School social worker unit in St. Peter Secondary School received a referral from class teacher of F.1 class. The teacher mentioned that she noticed one of her student, named Judy Cheung, 13 years old female, avoided joining group activities in the class. The teacher also noticed that she also cried suddenly in the class sometimes. The teacher started to talk with and came to understand that Judy was constantly bullied by her classmates since she admitted to the secondary school. Judy also mentioned that sometimes, her belongings were destroyed and she was hit by her class mates in the school. So, the teacher referred the case to School social work.
The worker started interviewed Judy after building the rapport and explained about the confidentiality of the interview sessions. Total 3 individual interviews were conducted by the worker to collect information and do the assessment towards Judy upon different perspectives including personal, family and social and psychological.
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The worker gathered the followings information during the 3 interview sessions with the client.
Genogram / family background and relationship
The client, Judy, is from the single parent family and their parents divorces since she was in Primary school. She herself and her brother named Andy Cheung, 15 years old F.2 student, staying together with their mother. Her mother, Madam Wong, 44 years old, is a cleaning worker and sole income generator of the family. Her brother is not in the same school with Judy.
According to the Judy expression, Madam Wong is committed mother towards her children, working very hard to earn sufficient money for their education expenses.
The client is in good health condition and no physical illness was noticed.
The client was in depressed mood. She used a lot of expression of her strong depressive mood of emotion such as her life is “Meaningless” or “Loneliness”. She even used the word “I am the one who is not Worth to Exist” which showed strong helplessness of her emotion.
They are living in the private rental flat which seems sufficient for their family because they have only 3 family members.
As the client mother was the only one income generator of the family and there was no social or financial support system for them as the mother is from the mainland china migrated to Hong Kong. As she is working as a cleaner, her income seems just enough for her two children to go and study. According to the client expression during 3 interviews, there is no current outstanding financial problem within the family even though they might not have much saving money.
The client is now studying F.1 of St. Peter secondary school and she does not work any part time work so far.
History of violence/abuse
During the interview sessions, the client expressed that she had been constantly bullied by her class mates since she enter into this secondary school. The first incidence started after the “Parent Days” event in the school where he cannot bring her father (who is already divorced and with next marriage in main land) and her mother (who is very busy with her work). She brought her elder brother but he is too calm and not showed interest and caring towards her. The client believed that due to that event, her class mates noticed that she is single parent child. She also continued believed that due to that facts, she is “weak” and she started staying away from the class mates. Then the class mates started bullying towards her, teasing her and throwing away books into rubbish bins and made fun upon her. She did not voice out, fought back or told to the class teacher as she believed that if she responded like that, she had to suffer more severe bullying in future.
Mental illness record
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
The client did not have any mental illness record in the past.
The client mentioned that she had good friends when she was in primary school but now they all are attending in different school which she stated as “good schools”. She also mentioned that they are now in different world and she did not wish to bother or gave trouble to them.
The client also felt that as her mother was busy for both her income generation work as well as her house work so it was not fair for her to consult or discuss with her mother regarding her issues of bullying. According to the client saying, her brother is also busy with his study and he is a smart student compare with her. She also felt that as her brother is smart and doing fine in his school work, if she expressed her current difficulties of bullying by class mates in the school to her mother, her mother might feel depress or angry towards her. Currently, the client did not have any support network to overcome her current difficulties.
When discussing for the coping strengths with the client, the client mentioned that she cannot do anything back to them nor ask for assistance to other person. The current coping strategy she is practicing is bringing along with all her belongings whenever she goes, so her class mates cannot throw away her books. But still, when the class mates hits her, she has to withstand of this physical hurts.
Previous service received and its effectiveness (if any)
No history of previous service received.
It is very sensitive to use the word problem in this case as the client consistently mentioned that she is not a problem and her class mates are the problems. She even mentioned that the person who should come and meet with social worker is not her and should be her class mates. It is quite sensitive to use the words “Problems” in this case during the interview sessions. But in this report, for easier to express technically, the worker will use the word “problem”.
The worker identified the following issues and underlying problems after interviewing with the client.
