The aim of this assignmentis to critically discuss two social work methods and apply them to the abovecase study. It will start by identifying the problems in the case study. Eachmethod will be explained in terms of its history and key principles, beforebeing applied to the case study, followed by a discussion of the strengths andlimitations. It will conclude with a summary of the interventions and anexplanation of what I will apply during my placement. Although the case study includesall of the Jones’s family, the focus of this assignment will be on Diane andmore importantly on her issues with substance misuse.
The methods that havebeen chosen to be applied to this case study are Solution Focused Practice(SFP) and Task Centred Practice (TCP). Diane is a single mother ofthree children and is being monitored by social services due to concerns raisedby several agencies. Several different neighbours have reported about Diane’slack of supervision of her children and allegations of her dealing cannabis andfrequently falling asleep during the day after using it. Neighbours have alsoreported shouting and fighting following late night parties.
Diane has beenwarned by the Housing Department that if she gets another warning from them shewill be evicted. Diane has failed to comply a Court Order for supervisedcontact every fortnight for her youngest child. I have chosen SolutionFocused Practice because it is strengths based approach and primarily focuseson finding a solution for dealing with problems. It concentrates on the skills,strengths and resources that the Service users possess (O’Connell, 2001). I have chosen Task Centred Practice as mysecond method of intervention. TCP is a clear and practical method designed tohelp in the resolution of difficulties that people experience in their socialsituations (Parker & Bradley, 2014). I hope that using thesemethods of intervention with Diane will help her to realise there is a problemand the impact this is having on her and her children.
SFP originates from theBrief Family Therapy Centre in Milwaukee, USA. It was developed in the 1980’s by Steve de Shazer, Insoo Kim Berg and colleagues.The team spent many thousands of hours observing life therapy sessions frombehind a screen and having lengthy discussions (O’Connell, 2012). They foundthat clients made progress talking about their preferred futures, withoutanalysing their problematic histories and they felt empowered describing whatthey wanted to happen in their lives (O’Connell, 2012). SFP is a short-term model ofpractice. It concentrates on creatingsolutions rather than examining problems.
Therefore, it does not go over the past; rather it focuses on the futureof the service user (Harris & White, 2013). It is based on the assumptionthat every person has some idea of what would make his or her life better. Theaim is then to amplify, sustain and develop the person’s own strengths andresources that they have not noticed (Lee et al.
, 2003). SF therapists believeit is behaviour that causes malfunction and not the natural qualities of theperson (Lee et al., 2003). There are seven key assumptions underpinningSFP; Focus is on solution, change and future, creating exceptions to everysituation, change is occurring all the time, small changes lead to largerchanges, service users are always co operating, people have strengths and resourcesthey need to solve a problem and the service user is the expert in the lives(O’Connell, 2012).
SFPis a form of specialized conversation, directed towards developing andachieving the service user’s vision of solutions (Macdonald, 2011). Thetechniques used by SF practitioners are; the miracle question, exceptionquestions, complimenting the service user on accomplishments, scaling questionsand coping questions (O’Connell, 2012). SFP is used with a wide range of serviceusers and in many different settings, such as mental illness, substance misuse,Asperger syndrome to name a few (Shennan, 2014).
However, the model will needto be adapted to the context in which it is being applied, and accordingly to agencygoals and ethics (Shennan, 2014). Having discussed theprocess of SFP I will now move onto applying the method to the case study. Macdonald(2011) states that the first interview in SFP is the most important, becausethis is when the majority of the work is done for most service users. Duringthis first session, the social worker will aim to make a contract around thebest hopes of the service user, form a collaborative relationship, create anatmosphere for change, clarify goals, highlight resources and negotiate tasks(O’Connell, 2012). However, it isimportant to note that this will depend on the service user’s engagement withthe social worker. Diane has already stated that the CAFCASS officer whoprepared the report on contact did not listen to her concern about thedifficulty of getting a bus to the centre. It is important to establish herewhether Diane is a voluntary or involuntary service user.
