What is task centred approach: definition of the method
In 1960s in North America Reid and Shyne (1969) undertook an extensive four year study to explore an alternative approach to traditional casework and the result was the adoption of a new model named Task centred approach that was also the proposal of a solution to tackle the weaknesses of the short-term psychodynamic model of the early 1960s. The research was an answer to certain problems like the fact that clients were abandoning psychodynamic therapy or receiving the maximum benefit within a few months, with relatively slow improvement. Task centred was then presented as an alternative being described in the following way: “Task centred practice, also Known as brief therapy, short-term or contract work (…) is focused work which is time-limited and offers approaches to problem solving witch take into account the needs of individuals to bring about change in their situations (…).” (Coulshed and Orme, 1998:115)
Key concepts and method
Having defined the method it can be assumed the key assumption for this model the belief that most people have adequate resources and an innate desire to solve their problems. It can be seen readily that this approach differs markedly other approaches that assume that problems arise from hidden causes that require the intervention of the expert therapist. This new approach involved brief, highly focussed periods of intervention where clients were offered up to eight sessions concentrating on clearly defined and explicit goals, so it was really crucial to have in mind that what is really important is to work on problems that the client deems essential, hence the approach is often termed ‘problem-solving’ Essentially the model consists in three phases. During the initial phase, practitioner and client try to identify problems, exploring it in detail, like its frequency, the client's understanding of the seriousness of the problem, its origins, and the attempts to resolve it. During the middle phase both the client and practitioner mutually agree to tasks - this is the reason why the method relies in the concept of partnership and agreement between client and worker – and at this stage the client is engaged in self-directed problem solving so it can be described as the main or fundamental stage of the task-centred. It is important for social workers to seize/ take advantage of this opportunity to show/teach service users how to think about their problems. In the termination phase - that curiously begins in the first session when the practitioner outlines suggested time limits for the intervention - the practitioner shall review with the client the tasks, the accomplishments (clients’, workers’ and agencies involved) and what remains to be done, making recommendations for the future. (Coulshed and Orme, 1998)
Complementary theories and comparison
Task centred model was most heavily influenced by the behavioural model, the problem-solving approach, and learning theory among other theories. Like the behavioural model, task-centred work takes place in short-term service, it focuses on problems and behaviours (not emotions) and according to Howe (1987:82) both models are linked as “(…) problems are defined into identifiable pieces of behaviour.”
Change in both models comes from changing behaviours using specific tasks but at the same time task-centred model differs from behavioural work because it does not direct the client (or to a much reduced degree), working instead with the client collaboratively to define problems and possible solutions, witch I think is a much more suitable model to adopt nowadays.
Finally learning theory contributed some theoretical underpinnings to task-centred practice as it shares the focus on change through the learning of new behaviours. As discussed previously the model quickly left its origins in psychodynamics behind, but...
References: Beckett, C. (2006). Essential theory for social work practise. London: Sage publication.
Coulshed, V., Orme, J. and British Association of Social Workers (1998) Social Work Practice: An Introduction, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Epstein, L. (1988) Helping people: the task-centered approach, Columbus, Ohio: Merrill
Harris, J. and White, V. (2009) Modernising social work: critical considerations, Bristol: Policy.
Howe, D. (1987) An introduction to social work theory: making sense in practice, Aldershot: Wildwood House.
Marsh, P. and Fisher, M. (1992) Good Intentions: developing partnership in social services, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Marsh, P. and Doel, M. (2005) The task-centred book, Oxford: Routledge.
Ur, P. (1981) Discussions that work: task-centred fluency practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
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