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Chapter 7. Exploring. A Look…. …Into the Client Box. Perspective. Each of us lives within our own unique situation from which we interpret and discover meaning. Although we can never fully understand the situation of another we can approach a better understanding.

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Chapter 7


A Look…

…Into the Client Box

  • Each of us lives within our own unique situation from which we interpret and discover meaning.
  • Although we can never fully understand the situation of another we can approach a better understanding.
  • More importantly, the client can increase their own understanding - that is really the whole point.
the client

The Client…

What you see and what you don’t…

What you must go beneath to gain understanding of…

the outside vs the inside
The outside vs. the inside
  • We are all composed of outer and inner shells
  • It is easier for people to see and judge the outer
  • It is harder for people to see and judge the inner
  • We can also mask the inside through altering our outside appearance
  • Let’s see how good we are at recognizing a discrepancy between human real and fake smiles
    • http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/surveys/smiles/index.shtml
guess what
Guess What?
  • Most people are surprisingly bad at spotting fake smiles.
  • One possible explanation for this is that it may be easier for people to get along if they don't always know what others are really feeling.
  • Fake smiles can be performed at will
  • Genuine smiles, on the other hand, are generated by the unconscious brain
  • Social workers often have to decipher with respect to the client system and situation that which is genuine and real
  • Be careful of possible assumptions you may make about clients and their environments and situations.
  • Intuition, hunches, and assumptions can be correct but can just as easily be wrong.
  • Let the client tell their tale.



Can Lead to


Social Workers can be powerful mediums

Increased Client and Worker Understanding and Insight


Decreased Resistance and Misunderstanding

Interaction of

Social worker and client

the video example
The Video Example
  • Dan sits before you upset. He is a resident in Orthopedics. A six foot six former university football tackle, he passed up a CFL career to come into Medicine and has never regretted his decision. Up to now he has shown lots of promise but his girlfriend has recently split up with him and moved out of the apartment. He has contacted her repeatedly to try to reconcile but has not been successful. He is distraught and wants to drop out of his program to get his relationship back on track.
  • As you watch play close attention to the client-therapist interaction
  • Identify the different interview phases
  • Write down all of the skills the therapist uses
  • Write down all of the techniques the therapist uses
  • Write down the main problem/issue
  • This section contains the seven essential skills which social workers use throughout their careers in almost any setting.
  • Exploring involves examining the status of the problems/issues of the client within context
  • Through this:
    • You can engage the client in a deeper and more meaningful way.
    • The client gains greater self-awareness.
    • You gain a better understanding of the genuine and true nature of client and their inner core.
keep in mind

Keep in Mind…

There are so many things about a client that can be explored

There are so many things about a client that need to be explored with caution

There are so many things about a client that are fragile


Exploring with the

The Conceptual Model of

Psychological Well-Being

Culturally Valued Competencies

Personal, Interpersonal,

Behavioral, Academic,

Artistic, Physical

Personal Vulnerability

Personal History

Family History


Individual Factors

Personal Resources


Coping Skills

Relationship Skills

Problem Solving Skills

Cultural Norms

Gender Roles

Peer Relationships

Adult-Child Relationships

Cultural Factors

Social-Cultural Resources

Peer Group

School Staff



Religious Community

Mental Health Facilities

Socialization Agents

Parents, Teachers, Peers, Media

Socialization Practices

Discipline, Education, Modeling,

Social-Cultural Stressors

Community Violence

Family Conflict



Adapted from

Nastasi, Varjas, Sarkaar, & Jayasena, 1998

exploring empowerment
Exploring & Empowerment
  • Through this process you are facilitating the process of self-discovery for the client.
  • Thinking you know what the client should do, and telling them what to do, is almost always totally ineffective.
  • You empower the client to discover their own path through exploration of their situation.
person in environment
  • Conceptualization of the total person is a value and skill within social work practice.
  • One tool for understanding the person-in-environment (PIE) is the exploration matrix.
  • Remember, you and the client are both involved in a process of discovery. Use of the matrix increases understanding for both you and the client.
the exploration matrix
The exploration matrix is a holistic method of exploring the many dimensions of a client situation.