Smith et al (2012)describes involuntary service users as those who come to treatment underpressure from significant others such family members. Mandated services usersthose who are forced to comply by legal institutions, such as courts. Shennan(2014) states that strong relationships and rapport are built on respectful andattentive listening, reflective silences, empathy, genuineness, immediacy andacceptance. These techniques will make the service user comfortable with thesocial worker and willing to collaborate. Milner & O’Byrne (2009) discusshow at the start of the session the practitioner needs to briefly explain themodel to the service user and what they can expect to happen in the session,doing so in a calm, confident, positive and friendly way. This will enable theservice user to be an active, informed and consenting service user.
Researchrepeatedly highlights the importance of social workers explaining clearly to theservice user what they are going to do and why at every stage of social workintervention (O’Connell, 2012). This isalso stated in HCPC’s Code of Conduct, ‘You must give service users and carersthe information they want or need, in a way they can understand’ (HCPC, 2016p.6). Language is of greatsignificance in SFP, it includes non-verbal behaviour, such as tone of voice,cues, and posture. It is important for practitioners to use the words andlanguage used by the service user and avoid expert jargon.
(O’Connell, 2012). Atstage one of the assessment Diane was asked to talk about her problem but notthe root cause. Information gained at this stage will also be useful in theconversation for goal setting and exceptions (Macdonald, 2011). Questions suchas, ‘how often does it happen’, how long has it been going on for?’ can helpprompt the service user for a deeper explanation of the problem (Milner ‘Byrne, 2009). However the word ‘Why’should be avoided.
‘Why’ leads to speculative and general answers that do notusually clarify goals or behaviour (De Shazer, 1991). During this stage, thesocial worker can get an insight into how and when Diane started to use cannabisand how often. Scaling questionsused at this stage will give the social worker the opportunity to ask a seriesof questions that can enable the service user to develop their descriptions ofinstances and hoped for future (Shennan, 2014). “Scaling questions are the mostversatile and adaptable tools available to the solution focused practitioner”(Shennan 2014, p.97). Using the scaling questions with Diane, will aim to helpher identify instances when she is not using cannabis and how she feels then andexplore what outcomes she hopes for. Diane describes she has a clear head whenshe has not smoked cannabis. As a professionalworker, it is important to note that the main concern here is Diane’s drugs problem;it would be unethical and judgmental to perceive Diane as the problem(Thompson, 2009).
Diane is already onthe contemplation stage of the Cycle of Change, because she has admitted she doesn’tlike using cannabis because it knocks her out during the day. In the contemplation stage, the service user starts to see their issue as aproblem and begins to consider the advantages and disadvantages of addressingit (Trivethick, 2012). The Cycle of Change was developed by Prochaskaand DiClemente. It describes a number of stages that individuals pass throughin the course of changing a problem (Littell & Girvin, 2002). Stage two of theprocess is to develop well formulated goals. This can be achieved throughscaling questions and miracle questions.
Milner & O’Byrne (2009) state, themiracle question is a helpful tool to use with people who are not sure whattheir goals are or people who find it difficult to believe in a better future. Diane’sanswer to the miracle question was, ‘not having cannabis in my life and feelingfresh and full of energy’. The next step is to develop small achievable goalsthat are salient to the service user.
The goals must be described in concretebehavioural terms and be achievable within the context of the service user’slife (De Shazer, 1991). Stage three of SFP isexploring exceptions. Macdonald (2011) states asking about exceptions isparticularly useful with goals that are normally viewed as resistant to change,such as alcohol and drug misuse. Diane spoke of a time when she went to stay towith her mum who lives 40 miles away and was not able to access drugs there.
She described how she enjoyed spending time with her children and not justbeing in the same house as them.Stage four is the end ofsession feedback. A structured format of the feedback is useful to both serviceusers and the practitioners (Macdonald, 2011).
