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A Video Recorded Interview To Look At Skills Social Work Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

I was asked to complete a video interview to practice my interviewing skills and analyse my ability to do so effectively. In this essay, I will highlight my strengths and weaknesses, and identify any future learning needs I wish to develop. It is vital for social workers to conduct successful and ethical interviews in their profession, it is therefore critical that I understand the values and techniques used, so that I myself can complete a profitable interview in the future.

Firstly, I considered practicalities, such as venue and environment, where I tried to create an atmosphere where the client felt comfortable. I tried to not consciously fidget or distract the client (by playing with my hair/hands) and tried to avoid any intrusions (no one knocked at the door) which could disrupt the client’s concentration or affect her mood. I also ensured that we had complete privacy throughout the interview, as this would make the client more comfortable and willing to share information.

The working alliance, outlined by Koprowska (2005), indicates that a more successful interview will take place when the interviewer is understanding, attentive and respectful. I believe I demonstrated all these qualities, but my strongest attribute was showing the client respect. I did this by listening attentively, demonstrated by appropriate eye gaze (Egan, 2010) and nodding (Koprowska, 2005), which suggested interest and encouragement (Mehrabian, 1972). I sometimes used vocal prompts, such as “yes yes”, which also encourages the client to continue talking, but do not act as interruptions to her speaking (Koprowska, 2005).

Another way in which I conveyed respect was by being courteous, which is highlight by the GCSS Code of Practice. I was polite and demonstrated good manners, but also communicated core values of social work such as anti-oppressive practice (by recognising the uniqueness of the client – Thompson, 2006) and adopting a person-centred approach (by putting the client’s needs first), which in turn highlighted my respect to the client’s worth and dignity (Koprowska, 2005).

I also delivered the interview in accordance with the GSCC Code of Practice by being clear and concise – I used direct, simple language and kept the conversation on the subject at hand and directed at the key issues.

I used both open and closed questions in the interview as I wished to gain factual information from the client (Koprowska, 2005), but I mainly used open questions as I wanted to “elicit more expansive answers” (p 83).

I also demonstrated use of a probing question so that the client would elaborate on one of her answers. Edenborough (2002) recognises that a probing question can be used to gain further information but it has been suggested that too many probing questions can make the client feel as though she is being interrogated. Therefore, I did not use many. However, they were not necessary as the client was quite articulate in her answers.

Tone of voice and pace of speech is another important aspect of verbal communication, especially when working with visually impaired service users (Koprowska, 2005). I believe my tone of voice varied appropriately in the interview, but I was not aware of the pace of my speech. However, I can recall from my shadowing experience, that the social worker spoke slowly and allowed small silences between questions to ensure that the service user had finished talking and giving their answers. I believe this to be a very valuable skill to have when working with visually impaired service users.

Walmsley (1994) reports that while only 7% of words and 38% of voice leads to communication, a majority of 55% of communication is due to gestures and expression, and Argyle’s (1975) research suggested that a person’s physical gestures and their mode of sitting can tell us much about that person. It is therefore vital to use non-verbal communication in social work interviews. I sat back in my chair and faced the client squarely to demonstrate a relaxed, open atmosphere to create a sense of involvement with the client (Egan, 2010). My facial expression was neutral with occasional smiles, but it was not distracting as Egan (2010) points out that this can create a tense and uncomfortable environment. Being natural helps put the client at ease (Egan, 2010). I demonstrated a natural persona by laughing with the client when she made a humorous comment. This showed empathy and hopefully added to the rapport building relationship.

However, this is the extent of my non-verbal communication and an area that should be improved to include non-vocal prompts and gestures. This will aid the client to understand and validate the verbal conversation I am communicating (Koprowska, 2005).

Another limitation in my interview skills is that I did not reflect or summarise at the end of the interview. Edenborough (2002) names the reflecting question, which is the ability to reflect back on the client’s answers, which is something I did not consider. Neither did I paraphrase, which “checks out understanding” (Koprowska, 2005, p87). In addition, I did not end the interview well. I did not conclude or summarise, which Koprowska (2005) identifies as being important to “collect up and agree key points” (p87). Although, I politely thanked the client for attending the interview, I demonstrated a very poor ending to the interview which should be improved.

