Empowering clients and helping them discover their access to power is a fundamental aspect of social work. Here’s an example from an internship that demonstrates how social workers can facilitate this process:
Example: During my internship at a community-based organization, I worked with a client named Sarah, who was a survivor of domestic violence. Sarah had been through a traumatic experience, which left her feeling powerless and anxious. Our goal was to help her regain a sense of control over her life.
- Active Listening and Validation: I started by actively listening to Sarah’s story without judgment. I allowed her to express her feelings, fears, and frustrations. By validating her emotions, I conveyed that her experiences and emotions were important and worthy of attention.
- Strengths-Based Approach: To empower Sarah, I adopted a strengths-based approach. We discussed her strengths, talents, and past achievements. I highlighted her resilience and the courage it took for her to seek help.
- Collaborative Goal-Setting: We collaborated on setting goals for her recovery. I encouraged her to identify what she wanted to achieve, whether it was regaining self-confidence, finding safe housing, or pursuing educational opportunities.
- Education and Information: I provided Sarah with information about her rights, available resources, and support services. By giving her access to knowledge, I helped her make informed decisions.
- Building Self-Efficacy: I helped Sarah develop problem-solving and decision-making skills. We worked on safety planning, and I gradually encouraged her to make choices about her life. Every small success boosted her self-efficacy.
- Advocacy: I supported Sarah in navigating the legal system and connecting with organizations that could provide legal assistance. I also accompanied her to court hearings to ensure she felt supported and understood.
- Encouraging Self-Expression: Through therapeutic interventions like art therapy and journaling, I encouraged Sarah to express herself creatively. This helped her process her trauma and emotions in a safe and empowering way.
- Monitoring and Celebrating Progress: We regularly reviewed her goals and celebrated her achievements, no matter how small they seemed. This reinforced her sense of agency and progress.
- Encouraging Peer Support: I connected Sarah with support groups where she could meet other survivors. This allowed her to share experiences, offer and receive support, and realize she was not alone in her journey.
Through these interventions, Sarah gradually discovered her access to power. She regained confidence in herself, made decisions that were in her best interest, and ultimately broke free from her abusive relationship. The key elements of empowering communication in this scenario included active listening, validation, collaboration, education, and a strengths-based approach.
Social workers can ensure that conversations with clients help them discover their domains of access to power by:
Creating a safe and non-judgmental space for clients to share their experiences.
Using empathetic and validating language.
Encouraging clients to identify their strengths and resources.
Collaboratively setting goals and action plans.
Providing information and education about available resources and options.
Supporting clients in decision-making and problem-solving.
Recognizing and celebrating clients’ achievements and progress.
Advocating for clients’ rights and needs.
Promoting self-expression and self-advocacy.
These specific social worker skills contribute to a client’s experience of power, helping them regain control over their lives and move towards positive change and healing.