The DVD documentation made it possible to preserve my interview almost intact and the replay of each segment for repetitive examination by different observers and me. Based on that, I make a detailed examination of the process I had with the client and self-evaluation as to how far I can apply essential strategies of interview.
Reflection and self-assessment of own posture and manifestations are essential for improving the practice skills. Kadushin (1983:3) believes that educating toward good interviewing guides the student to learn how to manifest, behaviourally, the appropriate feelings by applying the correct techniques because correct techniques are the behavioural translation of the helpful attitude.
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I interviewed the client ‘K,’ a mother living with her partner, and her three children are between the ages of 15, 13 and 9. The elder son is autistic, and he is studying for the GCSC examination. He is missing classes due to regular appointments and needs some support to pursue education properly. The client is engaged most of her time with the elder son and cannot give proper attention to the younger children. Her partner is employed and has long working hours. Since the elder child has special needs and has academic lapses mentioned, the client is thinking of a parallel or exceptional teaching support.
Although a bit ambivalent about the outcome, she feels it may be helpful for her to find more time to give attention to the younger children as well. It has been found at the outset that the client recognizes that she has a problem that she cannot resolve on her own, for which she depends on a formal professional source. The objective of my first interview, as Perlman (1979, p 21) put it up, was to help the “needer” of the services to become a “user.”
The introduction is considered to be significant in the process of the interview. The process under discussion has been managed in a way with warm and respectful welcoming and introducing me as a student social worker. Asking permission to address the client in her first name and casual discussion about the weather were aimed to make her comfortable through neutralizing the formal interview atmosphere and building up a rapport. However, the feeling harboured by me being the maiden experience and video recording made me nervous and unsettled in the initial stages. I could not state the ground rules of the interview correctly.
Social work interviews need to gather information about the personal life of the interviewee. The assurance of confidentiality enables the interviewee to disclose such information. Confidentiality can be termed as a solid assurance to interviewees that in relating themselves to the interviewer, they are not making such information available to a broader public reduces the level of ego threat and facilitate communication (Kadushin and Kadushin 1997 p.118). Moreover, it is a professional obligation for the interviewer and a right of the interviewee. The issue of confidentiality has been seriously considered in the interview, but the client did not have any concern about losing the confidentiality of the information.
Encouragements play a vital role in social work interviews. It may not be termed as the fuel but the lubricant of the interview. But it shall be minimum. “Minimal encouragements include a broad range of activities from saying “yes” or ‘go on’ or asking ‘what happened next?’ to non-verbal encouragement such as making eye contact, nodding, orienting the interviewer’s body towards the person and leaning slightly forward.” (Crisis Training Manual TDMHDD p.22). This has a potent effect in reinforcing the interviewee’s attitude and helps to communicate smoothly. In the present interview, I have attempted to encourage the client verbally and non-verbally, but to the minimum possible extent. She, however, has spontaneously provided rich information with little encouragement.
Open and closed questions are considered the primary technique to collect information from the service user. Among these, open questions are considered more important. (Miller & Rollnick, cited in Mc Murran and Hollin, 1993). These are designed to give freedom of choice, enabling service users to express their thoughts and feelings in their own words and in their own time to choose or ignore specific concerns (Trevithick, 2006 p.160) In the initial interview, open-ended questions have got a crucial role in information gathering by giving freedom for the interviewee to talk. On the other hand, closed questions are more focused and give less freedom to the interviewee. These types of questions are used to collect basic or factual information.
The attempt made to make use of open and closed questions were aimed to improve the effectiveness of information gathering. For example, the discussions have started with an open question “How can I help you today”. It could help the interviewee to take her own freedom to present the problem. Then the use of closed questions could help me to gather more focused information. But I could have avoided asking multiple questions that I did at many parts of the interview that might have disturbed the client. Also being a beginning practitioner, I have not succeeded in applying discriminate use of open and closed-ended questions, but the process involved more closed questions. I will try this in my future interviews.
Paraphrasing expresses interest and focuses on the individual and his problem. Repeating the intent or content of what the person has stated is very helpful in making sure that the respondent understands the meaning of the words the person is using. Most people do this when communicating on a regular basis. (Crisis Training Manual TDMHDD, p.22) Paraphrasing is considered the selective restatement of the information gathered by the interviewer to ensure what is being communicated. In short, it is a process of confirming what has been said and heard. My attempts in the interview to paraphrase were intended to confirm the information gathered. For example, after she presented the problem, I said, “Oh your son with special needs is highly interested in academics” and “what I understood from your briefing…” to paraphrase the information. I was careful that it should not be an imitative repetition.
Reflection provides the person with an idea about the interpreted facts from the information provided. It can be helpful to identify and confirm what they are feeling and projecting. Reflecting can be treated as conveying the person about the way they are being seen, such as “You look really worried” or “You sound very anxious”. Reflecting is a type of compassionate feedback on the situation. (Kadushin and Kadushin, 1997). An attempt has been made in my interview with client ‘K’ to reflect on the situation after she explained the issues. I will try for listening with the active third ear for further improvement in practicing skills.
Creating good relationships involves being able to empathize with others. It describes an attempt to put us in another person’s place, in the hope that we can feel and understand another person’s emotions thoughts, and motives. Empathy involves trying to understand as carefully and sensitively as possible, the nature of another person’s experience, their own unique point of view and what meaning this carries for that individual. (Trevithick, 2006 p. 153 & 154). It is an imaginary entry into the inner life of someone else (Kadushin and Kadushin, 1997 p.108). In the present interview, I showed warmth and concern which is reflected in my facial expressions as well as in my words.
