  • Led to Social Work
  • Led to Education
  • Ended in academia
  • Been here for 30+ years
about each other
About Each Other?
  • Class Exercise
  • Break into groups of 2
  • Introduce one another
  • Tell person one true statement about yourself and one false statement
  • Have the person try and decipher which is the false and which is the true statement
about us
About Us
  • Opportunity to learn
  • Opportunity to share
  • Opportunity to grow
  • Opportunity to become hands-on, competent and confident social workers
point of this course
Point of This Course
  • Come to know, understand and practice the steps important to social work practice.
  • To use case examples and situations that clearly illustrate the essential skills of social work practice.
  • To work our way through summaries and skill-building exercises, and get involved in actual hands-on practice.
teaching methodology
Teaching Methodology
  • Lectures accompanied by PowerPoint outlines, class and small group discussions, and experiential activities.
  • My responsibility:
    • Provide content, and to provide the structure and opportunities to learn.
  • Your responsibility:
    • To learn; to be actively engaged in class, to be curious about new ideas, to be willing to try new skills, to ask questions when needed, and to complete all assignments (including assigned reading).
course work and grading
Course Work and Grading
  • Refer to Course Outline
  • Assignments
  • Tests
    • Multiple Choice
  • Attendance
  • Participation
this class rules
This Class RULES!
  • Respect for Self
    • Do your best
    • Positively participate in all classroom activities
  • Respect for Others
    • Stay on task without disturbing or distracting others
    • Avoid ‘put downs’ or harass others
    • Respect other people’s differences and opinions
  • Respect for School
    • Raise hand to speak
    • Enter and exit the room quietly
    • Complete all assignments on time
    • Actively listen when others are speaking

Course Text:

The Social Work Skills Workbook

Barry. R. Cournoyer

Available in


table of contents


Ethical Decision Making

Talking and Listening






Working and Evaluating



Table of Contents
student resources
Student Resources
  • Text Resources
  • Student Support Resources
    • Student Development and Support
    • Student Counselling Center
chapter 1

Chapter 1


chapter purpose
Chapter Purpose
  • The Purpose of this chapter will be to:
    • Discuss breadth and complexity of social work practice
    • Define and discuss the concept of “social work” skill
    • Discuss the significance of social work skills
    • Identify the phases or processes of social work practice
    • Discuss common factors and essential facilitative qualities for professional relationships
    • Discuss the purposes and functions of The Social Work Skills Learning Portfolio
    • Discuss the qualities and characteristics needed by ethical, effective social workers
do you know where you re going to

Do you Know Where You’re Going to?

What kind of social work would you like to practice in the future?

At some point in your career as a social worker, you might:
    • Serve in a child­ protection capacity, responding to indications that a child may be at risk of abuse or neglect.
    • Help families improve their child-caring capabilities or serve in the emergency room of a hospital, intervening with persons and families in crises.
    • Lead therapy groups for children who have been sexually victimized or provide education and counselling to abusive adults.
you might also
You might also…
  • Aid couples whose relationships are faltering
  • Help single parents who seek guidance and support in rearing their children.
  • Serve persons who abuse alcohol and drugs
  • Help family members who have been affected by the substance abuse of a parent, child, spouse, or sibling.
  • Work in a residential setting for youthful offenders, a prison for adults, or a psychiatric institution.
you could even
You Could Even…
  • Help people who are in some way physically or mentally challenged.
  • Serve in a school system or perhaps as a consultant to a police department.
  • Function in a crisis intervention capacity for a suicide prevention service.
social workers can also work in a variety of settings
Social Workers can also work in a variety of settings:
  • Health and Community Services
  • Health Care
  • Communities
  • Long-term care
  • Justice
  • Research
  • Self-employment

(Hick, 2002, p. 61)

real life scenario

Real Life Scenario

Listen to the following audio recording of a client-therapy session

Write down what the issue is

Note what techniques the therapist uses

a recorded grief session
    • The scenario demonstrates the strategic use of the Music Impact Inventory Scale (MIIS) with a 48 year old grandmother who lost her grandson accidentally last summer. Gordon was 5 years old and drowned in the family swimming pool. This is the six grief session that I have had with this grandmother.
You may ask yourself,
    • "Can I possibly learn what I need to so that I can serve competently as a social worker in all those places, serving such different people, and helping them to address such complex issues?"
    • The answer to that question is certainly No!
    • You can acquire expertise in those skills that are common to social work practice
regardless of situation or setting
Regardless of situation or setting…
  • Social workers are trained to function
    • Within established codes of ethics and professionalism
    • Within a holistic theoretical and practice framework
    • By taking into account and working within the person-and-situation (PAS) or person-in-environment (PIE) or person-issue-situation (PIS) paradigm
    • By employing social work skills
social work code of ethics
Social Work Code of Ethics
  • Social workers pledge adherence as follows:
    • The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well being.
    • Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments.
person in environment pie
Person-in-environment (PIE)
  • Social Work seeks to recognize both the client (person), their environment, and the interaction between them.
  • Florence Hollis (1964) PIE or "person-in-the situation"
    • Stresses person's physical, social, and psychological realities that both define and limit that person.
    • Social Workers seek to examine both the personal, and the social aspects of all 'Problems' social/personal problems
    • Most intervention happens at the individual level, with system approaches to problem solving seek mainly to improve individual functioning.
It is for these reasons that this 304 course is invaluable, not only in your professional relationships but they will help you in your own communication skills in general
  • in truly understanding others, affirming their uniqueness and celebrating their individuality

