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Engagement: The First of Four Steps in the Problem Solving Model of Social Work

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Engagement is considered one of the most important parts of working with a client. Coady and Lehmann (2008) consider engagement the first of four steps in the problem solving model of social work. Engagement can begin as early as the first over the phone contact or referral notification with the client. To become aware of the client’s background (ecology and life circumstances) is crucial part of this stage. It is also important for the social worker to become in tune with their own thoughts and beliefs when coming into contact with this client for the first time. After tuning into the client it is key for any social worker to make a client feel welcomed with a sense of warmth, empathy and respect. Too much empathy and warm, however, can be detrimental to the course of service provision. Coady and Lehmann (2008) note that the engagement process is never ending and can continue well into counseling.
As a client, being welcomed with warmth and empathy is of the utmost importance. Being welcomed into an office with a cold handshake and a gesture to take a seat in a cold plastic chair without any other words would be disconcerting. This type of environment may cause more anxiety and fear for me as a client. A welcome with a smile and some idle chitchat that leads to the discussion of the presenting problem would be the best way to engage me. To talk about the issue indirectly is one of the best ways to get to know what I am worried about. Also, finding a common connection during the first few sessions is also a great way to engage the client. Something like common food interests, sports or clothing would be a great way to make me feel comfortable.
Negroni-Rodriguez & Morales (2001) discussed the relationship between val...


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...kers Code of Ethics of National Association Social Workers (2008) Retrieved from: http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp
Negroni-Rodriguez, L. K., & Morales, J. (2001). Individual and family assessment skills with Latino/Hispanic Americans. In R. Fong & S. Furuto (Eds.), Culturally competent practice: Skills, interventions, and evaluations (pp. 132-146). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon
Robbins, S., Chatterjee, P., & Canda, E. R. (2006). Contemporary Human Behavior Theory: A Critical Perspective for Social Work (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon
Scarlach Darmon-Rodriguez, Robinson, Feldman, R. (2000) Educating social workers for an aging society: A vision for the 21st century, Journal of Social Work Education, 36, 521-538
Sheskin, I.M. (2010) Elderly Jewish: an increasing priority for the American Jewish community?, Changing Jewish Communities, 58, 1-18.


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