Also, I demonstrated response to the latent as well as manifest content of the client’s communication. I have made a feeling in the client that I understood, sensitively and accurately the nature of her experience and the meaning that has for her. Application of this technique in the present interview received a remark from the client, as “You could understand my feelings as you did feel it yourself”. Similarly, sympathy is sometimes described as feelings for another person (passive) as opposed to empathy, which is described as feelings with another person (active) (Shulman, 1999 p.156). Sympathy can be a genuine human response to another person’s experience of destitution or pain. Becoming sympathetic can be helpful to build up relation with the client through recognizing the genuineness of the interviewee’s feelings.
Since the problem presented carried adequate transparency and clarity, the importance of prioritizing was minimal in the interview. Even though it had minimal importance, there was an attempt made to prioritize the major issue towards the end of the interview. Taking notes during the interview was found important, which can help in further reference and documentation. If the interviewer could make more notes, it can be helpful in future sessions. But it may be distracting too. In the interview conducted, it is proved that balancing note-taking without affecting the flow of the interview is highly important.
Summarising is one of the most useful techniques used in social work interviews. It can be used at the beginning and end of the session. An initial meeting has more importance in facilitating an accurate, short and snappy form of the partial or detailed break-up of what has been covered yet. It can help the social worker to congregate together the incongruent strands and central themes of what has been discussed and to look into that the understanding of interviewee and interviewer is the same. (Trevithick, 2006). Summarising can help service users to clarify their own thoughts and perceptions, and sometimes lead themes to look at the issue from a slightly different angle. ‘Often, when scattered elements are brought together, the service user sees the “bigger picture” more clearly.
Thus summarising can lead to new perspectives or alternative frames of reference’ (Egan, 1990 p.258). The summary enables both participants to get a perspective on the interview, highlighting the relationship of the many different, perhaps seemingly unrelated, aspects that have been discussed. In short, summarising is used to draw the session to a satisfactory end. In the present interview, I could not summarise my satisfaction. When analyzing the video document, the importance of summarising made with the help of the case notes is deeply felt. The remark made by the client in the feedback, however, has pointed that there was a sense of coherence to what has been taken place.
Giving and receiving feedback is considered as part of evaluating own practice (Kadushin, 1983 p.3). It helps to understand the negative and positive sides of both practitioners and service users. First, clear and honest feedback can have a practical application to ensure that a particular course of action is ‘on course’ in terms of achieving objectives. Second, feedback can be used as a way of noting the emotional content of the communication. The feedback part is one of the most exciting areas. In the light of the client’s opinion, most of the skills have been tested but the lack of experience reverberated throughout the interview
With respect to the proxemics, a normative distance is maintained between me and the client which is comfortable in English culture. I was aware that the interaction distance is a non-verbal variable of some significance in determining the interview interaction. The seating arrangement of interview participants is another proxemic non-verbal cue (Kadushin, 1993). The chairs were opposite each other but on the same side of the desk. Apparently, the client felt sufficiently comfortable by the open position (without a desk in between) and it encouraged open communication. I may not be granting such intimacy to any other client, as I am sensitive to the invasion of my personal space that may embarrass me. Next time, I will be trying to see the difference by placing the chairs at a 45- degree angle with the corner of the desk between the client and me.
In the kinesics, eye contact and observation is an essential component of attending behaviour (Hamilton, 1946). I looked at the client throughout the interview when she was talking to show my involvement and sincerity. It suggested and reinforced mutual affiliation. My client was wearing a corrective glass, and she removed it after the beginning of the interview. I initially felt it as her resentful withdrawal from the interview. Still, I soon realized that it was an indication of her willingness to make herself more available. . Leaning towards the interviewee, usages of the words like ‘alright’ ‘yah’ ‘I can understand,’ head movements etc., enabled the client to feel the genuineness and warmth.
But I have skipped asking the name of the children, spouse, the exact nature of the child in particular need and such other relevant questions. In the interview being evaluated, I maintained sufficient eye contact with the interviewee and maintained throughout the process. Similarly, the client placed her hands in the lap most of the time in a self-comforting manner. She was at times gesticulating freely with her hands as was talking about a matter with familiar and comfortable contents. A social worker has to communicate effectively with the client to obtain the required information by using skills to overcome the barriers. In the interview being reflected, I was careful to ensure good reception of the communication by selecting appropriate matching vocabulary and sensible to the client’s frame of reference.
Being in a new atmosphere, early stage of curriculum, and inexperience made me unsettled and nervous initially. Still, in the progressive stages, the situation was made comfortable and could border up the interview properly. I did not feel any cultural or gender barrier in making rapport and empathizing with the client. When looking from the client’s side, she could maintain her initial motivation during the interview. In appraising what needs to be covered, the interviewer needs expert knowledge of the particular problem presented. It was indeed not a success as I severely lacked information about the problem presented. But hopefully, this engagement may help in the future transition of the individual to professional.
- The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (2007) Crisis training manual Available at, http://www.tennessee.gov/mental/mgdcare/crisismanualmerged.pdf
- Egan, G. (1990) The Skilled Helper: a problem management and opportunity development approach (7th Edition) CA, Brookes/Cole
- Hamilton G. (1946). Principles of Social Case Recording. New York, Columbia University Press.
- Kadushin, A (1983). The Social Work Interview (2nd Edition). New York, Columbia University Press.
- Kadushin, A. & Kadushin, G (1997) The Social Work Interview: A Guide for Human Service Professionals (4th Edition) New York, Columbia University Press.
- Mc Murran, M and Hollin, C.R.(1993). Young offenders and alcohol-related crime. A practitioner’s guidebook, Chichester: Wiley.
- Perlman, Helen H.(1979). Relationship: The Art of Giving Respect, University of Chicago.
- Shulman L (1999) The Skills of Helping Individuals, families, groups and communities (4th Edition) IL Peacock
- Trevithick, P. (2006) Social Work Skills: a practice handbook Berkshire, OU Press