Helping Individuals, Families, and Groups with Stressful Life Transitions 99 The example from this chapter of Louise, the 13-year-old Jamaican girl, illus- trates the reality faced by many clients, which is that they often experience multiple life stressors, each of which exacerbates their stressful impact and undermines clients’ abilities to manage them. 2. Professional Methods and Skills Workers’ efforts focus on helping clients effectively cope with the biological, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and social demands associated with stressful life transitions, recognizing the specific cultural and environmental contexts within which they occur. The emphasis in life-modeled practice is on building upon resilience and expanding clients’ ability to grow through adversity. Life-modeled practice also attends to the thinking-feeling-doing connection. How clients think about their situation affects how they feel about themselves and others, and how they think and feel affects what they do. Clients often become locked into a self-defeating cycle, whereby their actions and those of others reinforce negative thoughts and feelings about self and others. Workers have the responsibility to break this cycle. In this chapter, we introduce to students the skills needed to recognize, understand, and process their thoughts and feelings about the life transitions with which clients struggle. In chapter 9, we will elaborate upon the skills needed to help clients do things differently (i.e., acquire the skills needed to interact more effectively with their social and physical environments). We make the point in both these chapters that our work can—and should—shift back and forth between helping clients better understand themselves and others and helping them better manage and negotiate their social, built, and natural worlds. 3. Social Work Skills In chapter 6, we introduced empathy skills that directly address clients’ feelings. In this chapter, we build upon those core empathy skills and discuss those that help clients both think and feel differently. Enabling skills convey the worker’s interest in clients and help them tell their story they include verbalizing feelings, legitimizing and universalizing thoughts and feelings, and waiting out silence. Exploring and clarifying skills provide direction and structure and often require the social worker to reach beyond generalities to get to the specific meaning of clients’ communications. Because clients often experience ambiv- alence about receiving—or being required to receive—help, exploring this ambivalence with clients directly and nondefensively is an essential skill that
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