Helping Individuals, Families, and Groups with Environmental Stressors 109 children exacerbate stress that clients already are experiencing and may dis- suade them from obtaining services. Residential facilities often undermine clients’ growth and well-being residents may have to congregate in small, uncomfortable, and uninviting communal spaces and have limited opportunity for privacy and “alone time.” Social workers—and the agencies that employ them—often overlook the significant role that the natural world may play in promoting wellness and well-being. Green spaces and parks provide individuals with sources of enjoy- ment and contentment. However, such spaces often are missing in impover- ished areas and may have become dangerous. Further, climate change and aging infrastructures have led to toxic contamination of water sources and soil and poor air quality, which disproportionately affect poor communities. 3. Social Work Skills: The Social Environment In chapter 8, we noted that workers’ and clients’ efforts shift back and forth between helping clients develop the skills that they need to interact more effec- tively with their environment and modifying the transactions themselves so that they are more responsive to clients’ needs and provide clients with more influence. In that chapter, we addressed the first aspect of this work. In this chapter, we describe the second. Coordinating skills involve workers more directly in clients’ lives and in their social and physical environments. They come into play when the guiding and facilitating skills described in the previous chapter are insufficient to bring about needed change. Workers and clients establish a division of labor in which clients assume as much responsibility as possible for directing and engaging in change efforts within their environment. When workers take on some or most of the responsibility for intervening in clients’ social and physical environ- ments, they must ensure that clients give informed consent as a way of involv- ing and empowering them. Because many clients experience psychological impotence as a result of experiences with marginalization and oppression, workers often must begin by mobilizing their energy and personal resources. Clients are encouraged to take small, incremental steps, which lead to willingness to take bigger ones. Workers further empower clients by lending their professional sta- tus, conveying to clients that they are not alone, and telling them “We’re in this together.” When social workers engage in mediating and collaborating skills, they bridge the gap between clients and the resources in the environment that they need. In mediating, the worker helps significant others to understand and respond to the needs of their clients, while collaboration actively involves others in
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