Thefeedback should summarise the session and include acknowledgment of theproblem. This shows the service user that the social worker is not ignoring orunderestimating the seriousness of the problem. It should also include genuinecompliments. For example, in this case, Diane’s feedback would say, ‘you havealready taken the first step towards your goal by agreeing to engage in thissession’. O’Connell (2012) states,genuine compliments help to motivate individuals and giving non-patronisingcompliments help to decrease the power gap between the service user and socialworker. Stagefive of SFT is evaluating the service user’s progress and bringing theintervention to an end (O’Connell (2012). The social worker will identify withDiane what goals she has accomplished and whether she needs further sessions. SFP has many advantages;most importantly, it perceives the service user as the expert and seekssolutions within the service user’s life (Shennan, 2014).
It is an optimistic approach,which assumes change is possible. It develops the service user’s strengths andcoping strategies. It is time limited, goal orientated and promotescollaborative working (Shennan, 2014). Theprimary emphasis of SFP is on empowerment, respectful uncertainty and minimumintervention, therefore making it anti oppressive practice Milner & O’Byrne(2009). Interestinglythe time limited brief nature of the therapy is also criticised as a weakness.Howe (1996) cited by Walsh (2010) believes that in short term and time limitedpractice little attention is paid to the construction and understanding of theservice users narrative. Therefore understanding the solution withoutunderstanding problem could be misunderstood and potentially dangerous (Walsh,2010). Another criticism is that strengths based approaches such as the SFBTfail to correctly assess risk.
For example in the case of baby P concerns werehighlighted that the model might have caused the social worker to lose focus onrisk (Davies & Jones, 2015). Fook(2002) argues that SFP assumes an ideal of ‘strength’ towards which the healthypersonality works, therefore it is not effective people with low self-esteemwho may not accept that they have strengths and skills. Feminists criticise thelack of attention paid to gender and power issues (Walsh, 2010). Other criticisms are that SFP is not holisticand that praising the service user can be patronising. Havingdiscussed Solution focused Practice, I will now move onto Task CentredPractice. Task Centred Practice is a short term,problem-solving approach.
It was developed by Reid and Shyne in 1969 andappeared as a response to the criticism that the existing open ended and longterm ways of working were time consuming and not very successful in asignificant number of clients (Wilson, 2008). TCP has been developed and refined through numerous empiricalstudies over the years. It is influenced by the behavioural modelbut is mainly a cognitive approach (Wilson, 2008). TCPis a time-limited approach, usually with 12 interviews over a three or fourmonth period (Okitikpi & Aymer, 2010). The focus is on the tasks that theservice user and practitioner carry out to resolve the problems that theservice user has agreed on.
Okitikpi & Aymer (2010) state, the uniquenessof TCP is that it breaks down the problems faced by service users into smalland manageable components. Milner & O’Byrne (2009) describe TCP as a progressive and goal-orientated social work methoddesigned to help service users and practitioners collaborate on specific,measurable, and achievable goals. It can be used with individuals, couples,families, and groups in a wide variety of social work practice contexts(Wilson, 2008). Thekey principles of TCP are; it is time limited, work is systematic, based on acontract, partnership work between service user and social worker, userinvolvement, building upon service user strengths (Milner& O’Byrne, 2009). There are five phasesin the TCP. The first phase is the problem exploration. “Problems are definedby Reid (1978) as unmet or unsatisfied wants as perceived by the service user”(Milner & O’Byrne, 2009 p.
126). However, unwilling people referred to socialservices by other agencies such as schools, courts etc may say they have nounmet wants. According to Milner & O’Byrne (2009) task centred work cannotmove forward until some want is acknowledged. There may also be the issue of mistrust, whereDiane feels worried that the involvement of social services could mean herchildren are taken into care. At this stage, the social worker will identifywith Diane the reasons for the intervention in the first place. If the social worker appears abrupt, defensive orportrays signs of power then the service user may also be reluctant to parttake (Coulshed & Orme, 1998). As stated in the PCF ‘social workersshould recognise the impact of their own values and attitudes can have onrelationships with others (BASW, 2015).