Not only did I not end the interview well, I did not particularly start it well either. In the engage and explain phase of the interview, I said “hello” and informed the client that I would be asking her some questions, but I did not elaborate, did not introduce myself or check the client’s understanding about the purpose of the interview. This may have jeopardised our relationship and rapport-building. Fortunately in this case, I believe that this did not affect the conversation and there was open and free communication between myself and the client.

To conclude, I believe I demonstrated some strong qualities and abilities throughout the interview (for example, showing respect), but there are many aspects which I need to improve on, such as summarising and non-verbal communication. Although I attempted to create a friendly and relaxed environment, the interview appeared to be quite structured and forced, but this may have been because the interview was being recorded and assessed. However, this was my first interview that I have conducted and my nerves may have caused this slight inconsideration. Undertaking reflection upon the interview has highlighted the importance of preparation and planning needed for a successful interview and how this process with essentially help me to develop a more confident approach in future social work practice.

Argyle, M. (1975). Bodily communication. Methuen: London, UK

Edenborough, R. (2002). Effective interviewing: A handbook of skills and techniques. Kogan Page Ltd: London, UK

Egan, G. (2010). The skilled helped: A problem-management and opportunity-development approach to helping. Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning: Belmont, CA, USA

Koprowska, J. (2005). Transforming social work practice: Communication and interpersonal skills in social work. Learning Matters Ltd: Exerter, UK

Mehrabian, A. (1972). Non-verbal communication. Aldine Atherton: Chicago, USA

Thompson, N. (2006). Anti-discriminatory practice. (4th Eds). Palgrave Macmillan: Hampshire, UK

Walmsley, H. (1994). Counselling techniques for managers. Kogan Page: London, UK

UNIT TWO

SHADOWING A SOCIAL WORKER

The organisation in which my shadowing opportunity took place was the visual impairment team (VIT) in Rotherham. I shadowed the only social worker in the team for one day.

When people are experiencing sight problems, they are referred to an ophthalmologist by their GP or optician, where they are either registered as severely sight impaired or sight impaired. If consent is given, their information is passed on to the social services, where the VIT will contact them to arrange a home visit. I had the opportunity to assist SW* on two of these initial home visits.

The VIT offers a person-centred assessment of the care needs of people with a visual impairment and provides specialist equipment and independence training in mobility, communication and daily living skills.

Information about some of the resources available to service users was made apparent by the SW during an initial home visit which I was able to observe.

Debbie* was a widow in her 50s who had recently been registered as sight impaired. This was the first visit SW made to Debbie, and SW was interested in finding out what Debbie’s strengths and needs were. Debbie was quite articulate in explaining where she needed help and extra support. For example, she explained that the lighting in her lounge and bedroom was not bright enough for her to see, so SW explained that she would liaise with the council to fit brighter lights. Debbie also expressed that she had trouble reading, and was becoming bored of watching television all of the time, so SW recommended the talking newspaper and audio books, which Debbie was quite interested in. Debbie explained that she frequently visited a local resource centre to engage in activities and would be interested in other groups she could attend. Debbie lived in an elderly neighbourhood and found this quite isolating, and stated that she only had one regular friend. Debbie stated that she had previously been prescribed with anti-depressants, at this point SW advised Debbie to seek medical advice from her GP as it appeared that her isolation may be impacting on her emotional wellbeing.

On reflection I feel that the SW was able to investigate this further by effectively asking probing questions (see Edenborough, 2002). This communication skill is highly important for SW as verbal communication is vital in this area of social work, as non-verbal communication may be lost on the visually impaired service users. Gaining more information allowed SW to identify appropriate intervention (GP advice) as she was actively analysing/processing the information being given. This type of thinking is closely linked to reflective practice (see Fook & Gardner, 2007). When SW asked for my thoughts, I was also able to reflect on the situation and identify that although Debbie presented with low self-esteem and confidence, she appeared to be motivated by wanting to become more involved in community based resources/activities and therefore a good method of intervention would be to encourage and support her to access this..

Below is what I would consider to be an important quote from the ‘Person-Centred Support: What Service Users and Practitioners Say’ (2008) report:

“An idea which came from service users themselves will only be realised if individuals are empowered to play their full part, not only in determining their own lives but also in the transformation of public services” (p1).