“I’m a full human being. I want you to be able to relate to me as one human being to another”.

social work skill1
Social Work Skill

"the practice component that brings

knowledge and values together and

converts them to action as a response to

concern and need (Johnson, 1995, p. 55),

"a complex organization of behaviour

directed toward a particular goal or activity"

(Johnson, 1995, p. 431)

And a "social worker's capacity to use a

method in order to further a process

directed toward the accomplishment of a

social work purpose as that purpose finds

expression in a specific program or service"

(Smalley, 1967, p. 17).

Skill is "the production of specific

behaviours under the precise conditions

designated for their use"

(Middleman & Gold­berg, 1990, p. 12).

social work skill2
Social Work Skill
  • Circumscribed set of discrete cognitive and behavioural actions that:
    • Derive from social work knowledge and from social work values, ethics, and obligations,
    • Are consistent with the essential facilitative qualities,
    • Reflect the characteristics of professionalism, and
    • Comport with a social work purpose within the context of a phase or process of practice.

A "social worker's skills include being proficient in communication, assessing problems and client workability, matching needs with resources, developing resources, and changing social structures" (Barker, 1995).

twelve skills outlined by the national association of social workers skills nasw 1981
Twelve skills outlined by the National Association of Social Workers’ skills (NASW, 1981)
  • Listen to others with understanding and purpose
  • Elicit information and assemble relevant facts to prepare a social history, assessment, and report
  • Create and maintain professional helping relationships
  • Observe and interpret verbal and nonverbal behavior and use knowledge of personality theory and diagnostic methods
  • Engage clients (including individuals, families, groups, and communities) in efforts to resolve their own problems and to gain trust
  • Discuss sensitive emotional subjects supportively and without being threatening
skills continued
Skills Continued
  • Create innovative solutions to clients’ needs
  • Determine the need to terminate the therapeutic relationship
  • Conduct research, or interpret the findings of research and professional literature
  • Mediate and negotiate between conflicting parties
  • Provide inter-organizational liaison services
  • Interpret and communicate social needs to funding sources, the public, or legislators
The skills are derived from the tasks associated with commonly identified phases or processes of social work practice, the essential facilitative qualities exhibited by most effective professional helpers, and the fundamental characteristics of professionalism and include
phases or processes of social work practice
Phases or processes of social work practice
  • Preparing
  • Beginning
  • Exploring
  • Assessing
  • Contracting
  • Working and evaluating
  • Ending
common factors research
Common Factors Research
  • A review by Asay and Lambert (1999) of six decades of therapy outcomes and identified 4 common therapeutic factors which contribute to successful therapeutic outcomes:
    • 15% Model and Technique factors
    • 40% Client variables and extratherapeutic variables
    • 30% Therapeutic relationship factors such as:
      • warmth, acceptance, empathic understanding, and client-therapist agreement
    • 15% expectancy and placebo effects
client factors 40

Pre-existing characteristics of the client:

  • Intelligence
  • Personality traits
  • Temperament
  • Ethnic background
  • Abilities
  • Family size
  • Family support
  • Social network
  • Etc.
who are the clients
Who are the clients?
  • Clients, like social workers, vary is several characteristics, but with one notable exception:
  • ***Most clients that seek help have reached a point wheretheir coping mechanisms no longer function.***
  • Some clients seek services because someone else is distressed (e.g., a parent, employer, spouse, or other family member) or because they are referred, appointed or mandated to seek social services
  • These clients tend to be less motivated than clients

seeking help for themselves.

which clients tend to fare better in their treatment outcomes
Which clients tend to fare better in their treatment outcomes?
  • Clients who “do their homework” tend to do better. That is, clients who “complete” assignments given to them by their therapists (e.g., keep a diary of emotions, etc.) show better treatment outcomes.
  • Burns & Spangler (2000) reported that depressed patients who were homework compliant, reported decreases in depression.
  • Clients who are cooperative & open tend to have better treatment outcomes than clients who are resistant & defensive. (Orlinksy, Grawe, & Parks, 1994).
relationship factors 30

Factors that influence the quality of the

relationship between therapist and the client:

  • Perceived empathy
  • Acceptance
  • Warmth
  • Confidence
  • Client’s selfexpression
  • Etc.
relationship factors the evidence
Relationship Factors: The Evidence
  • Krill (1986, p. xi) suggested that the relationship between a social worker and a client is more likely to be productive when:
  • Worker and client like and respect each other.
  • Client is clearly told what to expect and how to contribute to the helping process.
  • Worker is warm, genuine, and sincere and regularly expresses empathy about the client's experience.
  • Worker and client engage in goal-directed activities such as practice, in­ session tasks, or between-session action steps.
  • Worker actively seeks to involve significant persons in the client's life in the helping process.
The quality of

the therapeutic


between social

worker and

individual or

family is critical

to achieving



characteristics associated with good therapists
Characteristics associated with good therapists?

