In this essay, I am going to be reflecting on my stimulated service user interview and will focus on two communication skills I used, the theory behind them and what I have learnt for my future practice. I will be using the reflection model from Rolf et al’s (2001) by looking at what skill I used, what effect this had and how I will be using this going forward. I will also be looking at the importance of relationship-based practice and how this shapes successful social work.
Relationships and human interaction are at the heart of social work, so the ability to communicate effectively and sensitively is extremely important. Teater (2010) says that the social-worker- client relationship is a crucial factor in the effectiveness of social work interventions and is an aspect of social work that cannot be ignored. In my stimulation, I feel I created a safe space through my verbal and non-verbal communication skills, which let the service user open up about his thoughts and feelings along with the concerns regarding his granddaughter. This allowed me to gain more insight regarding his situation, ensuring that I was fully informed and assisted me to begin developing a relationship. Person-centered Practice puts the service user at the heart of all interactions and teaches us to recognise them as a valid individual, regardless of their situation or negative behaviour.
Acceptance is having the understanding that people come from different lifestyles, morals, values, religions, and beliefs. As a social worker, you must be able to treat every service user as a valid individual despite their history or current situation. Egan (2013) argues that only when the person seeking help feels truly accepted for who they are, without being judged, that any positive change can be achieved. Part of this is self-awareness from the social worker, the ability to step back and recognise our prejudgments and discriminations. This ensures anti-discriminatory practice and allows a social worker to aid and assist without any prejudgments or discriminations and with unconditional regard. Our own past experiences or preconceived ideas could affect, even unconsciously, how we respond to an individual. Within my service user interview, I remained impartial on the service users parenting techniques, focusing on the concerns and emotions rather than adopting a teaching, judgemental role. Pointing out apparent failures on the service users’ side would seem to me to be unproductive and damaging to the relationship I would be trying to build. In my future practice, I need to be aware of my discriminations and make sure these do not taint my judgement and professional opinion. Whilst having this unconditional regard for a service user, it is important that this is not approval or agreeing with negative behaviour that could be damaging themselves or others. Acknowledgment of this type of behaviour is still needed, however, I feel this should be approached with respect and in a productive way.
Non- Verbal communication has a provable role in successful relationship-based practice with a service user. When exploring how important non-verbal communication is, Trevithick (2012) refers to a study by the influential author Mehrabian (1972) who estimated that in a typical interaction between two people, ‘the overall communication is made up of body language (55%); paralanguage (non- verbal aspects of speech) 38% and the verbal 7%. These figures suggest that non-verbal communication is paramount in attaining a deeper level of communication. Through our unconscious body language, we convey huge amounts of information to the service user, our judgements or emotions which we may want to keep hidden could be revealed. This can have a disastrous effect on the relationship of trust and respect we are trying to build up with the service user. The service user may feel judged and discriminated against which could cause them to become guarded or simply just disconnect. Within my service user interaction, I feel I had appropriate non-verbal communication, I had very good eye contact and acknowledged that I both listened too and understood his concerns with nods and open body language. I feel this allowed our conversation to flow naturally and easily. In my future practice, I feel I will be more aware of my body language and how I am using this to make the service user feel comfortable. The use of non-verbal communication must still have boundaries in place, a genuine smile or physical contact could potentially blur professional boundaries.
I feel having a sense of self is incredibly important, being aware of how my emotions affect me whilst speaking with a service user can help ensure that I am empathetic yet remain professional. On reflection I feel in my interview I tended to prompt the service user and try to fill in the silence, I need to ensure that I am giving the service user time to put across what they are trying to say in their own way. I need to be open to new knowledge, critical reflection and supervision to improve my practice as this will allow further development, but also celebrate what I have done well (Thompson and Thompson (2008). Forming successful relationships with service users will lead to better insights into their situations and more productive social work. I feel through successful communication, social workers can try to rebalance the power between themselves and the service user to allow interaction to be more of a partnership where both social worker and service user are working together to one common goal. Various theories link to communication skills in social work, but as every service user and situation is different so these can be used as tools to select depending on the situation and individual.