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Effective Social Work Approaches

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To practice without a theory is to sail an uncharted sea; theory without practice is not to set sail at all Susser 1968 cited in Lishman, 2005 pg 87. Therefore, this essay uses the task centred approach and the solution focused therapy to explain what is happening in the Banks family and how it affects Mark. It will predict Mark's future behaviour and it will suggest a plan of actions for intervention in order to make a difference in Mark's life. The problems identified in the banks family are; Mark's bullying behaviours, both at school and at home, his failure to form relationships with his counterparts, and lack of progress in his education. The essay will discuss the similarities and differences in the identified theories. It will also investigate the advantages and disadvantages of each of the theories. At the same time, the essay will explain how the concept of the anti discriminatory practice can be employed to underpin the interventions whilst using the identified theories.

Theoretically, Social work is influenced by the relationship between theory and practice from different perspectives in meeting the client's unique needs in a desired situation and at a particular period of time (Coulshed, 1988). Again, applying theory to practice involves different schools of thought whereas practitioner-client relationship maybe a difficult subject (Taylor and Devine, 1993). However the mandate here is to explain two major theories or approaches but highlights on a third is necessary. Firstly, 'Solution focused approach' developed by Erickson's (1963) and De Shazer (1972) at the therapy centre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The theory is regarded as a positive solution building approach focusing on the client. Clearly the aim is to explore the principles of anti-oppressive practice and involving the client in finding a solution to their problems. This approach does not focus on the past but what is happening in the present and future. It is focusing on two important issues, supporting clients to preferably explore their own future and taking into consideration when, where, with whom and how is it all happening to reach the desired outcomes in a shortest route. The features of solution based approach is to keep the client at the centre of their activity and encouraging them to bring about problems that need attention, furthermore, move from the problems to make slight changes in their behaviour and make some improvements. Nevertheless, it is assumed that clients feel part of their problems. The key concept of this approach is that focus is based upon the here and know with positive thinking and avoiding pre-judgmental. Above all solution based approach has no time limit as it tries to move from the centre to where clients can feel happier by reducing the problems step by step.

In another of school of thought, task-centred approach has been considered as a structured way of working with clients in a time limit framework. The most important part of the task-centred approach is partnership and empowerment; this involves two or more people working with a common purpose. Moreover, this theory builds on client's strength and avoids talking about their faults by providing the necessary help they need. According to coulshed (1988), those trying to bring about models for ethnic-sensitive practice favour task-centred approach that promotes anti-oppressive practice (Doel and marsh, 1992). Task centred is unique in that it breaks down the problems into small manageable components, it involves the social worker and the service user identifying the main problem(s) and then working out how to reformulate them in to easily manageable tasks. After the tasks have been agreed the next step is to divided them between the social work and the service user and then decide who is going to work on which task and over what period of time. Using this approach the social worker and service user look very closely at the presenting problem(s) and reformulating them into a range of small practical tasks. The task centred approach fits together well with anti discriminatory practice because it encourages the social worker to do what they do best by bring their expertise into the relationship and work alongside the service user. Okitikpi et al, (2010) argues that the core aspects of the task centered approach that include working with partnership, collaboration, service users strengths, building on confidence, systematic and responsive communication are the same core elements that characterise ADP.

Task-centred approach is seen to be effective with interpersonal concerns like those of mark. (Ramos and Tolson 2008 cited in Hepworth 2010 pg 379) Says that this theory is, "incompatible with mandated clients who refuse help or are unable to identify changes that they wish to change".

By direct contrast, the third approach, 'Attachment theory' by Bowlby (1973) which grew out of rejection of some aspects of psychoanalysis and childhood raring with no separation could have been used but it is not relevant in this case study.