Clients prefer therapists with advanced training.

Advanced Training

Includes communication, relationship-building, & self-monitoring skills.

Good Interpersonal Skills

Should be able to listen to clients & effectively communicate with them.

Good Listening Ability

Genuineness, empathy, &

Unconditional positive regard.

These promote rapport with the client & build trust.

hope expectancy 15

The expectation of the client that the therapy will lead to positive change

model technique 15
  • Beliefs
  • Techniques
  • Procedures
  • Etc.

contributing to the therapist’s (theoretical) frame of reference and practice

Social workers have long recognized the importance of the relationship
    • McNeill et al (2005) found 3 common elements which lead to behavior change or reduction in problem behaviors:
      • Accurate empathy, respect or warmth and therapeutic genuineness;
      • Establishing a therapeutic relationship or working alliance
      • An approach that is person centered, or collaborative and client driven
facilitative qualities
Facilitative Qualities
  • The characteristics of effective helpers are often called the facilitative qualitiesor the core conditions
  • When consistently demonstrated by professionals, these aid in developing and maintaining a special rapport with their clients.
    • This rapport is sometimes called the helping relationship,the working relationship, professional rapport, or the therapeutic alliance.

The essential facilitative qualitiesbecome critical because when social workers consistently reflect these qualities, the risk of harming the person-and-situation tends to decrease and the probability of helping usually increases.

effective helpers
Effective Helpers
  • Regardless of theoretical orientation and choice of intervention approach, effective helpers tend to reflect common characteristics such as
      • Empathy
      • Regard
      • Authenticity
      • Professionalism in their service to others.
  • One of the Primary Skills to Master
  • A process of joining in the feelings of another, of feeling how and what another person experiences, and feeling with another person.
  • It is an understanding and appreciation of the thoughts, feelings, behaviours, experiences, and circumstances of another human being.
empathetic response
Empathetic Response
  • A verbal technique that acknowledges you have heard the client’s emotional content.
  • No requirement to feel the emotion.
  • Steps:
    • Identify the emotion – open-ended questions
    • Identify its cause
    • Respond in a way that shows you understand the connection between 1 and 2
  • Why is this important?
empathic listening
Empathic Listening
  • A mother recalled of a time when her young daughter invited her to come outside and play.
  • At first, the mother intently watched as her daughter repeatedly hit a tether ball, but soon began to wonder what her own role was in the game. So she asked her daughter.
  • In response, the young girl matter-of-factly explained that every time she was successful in hitting the ball, the mother should congratulate her and say, “Good job!”
  • This is, essentially, the role of empathic listening, that of accompanying another person and celebrating together the fact that the other can begin to unpack and analyze the challenges being faced.
  • In the child’s game, success is measured by the ability to have the ball and its cord wrap around the post.
  • In empathic listening, success is measured by the ability to unpack the often pain-soaked narrative and let it float to the surface.
empathetic response caution
Empathetic Response: CAUTION
  • Some clients feel quite uneasy when the worker is frequently and intensively empathic.
  • They might prefer a formal encounter in which the worker provides direct advice and guidance in a business-like fashion.
other facilitative factors
Other Facilitative Factors
  • Integrity
  • Professional knowledge
  • Critical thinking and lifelong learning
  • Ethical decision making
  • Self-understanding and self-control
  • Cultural competence and acceptance of others
  • Social support and self-efficacy
  • The facilitative quality of regard or respect suggests an attitude of non-controlling, warm, caring, unconditional positive regard non-possessive acceptance of other persons.
  • In cross- or inter-cultural contexts, regard also includes the genuine acceptance of difference.
  • Respect of this nature goes well beyond basic tolerance to include appreciation of the value of diversity in human communities.
  • Authenticity refers to the genuineness and sincerity of a person's manner of relating. Reflecting fundamental honesty, an authentic social worker is natural, real, and personable.
  • The presentation is congruent so that verbal, non-verbal, and behavioural expressions reflect synchronicity.
  • Words and deeds match.
  • Includes several characteristics:
      • integrity,
      • professional knowledge and self-efficacy,
      • ethical decision making,
      • critical thinking and lifelong learning,
      • self-understanding and self-control,
      • cultural competence and acceptance of others
      • social support.