90 Beginnings A professional explanation of the mandated services is mediated by compas- sion for the client’s predicament and life stressors, over which any semblance of control is being lost. The description of service should fit the client’s perception of reality, since most mandated clients are likely to be in the precontemplation or contemplation stage. When services are offered, agency personnel have determined that a need exists. Potential clients’ perceptions of their need and the client need repre- sented by the offer of service may not be identical. By verbalizing potential clients’ perceptions of their life issues, the worker demonstrates empathic understanding and thereby increases the chances that the potential client will accept the agency’s services. Social work students often express discomfort about directly identifying clients’ potential life stressors when offering an agency’s social work service. Ironically, when the worker is hesitant and indirect, prospective clients’ anxiety increases as they try to figure out the worker’s hidden agenda. In contrast, a skillful, direct offer of service and statement of the worker’s role can reinforce potential clients’ belief that they indeed need outside help. In offering a service, social work students must learn to develop a clear, concrete description of the agency and its services. Identifying specific life stressors that accompany daily human interactions helps both client and worker to be less overwhelmed and more hopeful and focused in their work together. The worker suggests how the offered service connects to the poten- tial client’s life situation. Reaching for the prospective client’s reactions and feedback ensures that worker and client are on the same page. People who are offered service by an agency become clients only when they agree to a need for the service and to the specified conditions. People usually seek social work services at the point when life stressors have become unmanageable. A sense of shame or fear about how one will be received by the social worker mingles with hope that one’s needs will be met, the stressor ameliorated, and stress eased. Even potential clients who seek out services will face the first session with at least some measure of ambivalence. After introduc- tions, potential clients are invited to tell their story and to elaborate upon their concerns and needs. When clients can readily share their concerns, the social worker uses minimal encouragers to invite elaboration. When clients fall silent, the worker briefly waits it out. When the silence continues, the worker might directly reach for its meaning. When clients begin to describe their troubles—which in the case of man- dated clients is likely to be only the agency and worker’s intrusion in their lives—the worker requests data about their life stressors and their nature and duration what clients have done or not done to deal with them and what they are feeling about the situation. The worker uses numerous skills to help potential and actual clients share their concerns (e.g., repeat key phrases and
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