94 Beginnings start, which means initially focusing on no more than three issues. Decisions in this regard reflect clients’ sense of urgency and the immediacy of need and an assessment of which challenges are likely to lead to a quick resolution and begin to alleviate other problems. 9. Beginnings with Groups and Families Additional tasks and skills are required when beginning with families and groups. We clarify our own role and purpose, as well as the role and purpose of the group or family meeting. Group members must understand that the worker’s responsi- bility is to connect them to—and help them help—one another. We must be able to explain directly, clearly, and in a nonjargonized way the concept of mutual aid. In social work practice with families, workers clarify for members in atten- dance that their role will be to help them come to an agreement on the sources of stress and establish hoped-for outcomes on which members can commit to collaborate. In developing a common purpose with families and groups, the social worker directs and redirects member interactions to one another and helps them to express both common and different perceptions. The worker also solicits from members their reasons for, and their perception of, their stressors, and elicits feedback to ensure that the members themselves and the members and the worker are on the same page. Teaching Methods and Skill The Context of the Helping Relationship: Degree of Choice Begin this line of inquiry with a brief lecture on the conceptual, empiri- cal, and practice issues associated with beginning mandated, offered, and sought services. 1. Ask students to consider the context of the services that they and their agency provide to clients. Students usually are able to identify mandated services when the mandate is clear, as in court-ordered treatment, but have a harder time identifying it when it is more subtle. If possible, identify three settings that reflect mandated, offered, and requested services. For each, ask the stu- dent to describe a typical client, and then have the class engage in anticipa- tory empathy and tune in to the clients’ feelings and those of the worker. 2. Because students often struggle with recognizing when services are mandated or involuntary, solicit another example and ask students to consider how they might directly acknowledge and address that mandate.
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