46 The Life Model of Social Work Practice about pregnancy and her right to confidentiality. However, because preg- nancy poses an immediate danger to a 12-year-old, the worker is justified in violating the principle of confidentiality and notifying her parents. Principle 1 requires the protection of life and survival. The social worker must tell the youngster first that her parents have to be notified, affording her time to tell them herself, either alone or in the company of the social worker.) The Working Relationship We introduce students to the importance of the working relationship in facili- tating change. We emphasize that the relationship is a means to an end rather than an end itself. Students may assume that their goal—at least initially—is to create a relationship (or as our students have said, to “get their clients to like or at least trust” them). We emphasize in our teaching that a working relationship characterized by respect for and understanding of the client is a necessary but not sufficient condition for clients’ lives to improve. Early in the field practicum, field instructors may suggest that their students informally meet and talk with individuals who will become their clients. For instance, a student placed in an inpatient psychiatric facility might be asked to “go talk to Mr. Daniels in the day room,” while a student placed in a diver- sion program for juvenile offenders is told to “shoot some hoops with Devon.” At this early point in their learning, these directives may confuse students. Our students have complained, “How is ‘shooting hoops’ social work?” or con- clude, “Right now, I’m just [we have added italics for emphasis] getting to know Mr. Daniels, and once that happens, we’ll start working on his goals.” Students fail to understand that engaging the client in a working relation- ship is a first step in the work, not something that precedes or is separate from it. However, we also want students to understand that for some clients, engag- ing with the worker is a very challenging step in the work due to attachment issues, mistrust associated with cultural differences, the mandatory nature of the work, or other factors. Although discussion of this chapter will occur early in students’ practicum, students are likely to have some firsthand experience with clients (often reflect- ing what we have noted here about introducing themselves and getting to know their clients). 1. Elicit from students descriptions of their initial encounters with clients and use these to help students understand what a working relationship means and why it is essential to develop one. For example, building upon the previous scenario, the instructor might ask students to put themselves in the place of Devon and ask them to consider what it is going to be like for him to meet
(c) 2024 Columbia University Press. All Rights reserved.