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STIMULATING THE SOCIAL WORKER’S COMMUNICATION

comunications

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STIMULATING THE SOCIAL WORKER’S COMMUNICATION

What gives warmth to communication? Cornelius and Faire (1996) recommend that we separately focus on the relation with the conversation partner and problem. The problem may be a conflict, but we would like to preserve our good relation to the assisted child or grown – up. Empathy, active listening, honesty, determination, warmth are but a few of the qualities that must characterize the people who give professional help.

1. Empathy

The social worker must empathically communicate in order to understand the behavior and feelings of his . her clients from the latter’s point of view.

            Empathy is necessary to settle a relation between social worker and client. When it is hard to understand what the client feels, this becomes possible by empathy.

Empathy may be expresses on various levels from the perspective of efficiency, thus Truax and Carkhuff (1967) described a five – level scale as follows:

Level 1.

             

At this level the answers lack empathy, they do not contain references to the client’s feelings. Such communication occurs when the social worker is bored, tired and communicates with the client without acknowledging his / her individualism 

Level 2. 

At this level a certain effort of the social worker may be noticed so that he should understand his / her client, but this effort is not enough. The social worker limits himself / herself to revealing several of the multitude of the feelings that the client mentions, but these are superficial feelings.


Level 3.

The social worker „has a mirror” of the client’s answers. His/her answers are in line with the entire range of the client’s superficial feelings that it reflects accurately at the level they have been revealed. He / she will add nothing in addition to what he / she hears, but it is clear that he / she is preoccupied with getting to know and understand the client’s problem.

Level 4.

The social worker’s answers include the client’s feelings and also significantly add to what the client has said. He / she can exceed the level of superficial feelings and starts discovering the deep, hidden feelings. This answer adds significantly to the client’s message.

Level  5.

The social worker answers to the entire range of his / her client’s feelings, including both superficial and hidden feelings. It helps the client to understand his / her own feelings and also helps him / her to change.

Example:

The child complains because his mother does not take seriously his wish to do to a music high school. “She laughed at me. She was looking at me, leaning against a wall, and laughed. I felt like a fool.”

Level 1: “What did you say your mother’s name was?”

Level 2: “ Aha, I see.”

Level 3: “It seems that you are upset that your mother laughed at what you wish to do.”

Level 4: “I see that you felt humiliated by your mother’s comments because your mother did not take seriously your wish to go in for a music high school.”

Level 5: “I feel that your mother has disappointed you very much. It looks to me that you are angry at her and I think you’d like to understand better the reason why she did not answer your wish and made you feel ignored.”

 

Active and empathic listening

        If either you listen to someone’s problems, helping him/her to make a decision, or you give someone advice during a crisis, there are eight important rules that must be taken into account. We list here the eight rules not because they may be broken, but because they are applicable to most cases where advice is asked for and you’ll recognize yourselves in.  They are:

  1. Don’t be judgmental;
  2. Show understanding (don’t be ice cold);
  3. Don’t give personal advice;
  4. Don’t ask questions that start with “Why?’’;
  5. You are not responsible of the problems your clients face;
  6. Don’t make personal interpretations (paraphrasing is enough);
  7. Refer strictly to what is important here and now;
  8. Focus on feelings first.

Listening skills

A.    The tacit reception of the message or the message reception with the minimum of words by:       

  • eye contact;
  • the position of the body;
  • expression showing attention / concern (not an impenetrable countenance);
  • stick tot he subject (don’t start talking about a completely different thing);
  • verbal encouragements from time to time (leave the person talk about the problems he / she has)
  • nod to show they you follow.

B. Ask open questions   

  • start with „How” or „What”;
  • encourage talking rather than Yes and No answers;

questions may be useful to clarify, elaborate, and spare his / her feelings, solve problems;

  • the questions must be simple and clear;
  • they should not start with “Why “ or suggest a certain answer.

C. Paraphrase

  • repeating the essential of what someone says;
  • short and to the point;
  • checks perception;
  • clarifies the problems for the speaker;
  • confers empathy.

D. How to work with feelings

  • Identifying feelings
    • Ask questions about feelings in order to receive answers about feelings;
    • Paraphrase the exposed or implied feelings;

·         Defining and clarifying feelings

  • Informing and assuming responsibilities for the feelings in question;

·         Treating feelings.

E. Making a summary of the discussion

·           More extensive paraphrasing that should include the essential and set it in a logical and useful order;

·           Asking for confirmation by the question: “Is that so/Am I right?”

·           Summary – making is suitable for closing the discussion and also for going a different or deeper subject.

F. Integrating skills

  • Open questions encourage communication.
  • Paraphrasing slows the conversational flow and focuses on the conversation.
  • Feelings are explored before starting to solve the problems.
  • Summaries help to globally understand the problem.

Non – possessive Warmth



           

Another important factor of the social worker – client relation is the warmth towards the client. We can speak of warmth when the social worker – client relation is based on mutual acceptance, understanding, interest for the client’s welfare, thus the client feels protected..

According to Goldstein, “without warmth, certain interventions may be technically correct, but they are therapeutically inefficient” (Johnson, 1993).

            Warmth is more than „I care”. Although is can be verbally expressed, it most often manifests non-verbally. Hackney and Cormier (1996) give us the following examples:

  • The tone of voice: calm, soothing                  
  • The countenance: smiling, interested
  • Poise: relaxed, facing the other person
  • Eye contact: look directly into the other person’s eyes
  • Touching: discretely touch the other person
  • Physical distance: close

The non-possessive warmth has five levels. Level 3 is the minimum level for a good collaboration with the client, and Level 4 and 5 refer to deep warmth and acceptance.

