The Social Worker-Client Relationship as the Heart of Practice

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					The Social Worker-Client Relationship as
         the Heart of Practice
     Alberta College of Social Workers Conference
                     Edmonton, AB
                    March 14, 2008


             Carla Alexander, MSW
        Doctoral student, Faculty of Social Work,
                  University of Calgary
Introductions




                2
    Why focus on relationship?

•   Heart of practice
•   Equality, respect, change
•   Birthday and sparklers
•   Importance of giving and receiving
•   Impact of not giving and receiving
•   Cultural differences
                                         3
    Workshop Objectives

– Apply theories of human development (bi-
  directionality) to practice
– Learn from fellow participants about their
  relationships
– Learn about current research
– Consider ethics of relationships in your
  practice


                                               4
           Workshop Outline
•   Introductions
•   Theory on development - presentation
•   Relationships - stories from research
•   Group discussion
•   Break 3:00 - 3:30
•   Research on the relationship - presentation
•   Group discussion

                                                  5
              Development
Jaan Valsiner

•   Time is an irreversible flow
•   Good infinity (innovation)
•   Bad infinity (repetition)
•   Open system - cell

                                   6
                  Meaning
•   Events have some meaning
•   Always interpreting
•   Always learning what things mean
•   Language, gestures, subtle cues
    (breathing, shifting, stillness, etc.)



                                             7
Meaning




          8
         Bi-directionality
• Two-way development of meaning and
  development
• Not one-way
• Oriented to create meaning in the
  immediate future



                                       9
                Identity
• Structured self through interactions
• See oneself through others’ eyes
• Roles - personal and professional




                                         10
    being seen through the eyes of others


Calvin and Hobbes




                                Bill Waterson

                                                11
                Stories

• Being cared for
• A look




                          12
              Group Activity 1
1.   Think about something that you enjoy, appreciate, or
     value about your relationships with clients.
2.   Please write this on one of the post-it notes to share with
     your table. Post it on a piece of white cardboard on the
     table.
3.   Identify a personal quality that has developed through
     your relationships with clients. (Write this on a post-it
     note, too.)
4.   Read all contributions to the everyone in your group. Do
     you normally pay attention to the process of your own
     development through your work? What impact might it
     have on your work? Discuss what strikes you as important
     or interesting about this, in pairs or as a large group.
                                                                 13
         Open discussion
• Volunteers -
  What do you think is important?
  A-ha moment?
  Queries for colleagues?




                                    14
  Break


Back at 3:30




               15
      Experiences of Care
• Research - Interview 10 social workers
  about their experiences of receiving
  care from their clients
• Themes and process




                                           16
      Mutuality and reciprocity
•   Care
•   Gifts, letters
•   Laughter
•   Inquiries
•   Empathy



                                  17
       Learning from practice
•   Different relationships, vary over time
•   Do not require care from clients
•   Make mistakes
•   Believe the work is more effective
•   Open/ not open
•   Let go of “expert”

                                              18
       Community context
• Subversive
• Training
• Theory and practice




                           19
          Meaning in life
• Commitment to client
• Social justice
• “Otherwise, why bother?”




                             20
              Research
• Nick Coady - empathic/collaborative
  mindset rather than
  technical/interventive
• Jean Baker Miller & Nancy Genero,
  Stone Centre, Wellesley College -
  mutuality



                                        21
             Good therapist
• use self disclosure
• seek client feedback
• view clients as equals
• view therapy as mutual growth
  experience
• personally identify with client issues
    (Coady & Wolgien, 1996)

                                           22
                 Mutuality
• “Openness to influence, emotional
  availability, and a constantly changing pattern
  of responding to and affecting each other’s
  state” (Jordan, 1986).
• people require experiences of mutual
  empathy and connection in order to grow
  (Miller, 1976)



                                                23
         Working alliance
• Quality of therapeutic alliance predicts
  outcome
• Therapeutic bond - working alliance,
  empathic resonance, mutual affirmation
• “more of a person-to-person relationship
  with my therapist”



                                        24
              Repair
Calvin and Hobbes




                       Bill Waterson

                                  25
     Social Work Research
• Self disclosure
• Clients prefer when “like a friend”
• Stronger commitment to the client




                                        26
  Dual relationships

Boundary crossings and
  boundary violations

                         27
           Group Activity 2
• Practice on the edge
• What are your experiences of receiving care
  from clients?
• What did you consider? How did you weigh
  the ethics of your choices?
• How did your choice affect you and your
  client?
• Challenges to practicing with an orientation to
  mutuality?

                                                28
    Implications for practice
Work with clients
Work with colleagues
Interprofessional work
Supervision




                                29
Conclusion




             30
    Evaluations
    Thank you

   Carla Alexander
cealexan@ucalgary.ca

                       31