‘Person-Centred Support: A Guide for Service Users’ (2008) identifies eight important aspects of person-centred support. These included choice and control, listening and information. SW listened intensively to Debbie and was able to pick up hidden feelings behind what Debbie said. SW also gave Debbie plenty of information about available resources and services, which allowed Debbie to have control and make choices about what sort of services she would like. Allowing service users to make their own choices is also written in the GSCC Code of Practice (1.3) and encourages anti-oppressive practice (AOP).

Dominelli (2002) states that in order for a practitioner to engage in AOP, they must “conceptualise their relationships with clients and move away from privileging their own expert knowledge while devaluing those of the people with whom they work” (p34). Essentially, this means that the social worker and service user should work in partnership, where they negotiate with one another to set and achieve goals and objectives (page 36). This empowers the service user and creates a person-centred approach. It was evident that SW adopted a person centred approach and was also able to empathise with the service user as she also had a visual impairment and is also herself a service user.

SW demonstrated her knowledge of section 5 of the National Occupational Standards (NOS). She had in-depth knowledge of the services available and of direct payments. During my shadowing opportunity, we discussed relevant legislation and SW reminded me that the VIT work within the statute of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA – 1995, 2005) and NHS and Community Care Act (1990).

SW demonstrated many skills and values, which are outlined by the Code of Practice. For example, SW promoted Debbie’s independence by assisting her to understand her rights (3.1) and promoted her interests by treating her as an equal (1.4), which is also in accordance with the DDA. SW worked in accordance with the NOS by exercising good practice and contacting Debbie after she was referred to the VIT (2G) and by arranging a formal initial assessment to assess Debbie’s needs (2H), which is also in accordance with the NHS and Community Care Act.

Prior to my shadowing opportunity, I was worried as to whether I would be able to follow all the rules and procedures set out by the Code of Practice and NOS once in the world of social work, but after observing SW I was assured that knowledge and skills would come with practice and time. I was already familiar with some of the theoretical perspectives and legislation behind SW’s work and believe completing any forthcoming placement will allow me further opportunities to apply theory to practice and to identify appropriate methods of intervention in different social work settings.

*False names have been used to respect the confidentiality of the social worker and service user.

Disability Discrimination Act (1995, 2005)

Dominelli, L. (2002). Anti-oppressive social work theory and practice. Palgrave Macmillan: Hampshire, UK

Edenborough, R. (2002). Effective interviewing: A handbook of skills and techniques. Kogan Page Ltd, London

Fook, J. & Gardner, F. (2007). Practising critical reflection: A resource handbook. McGraw-Hill Companies: Berkshire, UK

General Social Care Council Code of Practice for Social Care Workers (2004)

National Occupational Standards for Social Work (2002)

National Health Service and Community Care Act (1990)

Person Centred Support: A Guide for Service Users (2008) – Joseph Roundtree Foundation

Person Centred Support: What Service Users and Practitioners Say (2008) – Joseph Roundtree Foundation

UNIT THREE

REFLECTING ON FUTURE LEARNING NEEDS

During the past five months, I have gained a wide theoretical/knowledge base of social work principles and had the opportunity to apply this to some practical practice experiences (interview and shadowing). Reflecting on these experiences has helped me to identify some key areas which I feel may need to be improved in order to develop my learning, and are highlighted within the body of this report.

Writing assessments and reports has been recognised as core skills in social work practice. Therefore, it is essential that I am capable of collecting and presenting information in the form of an assessment/report, especially as my placement is with a Youth Offending Team and I will be required to write coherent reports for other professional bodies that can provide accurate insight of service user experiences and needs that are backed up by relevant theory and knowledge. From completing the ICT assignment, I have gained knowledge on how to format Word documents and search for information on the internet, which will be highly useful when it comes to writing a report. Although I possess these basic skills, learning how to complete a successful assessment/report within legislative and policy frameworks is a major area for development, as this will play a large role in my placement.

A major learning goal for my next academic year is that of reflective thinking and writing. Before starting this course, I had not completed a reflective account of writing. Rather, I had only completed experimental reports and critical essays. Even though my skills in reflective writing are improving, I still find this quite difficult.