- Not joining to group activities in school
- Sometimes suddenly crying in the class
- Constantly bullying by class mates
- The client did not voice out, respond or ask for assistance from class teacher
- The client's belief of being weak which lead her to be in this situation of bullying by class mates
- The client's belief of discussing with her mother might create conflicts among mother and herself and giving burden to her mother
Analysis of problem
According to the Albert Ellis (1913 - 2007) A-B-C theory of personality, the worker analysis the problem of this case as follows:
A (Activating event) B (Belief) C (Emotional and behavioral consequences)
In this case, the A (activating event) of the client start from the “Parent days” event in school where the client cannot brought her parents on that day and she can brought only her brother. This A (activating event) lead to B (belief) of the client as she was from the incomplete family which was known noticed by her class mates, made her feels “weak” and “incomplete” in her thoughts and belief. As a consequences of this A (activating event) and B (belief), which finally lead the client to C (emotional consequence) such as not joining to group activities inside the class which made her social exclusion from the class, the class mates started bullying and making fun towards her. These all made her more social dissociation from the class and vicious cycle started.
Strength and opportunities
The worker successfully identified the following strength of the client as well as the opportunities for client during the interviewing and assessing the client with different perspectives by using multi-dimensional bio-psychosocial vulnerability assessment model in holistic approach.
- The client had good friends in primary school which reflect that the client possess ability to made good friend in her past.
- The client did not fail any examination in secondary school even though she had been constantly bullied by her class mates.
- The client also helped her mother by sharing the house work of her mother such as cleaning the house, washing dishes in addition to studying very hard for her school works which showed her concerned and caring towards her mother.
- The client explicitly mentioned that she loved to her mother very much
- She even though not explicitly mentioned that she loved her brother but implicitly proud of having a smart and bright brother (she mentioned that her brother is not looking after her or not helping her home works, but the worker noticed that her eyes showed bright when she mentioned about her brother).
- She had very strong resilience to stand all these hardships of many class mates bully towards her by herself alone.
- She also expressed that her mother might not feels good when her mother know that she had been constantly bullied by her class mates and her mother will definitely wish the client to respond back something to them and the client also really wish to change.
- The class teacher of the client is concerned about her and gave the commitment to help her in preventing further bullying by class mates.
- The class representative, who the client mentioned, is very smart and calm but so far he did not help her. But on the other hand he is not in the part of class mates who bullied her so if the class teacher assign him as special task to help her, the client feel that it might work.
- There are also numbers of class mates who are neutral, not bullied towards her might also become her friends when the class representative start making friend with her.
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The worker conceptualize this case as following according to the A-B-C theory of personality and using the Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)(Corey 2005).
A (Activating event) B (Belief) C (Emotional and behavioral consequences)
D (Disputing intervention) E (effect) F (New Feelings)
The worker believed that once the client can identified her own irrational belief, and if the client can understand how to detect debate or discriminate her irrational belief, the problem can be solved out. The worker managed to help the client to identify the irrational beliefs in her thought and mind during the last interview which led her to motivate to change.
The worker also believed that the social support system which in this case is mainly family support and school support is very crucial for the client to change and solved the problem. The worker identified strengths of the client as well as opportunities for the client and explained these to the clients so that the client became aware of her own strength and opportunities giving the feeling that “She is not alone on the World”.
In this case, the worker used both REBT and strength based approach towards the client as well as some confrontational counseling and motivational interview as well depending upon the circumstances.
Individual interview following by counseling and psychotherapy for individual case work toward the client was done.
Recommendation for Follow-up
The client agreed to have another meeting session together with her class teacher to confirm the commitment from the class teacher to help her in the future when there is a bullying by her class mates. And the worker and client also wish to discuss with the class teacher for possibilities of assigning special task towards the class representative to help her in the class.
The client also try to invite her mother in some special events in the school if present in the future so that she can feel more safe by showing her class mates that she had a very caring mother on her side.
The client also promised to take part in group activities especially in sports activities which she mentioned she interested in sports.
The worker believed that further more follow up sessions might need for her to solve her problems and to become active member of the class, the school, in the family and even in the society as a good member of the society.
- To identified the irrational beliefs by the client herself
- To detect, debate or discriminate these beliefs by client herself
- To appreciate her own strengths and using these strengths to tackle the problems when she face
- To understand the opportunities which are strong social support network for her and best use of it when she face problems and difficulties.