Level 1.

            The social worker’s words and gestures do not show respect towards his / her client.

Level 2.

            The social worker proves little respect towards the client’s feelings and experiences, and he / she answers mechanically and passively.


Level 3.

            The social worker shows interest towards the client’s abilities and capacities in order to improve his / her condition. Finally, the social worker makes the client feel important.

Level 4.

            The social worker show genuine respect and preoccupation towards the client. By the answers he / she gives, the client feel worthy person.

Level 5.

            The social worker proves respectful towards the client’s personal worth, and shows preoccupation and obligation towards him /her.

Example

The client says: “My girl friend is an intelligent person, but sometimes she does drugs. I don’t know what I could do.”

Level 1: “ Hm…” (there is no eye contact, the tone of voice is indifferent, bored)

Level 2: “This is serious” (reduced eye contact, the tone of voice is explicit, formal)

Level 3: “You are angry because your girl friend does not use her intelligence.” (eye contact, the social worker turns towards the client)

Level 4: “It is hard for you to see that your friends does drugs, you are concerned for her.” (the social worker looks the client into his eyes, the tone of his / her voice shows concern).

Level 5: “You are disappointed that she does drugs. I see you are worried for her. Let’s think how we could help her to get rid of this vice. (good eye contact, relaxed open attitude; the tone of voice shows both concern and optimism).

 


3. Authenticity

            Authenticity, as a quality, is hard to describe. According to Truax and Carkhuff (1967), we can speak of authenticity when the social worker communicates naturally, not artificially. Authenticity means “honesty and sincerity …implies a lack of affectation towards clients” (Barker, 1995, p.50). There are five authenticity levels. These are (Collins, Jordan, Coleman, 1999, p.120):

Level 1.

            The social worker’s answers do not the stand for what he / she feels or thinks that very moment. His / her answers may be negative or destructive.

Level 2.

            The social worker  does not know how to control his / her negative feelings towards the client, how to use these feelings constructively during his / her interview with the client. The style of the interview is mechanical, and lacks interest.

Level 3.

            There are no incongruities between what the social worker says and what he / she feels. The worker may use a neutral behavior towards the client and his / her problem. His / her answers seem sincere, but do not reflect an interest to personally get involved in.

Level 4.

The social worker says what his / her suggestions are concerning the case. His/her answers are congruent, but the social worker hesitates to fully express them.

Level 5.

            The social worker is spontaneous, open to all experiences, does not have a defensive conduct and uses the interactions constructively in order to open new discussions. The social worker expresses everything he / she is feeling, but not in an exploratory manner.


Example

The client says “I am ready to throw my room mate out. She never listens to me, she does everything that crosses her mind.”

Level 1: “It seems too impulsive to me to react.”

Level 2: “You need to think with your heart as well.”

Level 3: “Girls her age are hard to control.”

Level 4: “I had known from my own experience that it is not always easy to get along with your room mate.”

Level 5: “I know it is hard to communicate with her in such a situation. Let’s think how we could help you so that you and your room mate should change your relationship for the better for both of you.”

Exercise:   „ You and me”

 

The purpose of the exercise:

-          developing empathy;

-          underlining the personal and group dynamic tensions;

-          receiving and conveying indirect signals.

Context:

-          group of maximum 20 persons, but the number should be even;

-          a number of chairs half the number of the group members;

Manner of execution:

-          half of the group members sit on the chairs. The others stand behind them at their own choice. The leader of the group (social worker) asks them that for a few minutes everybody should stay quiet, concentrating on „here and now”.

-          One of the people standing sets his / her hand on the shoulder of the person sitting in front of him/her and tries to express his very feelings, physical tonus, wishes, psychical state in several sentences. He/she must speak in the first person singular, starting his speech with the name of the person sitting in front of him/her: „I am X and .”

-          When he / she is done, each and every one of them will do the same; the sitting people are not allowed to react to the words told to them;

-          After each and every one has said whatever he / she had to say, the sitting people exchange places with the standing people (pairs will not be mixed!). The person who stood now listens to what the person who sat says, the latter person’s speech being of a similar manner as the one previously described.

-          After the exercise has been finished, the group will form a whole circle and discuss their impressions. The social worker draws the participants’ attention to firstly concentrate on their feelings and not whether the person standing behind them was right about their thoughts or not. The worker asks them to say what meant their speaking and their listening to them (adapted after: Rudas, 1997, p 317).

Exercise: “Authenticity”

            It is impossible to „practice” authenticity by oneself. Authenticity refers to a set of attitudes and conducts that are communicated by the social worker to the client within the assistance process. In order to know where we prove authenticity or not while communicating and working with our clients, it is recommendable that a colleague should present us his / her feedback about the existence or absence of authenticity.

Use the criteria below to feed-back one another:

  • Does the social worker behave naturally, as he / she normally behaves? Does he possibly impersonate the „good advisor” and is he too „professional”?
  • Is the social worker spontaneous or is there certain rigidity in his / her behavior?
  • Does the social worker avoid self-defense even when the client attacks him/her with his/her questions?
  • The social worker says what he/she feels, what he / she feels at the right time without disturbing or distracting the client’s attention, but without setting too many „filters: between himself/herself and his/her client?
  • Is the social worker open?

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