I also need to improve my ability to critically reflect upon my work. Giddens (1991) highlights that I will have to “constantly adapt to changing conditions” (cited in Fook & Gardner, 2007, p10) in the world of work, and critical reflection will allow me to ‘stand back’ to analyse the issue and manage it more effectively, which in turn will act as a process for me to learn and develop my professional practice (Fook & Gardner, 2007).

In order to critically reflect back on my practice, I must first learn how to effectively apply theory to practice. I must use a theoretical framework to inform my decisions when on my placement, and then use formal and informal knowledge sources to guide my practice (Oko, 2008).

The GSCC Code of Practice clearly points out that a social worker “must strive to establish and maintain the trust and confidence of service users” (p14). This is vital to form a healthy professional relationship between the social worker and the service user. Service users may be vulnerable and susceptible to discrimination or unjust treatment; therefore, the social worker must not abuse the service user’s trust or demonstrate oppressive practice, but instead be honest and trustworthy (2.1), communicate in a straightforward way (2.2) and respect confidential information (2.3). I believe two of the most important aspects highlighted by the Code of Practice is that the social worker should be reliable and dependable (2.4) and should honour work agreements and arrangements (2.5). Service users, who can sometimes feel lost and helpless, rely on their social worker to provide services and support to help them lead an independent life as possible, but if the social worker cannot commit to agreed meetings or agreed plans (Koprowska, 2005, comments on the importance of punctuality), the service user’s trust and confidence in the social worker and social care services will diminish. Social workers should be sensitive to the needs and experiences of service users and should act appropriately. I aim to develop my skills in understanding the experiences of service users and IDENTIFYING their needs, as this information and knowledge will allow me to target specific potential problem areas and produce more focused support and services.

A way I have been able to demonstrate my ability to identify a service user’s need is when I visited Debbie* during my shadowing opportunity. Debbie had sight problems, and the aim of the visit was to assess any specific areas that she may need help/SUPPORT with. Later, when discussing/reflecting with the social worker I was shadowing, I was able to identify that although Debbie needed practical sight-related help, (e.g. brighter lights in her lounge), she also appeared to be isolated/depressed and have low self-esteem. I discussed/considered various group activities and social groups that may help Debbie to overcome her loneliness and boost her confidence in herself. These were discussed with Debbie, to ensure a person-centred approach was taken and allowed her choice and control. Adopting this approach essentially lends support to the principles of anti-oppressive practice (Thompson, 2006).

Another way in which I believe I have demonstrated sensitivity towards service users was in my video interview. Although this was not conducted with a service user, this video analysis enabled me to reflect back on my performance, where I realised I showed great respect towards the client. This is a skill I will transfer when practising social work.

Although I believe to have some shown some strengths in my interview assessment and shadowing experience, questioning my techniques has helped me to consider areas on which I need to improve. I acknowledge that my reflecting and summarising in the interview was weak and is an area I definitely need to work on. I must do this to ensure that the client understands the information which was referred to and understands any goals, aims or objectives (Koprowska, 2005).

I learned from both experiences that effective communication is of critical importance when working with service users and must be a two way process that values the input of service users. Reflecting on my shadowing experience and working with clients who experience sight impairments is a good example of how communication is key, especially verbal communication, as non-verbal communication and the client’s ability to interpret body language may be lost on them (Koprowska, 2005).

As a social work student I need to develop on all of these skills during my placement and to build on my academic learning to progress professionally. In addition, I need to increase my confidence and ability to apply this to social work practice and intervention. I acknowledge that continuous reflection of my learning needs is going to be vital to ensure that I become a competent social worker. One who can successfully transfer these learned skills and attributes to different social work settings and to different service user groups to ensure that the best possible care and support is provided.

*False names have been used to respect the confidentiality of the service user

General Social Care Council Code of Practice for Social Care Workers (2004)

Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity. Polity: Cambridge, UK

Koprowska, J. (2005). Transforming social work practice: Communication and interpersonal skills in social work. Learning Matters Ltd: Exerter, UK

Oko, J. (2008). Transforming social work practice: Understanding and using social work theory. Learning Matters Ltd: Exeter, UK

Thompson, N. (2006). Anti-discriminatory practice. (4th Eds). Palgrave Macmillan: Hampshire, UK

Fook, J. & Gardner, F. (2007). Practising critical reflection: A resource handbook. McGraw-Hill Companies: Berkshire, UK


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