- Meeting with the class teacher and asking the commitment for protecting the client from class mates being bullied
- Discussing with the class teacher to explore the possibilities of assigning the class representative to help her in the class
- Actively taking part in group activities
- Try to make friends towards class mates who are neutral (not bullying towards her)
- Bring the mother to the school and introduce with the class mates
Long term Plan
- Try to make outstanding in social activities especially in sport activities which the client feels she is competent
- To become active member of school, family and society
Analyze and evaluate the skill(s) used
The social worker used various types of communication and helping skills during the individual interview and counseling sessions.
Firstly, the worker warmly greeted to the client and tried to build the rapport. After that the worker mentioned to the client that the interview sessions will keep as confidential to gain the trust of the client. And the worker asked the client opinion and understanding of why she has been referred by the class teacher. The worker also tried to find out the underlying belief and emotion of the client by asking like “Please use one word to express your current feeling”.
The worker tried to use the third wave of therapeutic paradigm focus such as “Solution focused and strength-based approach” during the interview and counseling sessions.(Corey 2005). The worker tried to identified the “Strength perspectives” of the client by using the “Positive psychology” concept.(Egan 2007)
During the interviewing and counseling sessions, the worker emphasized not only the “therapeutic change” but also “relationship factors” which also account almost equally as important as “therapeutic change”.(Egan 2007)
When working with the client, the worker improve the “relationship factors” by using “values in action” such as showing respect to ward the client, show the worker's genuiness and authenticity. The worker also tried to show congruency and acceptance towards the client. The worker also used empathy towards the client when client express her deep feeling both by verbally and non-verbally. The worker also tried to understand and appreciate diversity, and tried to empower the client by identifying the various strengths of the client and made them visualized by the client to aware of herself of her own strengths.
The worker also used various communication skills both verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Regarding the non-verbal communication skills, the worker emphasized upon the gesture, posture and also make the eye contact showing the sincerity and genuineness towards the client. The worker also try to use the behaviour and body movement such as eye light up, nodding head, leans forward to improve the relationship between the client to get more confidence from the client. The worker believed that the therapeutic factors or interventions are more effective when the relationship factors are strong. The worker also effectively used the appearance and space of the counseling room such as table and easy chair for the client.
Regarding the verbal communication skills, the worker effectively used the voice by well animated with proper tone, voice, clearness, sharpness during talking with the client.
The worker also practically used the “Attending skills” especially SOLER (Egan 2007) by sitting squarely with the client, sitting with open posture toward the client, occasionally lean forward towards the client to show the seriousness or emphasized topics during the counseling sessions. The worker also made eye contact and doing the counseling sessions in relaxed position which all brings the confidence and safety feeling towards the client.
The worker also used “Active listening” by listen actively, listen accurately and listen for meaning when the client is talking. The worker also encouraged the client to talk and express her concern and emotions as much as she can. And also in the meantime, the worker clarified some points which are not clearly expressed by the client. The worker also showed attentive empathic listening and if needed, verified back with the client for the meaning of the words or sentences that the client expressed.
The worker also paraphrased and summarized the sentences that the client said to make sure that the worker understanding are exactly what the client wish to say. The worker also used various open questions and probing to give the room for the client to express her feelings, beliefs and emotions as much as she can.
In the later part of sessions, the worker start focusing on “Solution building interview” by going to the direction of well formed goals and development of solution.(Corey 2005; Egan 2007). The worker used various complimenting (direct or in-directly) to appreciate the client's strength, identifying self efficacy and motivation and gradually draw the attention of the client to reach to goal setting. While doing so, the worker used “Strength-oriented questions and interview” and also “Normalizing” techniques to strengthen the strategy of solution building interview.
Identify what skill(s) you could have
- Mastering in effective communication skills (verbal and non-verbal)
- Attending skills
- Active listening skills
- Questioning & probing skills
- Linkage of theoretical background of therapeutic interventions (different counseling and psychotherapy techniques) into practice by embedded with communication and helping skills
Identify the strengths and weakness in your practice during the interview
- Theoretical background of the communication and helping skills
- Previous experiences of individual counseling (in local language and not in English)
- Willing to learn and practice
- Need to improve listening skills
- Need to learn more therapeutic interventions models of counseling and psychotherapy
- To link more theory with practice sessions
Corey, G. (2005). Theroy and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. Belmont, USA, Thomson Brooks/Cole.
Egan, G. (2007). The Skilled Helper-A Problem Management and Opportunity - Development Approach to Helping. Australia, Canada, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States, Thomson Brooks/Cole.