Within the matrix you explore -

the issue

the person

the situation

Within context of the -




The Exploration Matrix
exploration matrix1
Exploration Matrix
  • Moving systematically through the matrix provides a logical method of obtaining information in a useful format.
  • Full exploration of the problem/issue requires finding out about:





Situational Context




List some popular and common words used to describe PERSONAL STRENGTHS

remember clients have strengths too
Remember…Clients Have Strengths Too
  • According to Saleeby, almost anything can be considered a strength under certain circumstances. This includes:
    • What people have learned about themselves and others
    • Personal qualities, traits, and virtues
    • What people know about the world around them
    • Talents people have
    • Cultural and personal stories and lore
    • Pride
    • The community
    • Spirituality
the search for strengths
The Search For Strengths
  • Occurs by:
    • Asking Questions
    • Seeking responses
    • Listening Actively
  • Should occur only after client problems and/or have been explored and discussed
strengths based assessment questions
Strengths Based Assessment Questions
  • Survival questions:
    • How have you managed to overcome/ survive the challenges that you have faced? “What have you learned about yourself and your world during those struggles?”
  • Support questions:
    • Who are the people that you can rely on? Who has made you feel understood, supported, or encouraged?
  • Exception questions:
    • “When things were going well in life, what was different?”
  • Possibility questions:
    • What are your hopes for your future, or the future of your family?
  • Esteem questions:
    • What makes you proud about yourself? What positive things do people say about you?
additional resources for assessing client strengths
Additional Resources for Assessing Client Strengths
  • Child Strengths Checklist
    • http://health.utah.gov/able/PDF_forms/handouts/StrengthChecklist.pdf
interviewing skills

Interviewing Skills

List as many interviewing skills as you can…

some interviewing skills

Non-verbal cues

Asking about feelings

Following up on feelings

Body language/eye contact

Open-ended questions

Closed-ended questions

Effective confrontation



Advice giving with caution

Facts vs. feelings


(Some) Interviewing Skills
interview skills for exploring

Interview Skills for Exploring

The Seven Basic Exploring Skills

These are skills for facilitating the exploration of the client situation.

exploration skills
Exploration Skills

This section covers seven particular skills for exploring the client situation.

  • Asking questions
  • Seeking Clarification
  • Reflecting Content
  • Reflecting Feelings
  • Reflecting Feelings & Meaning
  • Partializing
  • Going Beyond
asking questions

Asking Questions




appropriate questions
Appropriate Questions?
  • In the classroom you are usually free to ask whatever question you like as long as it has even the most vague connection to the subject matter. “There are no stupid questions.”
  • This luxury does not exist when working with clients.
  • The classroom and to some extent your field placdements exists for your edification the consulting room for that of the client.
asking questions1
Asking Questions
  • In general, asking questions is a skill which helps the worker to elicit ideas, facts, feelings and to identify strengths.
  • Questions help to facilitate the process of understanding the person-in-environment (PIE) and in building a working relationship.
Open Questions

Elicit information

What did you think of the movie?

How would you describe your relationship with your parents?

Closed Questions

Gather specific information

Did you like the movie?

Do you have a good relationship with your parents?

combining open and closed questions
Combining Open and Closed Questions

How would you describe your marriage?

What do you enjoy about the relationship?

What are these arguments like?

Have you and your husband ever separated?

How long have you been married?

changing closed to open
  • Are you having troubles with your partner?
  • What is your relationship with your partner like?
changing closed to open1
  • Are you feeling stressed now?
  • How are you feeling right now?
when closed questions are good
  • You need to intervene in a crisis situation -

e.g. Do you have a plan to kill yourself?

  • When you require specific information –

e.g. Are you going to hurt your girlfriend

because she broke up with you?

Why haven’t you resolved this issue?

Why do you feel that way?

Why do you put up with your abusive husband?

Why do you tolerate your daughter’s behavior?

The Problem with Why type questions is that:

They put people on the spot

Pressure the client to provide an explanation when they don’t know

why vs open questions
Why are you failing that


Could you tell me about the difficulties you are having with your course?

What are some of the things that trouble you about your coursework?




tried and true questions
  • What brings you here to see me?
  • What prompts you to come now to talk?
  • How did you think I might help?
  • Where would you like to begin?
  • Can you tell me more about your situation?
  • Can you elaborate some on what you just said?
  • Can you say more about it?
  • Could you put that in other words so I can understand
  • better?
  • Does what I am saying make any sense?
seeking clarification
Seeking Clarification
  • Asking questions to have the client explain or expand on what they have said.
  • Helps worker understand an ambiguous message
  • Confirms the accuracy of worker’s perception
  • Examples of simple but effective clarification questions:
    • What does that mean?
    • What do you mean by ___________?
    • Could you be more specific?
    • Are you saying that….
    • Could you describe for me…
    • Say what you mean by…
activity answer the following questions
What thoughts are you having about being in class today?

What are the feelings that go along with these thoughts?

Activity: Answer the following questions?



about Content



about Feeling

reflecting content
With this skill you rephrase, or paraphrase, what the client has said.

This skill helps you to communicate your attentiveness while the client speaks.

It also helps you to check your own understanding of often complicated situations.

You’re saying………………

C: I’m a full-time student and worker. Every day I attend classes in the morning and work in the afternoon.

W: You’re saying that… COMPLETE THE REFLECTION

Reflecting Content
reflecting feelings
A brief response indicating your understanding of the emotional content of the client experience.