Examining the influence of the 'task-centre approach' and the solution-focused therapy', there are similarities and differences which have to be highlighted. Firstly, the case scenario of the Banks family clearly indicates that there need to be an intervention process by using the task-centred approach or solution-focused approach. Ride and Epstein (1972) hypothesised on the task-centred approach as effective and more durable. Time-limit on the approach shows that changes could occur rapidly as all participants are motivated (Maslow, 1943). This involves eight areas of concern among which Behavioural problems, reactive emotional distress and difficulty in role performance are selected target problem areas. However, there are steps to be taken in task-centred approach: The first step is problem exploration, Agreement; second step is, formulating an objective, achieving the task(s), and finally terminations stage. To start with there were behavioural problems identified in the case of Mark, like yelling, fighting and disruptive. But as required the focus here is to move from what is wrong to what is needed to be done. Similar to the task centred approach is the solution focused approach; it is action oriented and uses a number of strategic questions to find out the solution to a series of problems that the client has. (Trepper et al 2006) cited in Hepworth (2010. Pg. 356). When using TCA with minors like Mark, the tasks involved in this are that there is need to work with the parents and teachers in a collaborative and anti-oppressive way to solve the problems, discuss basic care needs interest in how to help Mark to do his work in class, and work on his tantrums and arguments, discuss with parents how to get Mark to interact with other children and make arrangements for Mark to visit his father in order to came him down. (Enos 2008) cited in Hepworth (2010. Pg. 357) argues that lack of mandated contact from a family member can cause fear, a sense of failure, concerns about status and use the attitudinal weapons at their disposal may react with anger and a minimum refuse to cooperate.

Mark's parents need to reduce his inappropriate behaviour by developing skills to improve parent-child relationships for instance, listening and negotiating skills, teach Mark skills of approaching others, how to introduce himself, interact with others by engaging in conversations.

In evaluating the two approaches in the scenario there are advantages and disadvantages. In the 'solution-focused therapy', Mark is the focus and his self esteem is promoted. The problem is the primary concern not the client. SFA offers a positive approach working with the service users. The emphasis of engaging the service user to talk about solutions not just problems is an empowering method. The commitment to service users' empowerment, a focus on strengths and service users' capacities towards improving their situations and reaching solutions is a significant contribution. In contrast, there is negative focus and there will be problem as poor communication skills will lead to poor practice by social workers. Some aspects of the SFA have been criticised for being directive in nature in particular the assessing of tasks and the emphasis on solutions. "Research conducted by the family therapist using the approach revealed discrepancies between the client's experiences and the observations made by their therapists related to the outcomes", (Metcalf et al 1996) (Cited in Hepworth 2010 pg.406). Storm (1991) and Lipchik (1997) cited in Hepworth 2010 pg. 406) maintain as a result of their work the primary focus on adherence to solution was embarrassing to some clients. The positive trust of the approach prevents the service user from discussing their real problems and to avoid talking about their concerns.

'In the task-centred approach', the problem is the main concern not Mark. He is empowered, considering his self esteem and independence. The approach is short termed and time-limited. In contrast, there is lack of motivation in this approach, the underlying problem has not been addressed, there is tendency that social workers might force Mark through coaching as to complete tasks.

Payne (1997) cited in Wilson et al (2008 pg371) suggests task centred approach may not be effective in situations where there are constant difficulties, where long-term psychological problems are the main issues or where users do not accept the right of the social worker or the agency to be involved. Reflecting in this case scenario it is seen that Ken comes from a dysfunctional family which made him spend most of his teenage life in the care of the local authority and this may have affected him psychologically and he may not want to cooperate with the social worker in order to make the approach effective.

Doel and Marsh (1992) suggest the service user's ability to think and reason is a key ingredient to the success of the approach. "In those cases where social work is appropriate but where the reasoning is impaired such as people with considerable learning difficulties or great degree of confusion, task-centred work is often not possible in direct work with that person", (Doel and Marsh 1942 cited in Wilson et al 2008 pg 99). However in the case scenario all the family members are in sound mental state so the approach is suitable.

A further disadvantage of task-centred is that where a wide range of problems is experienced, each of which interacts with other problems which threaten to over whelm the family the approach seems rather a weak response. It is argued that unless one is able to deal with problems on many fronts, the combination of these problems will continue to undermine the functioning of family members. For example if one family member has the capacity to reason, but when other members of the family are not prepared to engage in the same process and consistently undermine the efforts of the social worker and service user, the approach may not achieve much. In relation to the case scenario the approach will not be effective if Mark who has multiple problems refuses to cooperate.

In conclusion effective social work practice is based on principles and the application of theories or 'approaches give to different explanations and lead to different practice' (Howe, 1987). According to research in to service-users' views of social work practice has highlighted that effective practice depends on the combination of good interpersonal skills and clear, organised practice. It is argued that when social work activities are clearly focused, problems clearly identified and specified goals set with service users, then studies produce positive results. This essay has looked at two approaches and how they can be used by a social worker to help engage the Banks family in order to get the necessary support to improve Marks behaviour problems.


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