The Life Model of Social Work Practice 41 We present the case example of Jerome, a social work student placed in a residential treatment facility for children. He fails to understand that “play- ing” with his young client actually is social work. This introduces to students the idea that some clients, like Jerome’s client, Billy, struggle with attachment issues making a connection to the worker is not the purpose of the work, but it is work, given Billy’s past experiences with rejection, abuse, and abandon- ment. Consistent with our emphasis on evidence-guided practice, we include research on attachment issues in foster care. 6. Ongoing Agreement and Assessment All helping in life-modeled practice rests on shared definitions of life stress- ors and explicit agreements on foci and priorities. Worker:client agreement protects the client’s individuality, enhances self-direction, and strengthens the client’s coping skills. The process of arriving at agreement helps to struc- ture and focus the work, decreases the anxiety associated with the unknown and the ambiguity inherent in beginnings, and mobilizes workers’ and clients’ energy to direct toward the work. It also diminishes the power discrepancy between client and worker. Assessment is a continuous process, as the worker “listens” for manifest and latent content, attends to life transitional and environmental issues, and explores client perceptions. In constructing valid and reliable assessments, worker and client tasks include collecting relevant, salient, and individualized data organizing data and analyzing and synthesizing data in order to draw reasoned inferences. In life-modeled practice, the focus is on clients’ strengths rather than deficits. Practitioners identify, mobilize, and build on clients’ strengths and resilience. Life-modeled practice also constantly assesses the role that the environment plays in explaining, exacerbating, and alleviating clients’ stress. 7. Phases of Helping Life-modeled practice views the helping process as being comprised of four phases: preparatory, initial, ongoing, and ending. We note that while we present each phase as distinct, workers and clients often move back and forth between them in response to changing circumstances and clients’ needs and goals. The preliminary phase of work requires workers to consider and anticipate clients’ views and perceptions, including those associated with seeing—or being forced to see—them. Social workers prepare themselves to enter peo- ple’s lives by reflecting on available data concerning potential clients’ probable
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