Reflecting feelings has 3 steps

Recall and restate message covertly

Identify the emotional part of the message by looking for one or more feelings words used by client

Translate the client’s feeling word into your own words at about the same intensity and verbally reflect

Reflecting Feelings
Reflecting feelings is the affective equivalent of paraphrasing content
    • Client: Everything is humdrum. There is nothing going on, nothing exciting. All my friends are away. I wish I had some money to do something different
    • COME UP WITH both a content and feeling response
    • W (content paraphrase): with your friends gone and no money, there is nothing for you to do right now.
    • W (feeling reflection): sounds like you’re feeling bored with the way things are for you right now.
feeling word vocabulary
Feeling Word Vocabulary
  • It is useful to increase your vocabulary when it comes to FEELING WORDS
  • How many words do you know for:
    • Open
    • Happy
    • Alive
    • Good
See: http://www.psychpage.com/learning/library/assess/feelings.htmlfor vocabulary list for feeling words
role play on reflection

Role Play on Reflection

I need two volunteers

One to play client (S)

One to play therapist (D)

All you have to do is read a couple of statements on the next slide

therapist reflection caution
Therapist Reflection…Caution
  • S: "I'm very depressed today, Doctor."D: "You're very depressed, Mr. Smith."S: "Yes. I haven't been this depressed in a long time."D: "You haven't been this depressed in a long time."S: "I'm so depressed that I'm thinking about killing myself."D: "You're thinking about killing yourself."S: "I'd like to kill myself right now."D: "You'd like to kill yourself right now."S: "Yes, I'm so desperate that I think I'll open this window and jump out."D: "You're thinking of jumping out that window."S: "I'm gonna do it. See? I'm opening the window.... and I'm gonna jump."D: "You're going to jump out the window."S: "Bye, doc. Here I go........ aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah" (splat)D: "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, splat."
the role play
The Role Play
  • The role play illustrates the opinion that the basic technique of reflection, by itself, is not sufficient for effective therapy.
  • Reflection is deceptively simple.
  • While it may be used in a clumsy, superficial manner, it can also be applied as a versatile and powerful lens for helping a client uncover and clarify extremely important intra-psychic issues
reflecting feeling meaning
Reflecting Feeling & Meaning
  • This is a step beyond reflecting feeling/emotion.
  • This is a dual reflection of both emotional and informational content. This skill requires that you are able to track the content of what is being said as well as the emotional undercurrent.
  • Remember, what is being said and the feeling behind it might not be congruent.
  • It is common for individuals to have a preference of one style of communication (emotional vs factual) over another.
examples of reflecting feeling meaning
Examples of Reflecting Feeling & Meaning


  • You feel_______because________.
  • You feel_______and____________.
  • You feel_______but____________.
  • Clients are often overwhelmed more by sheer number of issues than by the magnitude of any one single issue.
  • This skill has two advantages:
    • Helps the client to prioritize and focus.
    • Allows an otherwise overwhelming situation to be broken up into smaller achievable tasks.
  • Often progress in one area will have a positive impact on other areas. A chain-reaction.
  • Client situations can be complex and overwhelming. To you and to them.
  • Partializing allows you to break down the totality of the client situation into incremental pieces and then triage what needs to be addressed first.
partializing another perspective
Partializing - Another Perspective

The client is at point A and needs to move to point G.


Going from A…C might be all that is required!

where to start
Where to start?
  • The client system is like a circle with an infinite number of points along the surface.
  • Collaboration with the client on what point to intervene is imperative.
  • Intervention at ANY point will influence each and every other point.



  • Partializing will help you and the client work together to decide what area on the circle should be the starting point.
  • Remember: In Partializing you reduce the overwhelming nature of a situation and foster hope by focusing on smaller units.
partializing practice
Partializing Practice
  • You’ve addressed a number of topics here. You’ve talked about …………, ………….., ……., and ………There are so many aspects of what you’ve said that we could lose track if we try to consider them all at once. Could we explore them on at a time?
  • Yes
  • Which would you like to consider first? Would it make sense to start with ………….?That seems to be very important to you right now.
going beyond
Going Beyond
  • Going beyond is a slight extension of what has been said using your empathic understanding, reasoning and experience.
  • Avoid large jumps which may be inaccurate or which can rob the client of the process of discovering something for themselves.
going beyond1
Going Beyond
  • Going beyond is your ability to extend slightly what has been said.
  • It is the process called additive empathy.
  • Going beyond often combines what is being said verbally with it’s emotive content.
acquiring competency
Acquiring Competency
  • These are not the types of skills which can be absorbed solely on an intellectual level.
  • Acquiring these skills requires both intellectual understanding and practice.
  • It also takes TIME and PATIENCE

These are the specific areas we covered:

  • Asking questions
  • Seeking Clarification
  • Reflecting Content
  • Reflecting Feelings
  • Reflecting Feelings & Meaning
  • Partializing
  • Going Beyond