Evidence Based Social Work Practice in Mental Health

Topics: Social work, Sociology, Social change Pages: 11 (3781 words) Published: January 5, 2012
Social Work practitioners every day interact with individuals who are challenged by personal, societal, environmental barriers to life, and in amidst this face inequities and injustice as part of life (Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers, 2011). It is the role of the social worker to use their therapeutic and facilitation skills to assess the clients risk and then work with the appropriate interventions in order to help promote social change for the individual and their family. Within social work practice a single definition for the term assessment is not clearly available given different perspectives and ideologies undergirding different social work disciplines (Crisp, Anderson, Orme, & Lister, 2005). The literature however does indicate significant commonalities when discussing assessment across different authors (Cournoyer, 2000; Crisp et al., 2005; Dominelli, 2009; Holman, 1983; Meier, 2003; O'Connor, Wilson, & Setterlund, 1995; Parker & Bradley, 2003; Turner, 2002). These commonalities are encompassed in the work of Milner and O’Byrne (Milner & O'Byrne, 2002) which can be summarised as preparation, data collection, weighing the data, analysing the data and utilising the analysis when working with a specific client. A useful definition that we will use for the purposes of this essay is: Assessment – the collection and processing of data to provide information for use in making decisions about the nature of the problem and what is to be done about it – is a cognitive, thinking process; it involves thinking about data that have been collected. The outcome of assessment is a service plan, which provides a definition of the problem for work, objectives or solutions to be achieved, and an action plan to accomplish the objectives (Comptom, Galaway, & Cournoyer, 2004, p. 134). It would be fair to say that most practitioners cannot separate assessment from intervention and risk management. Assessment is in fact the pathway most prevalently used for the purpose of social change for a client to reach their goal. When reviewing the place of assessment it is important to note that assessments are often undergirded by different theoretical positions and this is often informed by the background of the Social Worker or the Institution which requires certain assessments to be common practice and form part of its policy (Boshier, Moore, & Hale, 2007; Rees, 1991). Different approaches such as behavioural (Parker & Bradley, 2003) , narrative (Geldard & Geldard, 2005), exchange model (Milner & O'Byrne, 1998), psychodynamic (Seden, 2008) , solution-focused (Seden, 2008), strengths based (Graybeal, 2001), systems theory (Parker & Bradley, 2003), and task centred (Parker & Bradley, 2003) can all be found underpinning different forms of assessments. It is argued that less experienced social workers will stick more rigidly and clinically to the structured assessments. Whereas more experienced social work practitioners will gather relevant information so as not to be intrusive and be more respectful of clients privacy and right to tell their own story when and as appropriate (Middleton, 1997). Many assessments that are used in social work practice are used without actually clearly indicating which assessment framework or theory is being used within the assessment. It needs to be noted that social work assessments are based upon on theoretical base, data and research, clinical practice and social work experience across different disciplines. This is then set within policies, government contexts, social environments and political landscapes and economies (Foliaki, 1994). It is accepted that when undertaking assessment of a client, a holistic view be undertaken incorporating service users and carers, whanau and support systems. It should be about focussing on the client’s needs and should not be an abusive assessment where the social worker does something to a person. It is not a...
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