Welcome back to the Practical Tips for Social Work Professionals series! In today’s part of the series you’ll be happy to know that we’ll be giving advice, tricks, useful information and practical tips for when meeting with clients. If you missed the first part of the series in which we cover useful information on Assessments and Reports, click here to catch up.
Below are 11 tips that will help you develop your skills when meeting with clients:
The stereotypical view of a social worker is that they are always late. Break the mould and show the client that their issues are of paramount importance to you. If you know it is unlikely that you will arrive at a certain time, be more vague with timings so you do not disappoint by arriving later than scheduled.
Tissues are part of a social worker’s basic toolkit. Recognising and responding to an individual’s emotions has the potential to forge meaningful relationships and change lives.
Be mindful of where you choose to meet a client – does it fit the purpose of the meeting? is it easily accessible, safe and, above all, will it facilitate open discussion?
Clients are more likely to engage positively when they feel treated as collaborators and, as a result, contribute more significantly to any care-planning processes. If they don’t feel valued, they won’t be open to sharing solutions and ideas.
Think about your audience. They may not understand your terminology. Not everyone feels comfortable asking for clarification if they feel that they are expected to know a certain phrase or acronym. Never assume that a client has a good level of literacy, always offer to read key documentation.
Take the time to ask what an individual likes to be called when you first meet, particularly if you’re struggling with pronunciation. Some service users will not immediately correct you and could cause some embarrassment at a later date.
Making generalisations can offend. Be open to the opinions and experiences of others. Practice cultural responsiveness and accept your own naivety.
If you are a given a piece of work which is time-limited or task-centred make sure you talk to the client about what the work entails and when your involvement will end. Their expectation may be that you will remain involved indefinitely if you do not clearly state your intentions.
Sometimes it is necessary to remind clients that you can be friendly but you are not their friend. You are a professional and there to do a job. If you are concerned that professional boundaries are becoming blurred, ensure you feed this back in supervision.
Remember to send each of your clients a simple email or text to let them know you’ll be away, and who to contact in your absence. Consider organising your next appointment before you leave, to help clients feel reassured about your return. Life doesn’t stop for others whilst we take a vacation.
If a client contacts you to report an issue try to respond the same day it occurs so the client feels supported, listened too and given the opportunity to offload.