68 Assessment, Evidence-Guided Practice, and Practice Evaluation she did to bring them about. Students must be persistent in asking questions that illuminate strengths and coping skills that clients may not know they have. They also must frame the questions in a way that produces a positive response. Saying “Tell me about a time when you got angry and didn’t lose your temper [or didn’t hit your kids as badly]” presumes there was such a time. On the other hand, saying “Was there ever a time . . .” does not. Ask students to think about intake interviews that they may have con- ducted and revisit them in light of the discussion of solution-focused ques- tions: What could they have asked that would have helped clients identify ways of coping that they may already possess? What happens if they don’t elicit any useful information? How could they reframe the question so that it is more productive? One of our students was placed in a child welfare setting and was working with a mom who had lost custody of her children due to abuse. She worried that if she asked the mom about times when she became angry with her children but didn’t abuse them, the woman would say that the reason was that she was high (she smoked marijuana daily). The class discussed how this information about a less-than-desirable solution could be used to identify a better one—one that would help the mom regain custody. The student could ask her, “What is it about getting high that makes it less likely that you will hit your kids when you get angry?” or “So, when you are high, you are more calm, and not as likely to get upset because you’re ‘chilling’. What’s another way that you get that feeling that doesn’t involve you being high (since you can’t get your kids back if you’re smoking dope)?” These follow-up questions begin with the underlying premise that the client can make things better for herself. The worker just has to ask the right questions. In this case, we point out that the worker asks, “What’s another way . . .?” rather than “Is there another way . . .?” 3. Introduce and explain the stages of change. Many agencies—and therefore students—assume that because clients ask for or are required to seek help, they are actually motivated to receive it. Therefore, ask students to think about their cases and identify instances when they assumed that clients were in the third or fourth stage (determination or action), when in fact they were either in the precontemplation or contemplation stage. With this understanding, ask students what hints or cues they may have missed that actually revealed their clients’ lack of motivation or ambivalence. This question reinforces a point that we already have introduced and return to frequently in the book, which is the importance of attending to clients’ nonver- bal and indirect communications. Students can then be asked to consider how they can revisit clients’ motivation when they see them again, or what they can do differently next time, now that they understand the importance of assessing clients’ level of motivation.
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