Adam etal (2002) state that in order to empower, it is necessary to respect theindividual, enhance their strengths and coping abilities by conducting keyworker sessions with a non-judgmental attitude.Coulshed& Orme (1998) state the problem must be recognised by the service user inorder for the social worker to work in collaboration with them. Thesocial worker will explain how long the process will take, assess Diane’sability to understand her problems and the extent of them. Establish whethershe accepts she has a problem and is willing to do something about it. Theprocess of problem exploration entails asking questions about where, when andwith whom these problems arise (Coulshed & Orme, 1998). The social workerwill explore with Diane the consequences of her behaviour.
Coulshed & Orme (1998) explain, theexploration of problems helps to bring to the surface under lying problems thatare a direct consequence of one problem. Diane has a number of problems thatare a direct result of one problem, which is using cannabis. The second phase isselecting and prioritising the problems. This is where the problems are brokendown into smaller components and prioritized (Maclean & Harrison, 2015). Phase three is the developmentof the contract/ written agreement. Once agreed by both the service user andsocial worker these problems will form the basis of the goals and a writtenagreement is produced (Coulshed & Orme, 1998). Milner & O’Byrne (2009)state goals must be specific and achievable, and take into account how muchtime they will take. For example, Diane’s goals are to stop using cannabis,provide better care and a safe living environment for her children, avoid beingevicted and obtain a part time job.
Phase four is theimplementation of tasks. In this stage the social worker and service user workcollaboratively to assess which task would be the most useful, which are in theservice user’s range, how much help they require to carry out the tasks and whetheroutside resources are required (Milner & O’Byrne, 2009). The social workerstasks will be make referrals to a substance misuse programme and parentingprogramme to improve parenting and relationship skills. Coulshed & Orme (2012) state the attainment of each goal promotesself-confidence and further motivation in the service user. Phase five is thetermination stage, at this stage, the tasks are reviewed, problem solvingskills acquired are identified and accomplishments are praised. If the serviceuser needs further sessions then these will be agreed (Milner & O’Byrne,2009). TCPis a well-researched method of intervention and is clear and straightforward (Parker & Bradley 2007.
(Doel & Marsh 1995) also agree on the simplicityof the model adding further that it is easy to understand and apply and enablesthe service user to use it for future problem solving. It promotes clarity ofaction and accountability between the social worker and the service user. It istime limited, according to Doel & Marsh (1995) this reduces the risk ofdependency and creates motivation in service users. Coulshed & Orme (2006)agree that time limited makes people feel more committed, further adding thatbecause TCP is a time and cost effective intervention.
It also saves onfuture resources by building service users to solve their own problems in thefuture. Furthermore, Milner & O’Byrne (2009) state it is an empoweringapproach because it recognises and builds upon theservice users strengths, it considers the personal resources they have to solvetheir problems with limited support. However TCP does have some limitations. Maclean & Harrison(2015) state that it does not address the service user’s emotional issues andthat it is oppressive andineffective if used with service users with limited cognitive functioning. Gambrill(1994) argues that it relies heavily on the behaviouristperspective, therefore over simplifying complex problems.
Adam et al (2009) argue that boundaries are set due to financial constraints, policies and the practitioner’s value which prevent thepossibilities of real power-sharing. Additionally, it maynot consider structural oppression such as class, poverty etc. according to(Trevithick 2005) service users need to be willing to participate for the modelto be effective.
Teater (2010) arguesthat a signed contract may encourage a power imbalance between social workerand service user, placing the social worker as the expert. It is evident thatboth the SFP and TCP are generally, successful methods of practice and both canbe applied to a variety of situations. They are both structured interventionsand both use specific contracts between the social worker and service user andboth aim to improve the individuals capacity to deal with their problems in aclear and more focused approach. In addition, both methods promote empowermentand place the service user as the expert in their lives. Nevertheless,there are certain limitations to both methods, for example both are not effective where there are longer-termpsychological issues.
However, Task CentredPractice appears to be a more popular intervention of the two. It has a history of more than 40 years of researchdevelopment and is well rooted in social work practice. I feel that boththese approaches will be suitable to apply during my placement depending on thesituation. Because they both provide vital frameworks social workers can use toimplement best practice and can be adapted to the workplaces rules. I will alsoapply work accordingly to HCPC’s code of conduct and the ProfessionalCapabilities Framework.