In today’s article, we’ll be addressing one of the foundations of social work practice, the strengths perspective. I hope you enjoy, and perhaps even apply this approach to whatever profession you find yourself in.
Side Note: References will be at the bottom. The majority of the article will come from what I’ve learned thus far at university, so I will attempt to sum it up in a clearly understood manner. Sources will be used as necessary.
Defined clearly and concisely, the Strengths Perspective is a technique used in social work that provides that no matter the client, situation, or dilemma, there is ALWAYS a positive or a strength present. Always.
For those actively practicing in the field, you may have or had a client in which it seemed virtually impossible to find that light at the end of the dark and very long tunnel. But there is one. Even if it is incredibly minuscule and mediocre.
This practice is widely used, in a sense, as a form of positive reinforcement. Rather than focus on what problems and issues the client has, we like to concentrate on everything that has gone well, and why or how it has done so. This provides the client with a sense of pride and accomplishment, even if the initial goal was not met. It further allows the client to try again, and gives them further encouragement to attempt the task at hand and not fear failure.
Aside from maximizing small accomplishments, the Strengths Perspective also focuses on a client’s resources and talents. This could include his or her access to a day care, willingness to try various types of treatment, or having flexible employment. This perspective is not simply limited to client characteristics or abilities, but the agencies, people, and other assets accessible by the individual (Kim, 2013).
As it is within social work education, provided below are three case studies in order to practice using the Strengths Perspective. Turn on your optimistic thinking, and determine the strengths and resources each client has!
Angela is a 24 year old Caucasian mother of two. She did not graduate from high school, and is having difficulty finding employment to support her children. Angela’s mother has been watching the kids (Alex- Age 3, and Jamie – Age 5) while Angela searches for employment. She is wondering what more she could do in order to be more desirable to employers. She is feeling discouraged because of her rejection by multiple employers.
- Angela’s mother watches her kids for her! Free child care is a great asset when she needs to spend time in the job search.
- Her children are a motivator for her! As long as they’re around, she won’t stop trying and working hard!
- Angela is actively searching for employment! The fact that she wants and needs a job, and is looking for one is great! This shows she is motivated and looking forward to receiving assistance.
- She is curious as to what would make her more desirable! This could mean that she’s open to finishing her high school education, getting her GED, or exploring work training or volunteer experience. Openness is key!
Daniel is a 31 year old Caribbean-American who has been struggling with alcohol addiction. Every time he believes he has a good day, he gets negative comments from family members telling him that he will just relapse again. He is currently attending two different AA meetings, and goes to both of them every week. Despite his best efforts, he continues to find himself reaching for a bottle or going to a bar in moments of discouragement or despair. He is wondering what else he could do to relieve stress instead of “drowning his sorrows.”
- He is going to 2 AA meetings, and he attends them regularly! He has connections and relationships to other who are struggling with this same problem, and if something comes up where a meeting must be cancelled, he has a backup!
- He has tried to stop in the past! (As seen in the “despite his best efforts).
- He is wondering what more he could do! Like Angela, he wants to know his options for improvement, and different strategies for success.
Maria is a 43 year old Hispanic woman who just had her 16 year old daughter, and 10 year old son placed in a foster home due to child maltreatment, as stated by the CPS worker. When she meets with you for parenting classes, she is angry and states she doesn’t care what you have to say – She is a good parent, and it’s her right to parent her children however she sees fit. During the parenting classes, she is listening to what you are saying, but she says, “I’ll come here for my required hours, but I’m not going to change anything!”
- She is mandated to come to parenting classes, and has a certain number of approved hours to fill. You can use this mandatory time to your advantage and go beyond the parenting classes in order to truly ‘touch her heart’ in order to change.
- Find out the parenting skills she does right, and why she thinks that way. Some of her techniques may have the foundation of “good parenting,” but result in maltreatment when it comes to executing.
- She listens to you during the classes! Even if she is saying that she will not utilize the skills, she is still learning them, and may unconsciously store them in her brain in order to use them later.
Kim, J. (2013-06-11). Strengths Perspective. Encyclopedia of Social Work.Retrieved 10 Jul. 2018, from http://socialwork.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199975839.001.0001/acrefore-9780199975839-e-382.