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Saturday, March 1

Building on Strengths: A Social Work Perspective

Social workers are continually striving to empower their clients to be able to overcome the obstacles that they are facing. The strengths perspective says that the client has the resources to overcome adversity but these resources may not be evident to the client. Clients will frequently over look their strengths and feel as if they do not have any strong qualities, often feeling helpless. It is the social worker’s job to bring to light the client’s strengths and how the client can build upon these attributes to help them succeed with the concerns that they bring to the counseling room.

The strengths perspective embraces the principle that all clients possess them. Strengths can be the client’s willingness to accept help, the client’s positive attitude, their ability to overcome hardships in the past, the support system available to them to name just a few of the characteristics social workers look for when meeting with a client. Strengths can be both internal, as well as, external. Clients, as we know, also have the ability to develop new strengths throughout the course of therapy.

The strengths perspective takes an opposite view of the traditional medical/disease model used in many settings. The strengths perspective does not seek to find what is wrong with the client’s life but, rather, what is right, continually looking for the client’s strengths. The strengths perspective can be used with all populations and in conjunction with many different types of therapeutic techniques.

When using the strengths perspective, it is important to make a comprehensive assessment of the client and their life experiences. It is also important to use positive language with the client that conveys the social worker’s belief in the client’s abilities. A focus on the client’s hopes and dreams are also central to the strengths perspective. Important in their work together is the social worker/client collaboration in order to build on the client’s inherent abilities.

The strengths perspective supports our basic social work values. Social workers are mandated to respect the dignity and worth of the person according to the NASW Code of Ethics. The strengths perspective is used to find and focus on these competencies that the client possesses. And in closing, social workers always seek to enhance the client’s capacity to meet their natural capabilities.

Holly Arnold, social worker, works primarily with hospice patients at Hospice of Southeastern Illinois and Richland Home Health. She facilitates life reviews, resolution and grief counseling. She also works with young people at the Insight program for the Edwards County Youth Court which is an early alcohol and other drug intervention program. She is a member of the Wayne County WACUP Coalition, Edwards County Project Success, the Illinois Drug Education Alliance (IDEA) Executive Board. Contact Holly at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Posted on 03/01/08 at 11:37 AM


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