Lecture on Strengths Perspective


Published on

Lecture on Strengths Perspective used in youth work and social settings. Lecturer - Glenn Lim

1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Lecture on Strengths Perspective

  1. 2. <ul><li>A framework & practice model generated from within social work in the US principally </li></ul><ul><li>Based on the idea that client / groups have untapped personal resources </li></ul><ul><li>Emerged from psychiatric & custodial settings </li></ul><ul><li>Popular with social workers due to clear emphasis on user self determination, and on the need to demonstrate ‘respect’ to all users </li></ul><ul><li>Deliberate offering of an alternative to the idea of seeing clients as ‘pathology units’ </li></ul><ul><li>Directs all persons working with clients to not allow negative labels to dictate or influence the course of ‘help’ that the user will receive </li></ul><ul><li>Principal proponents – Saleebey D, 2002 “The Strengths Perspective in Social Work Practice” </li></ul><ul><li>Parton N and O’Brien P, 2000 “Constructive Social Work”, contains many similar themes – alongside an emphasis on narrative approaches </li></ul>
  2. 3. <ul><li>The strengths perspective formula is simple: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Mobilise clients’ strengths (talent, knowledge, capacities) in the service of achieving their goals and visions, and the clients will have a better quality of life on their terms” </li></ul>
  3. 4. <ul><li>Radical social work – need to recognise political implications of sw and not pathologise </li></ul><ul><li>Erving Goffman – his work on labelling and stigma </li></ul><ul><li>Psychological Resilience theory – people can benefit from difficult life events. People are highly resilient. Saleeby suggests that the majority of people do NOT repeat the problems they experienced as children </li></ul><ul><li>Ego Psychology </li></ul><ul><li>Rogerian humanistic approaches </li></ul><ul><li>Geoffrey Bateson’s & brief, solution-focussed therapy – emphasis on mutuality, on the “now”, and on seeing the ‘problem’ as not contained in the person but systemic </li></ul><ul><li>Empowerment and anti-oppressive practice – solutions as a mutual learning process based on partnership </li></ul>
  4. 5. <ul><li>Karen Healy (2005) suggests there are 5 Assumptions: </li></ul><ul><li>All people have strengths, capacities & resources </li></ul><ul><li>People usually demonstrate resilience, rather than pathology, in the face of adversity. As Saleeby (1996) states – “all humans have an inclination for healing.” </li></ul><ul><li>Service users have the capacity to determine what is best for them & do not need Social Workers to define their best interests </li></ul><ul><li>Social workers tend to focus on clients’ deficits and pathologies – not their resources & strengths </li></ul><ul><li>Social Workers are also reluctant to form real partnerships with users – and yet it is only through such collaborative partnerships that service users’ capacities can be enhanced </li></ul>
  5. 6. <ul><li>Healy (2005) again suggests 5 Principles: </li></ul><ul><li>Adopt an Optimistic Attitude </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on Service User’s Assets </li></ul><ul><li>Collaborate with the Service User </li></ul><ul><li>Work towards Long Term Empowerment of Service User </li></ul><ul><li>Create Community </li></ul><ul><li>Let’s explore each of these in turn with an deliberate emphasis on HOW WE might try to carry out such principles in our practice </li></ul><ul><li>We will note some problems – but reserve the majority of our criticisms to the later evaluative section. </li></ul>
  6. 7. 1) Adopt an optimistic attitude <ul><li>Challenge ourselves - & all those that work with us – to question pathological & deficit-orientated views of users </li></ul><ul><li>Seek out evidence of strengths e.g. with families seen at risk on abusing their children – we need to explore support networks that they feel comfortable with </li></ul><ul><li>Constantly convey our beliefs that the users have the capacities to deal with their immediate problems & achieve a better quality of life </li></ul><ul><li>Challenge negative labels - we must be careful in the language we use. We should always refer to, and focus on, their strengths and not their problems </li></ul><ul><li>Separate person from problem – if problems have to be mentioned then do so in a manner that conveys respect for their resilience e.g. a survivor of abuse or trauma </li></ul>
  7. 8. <ul><li>Quinn P 1998, in Understanding Disability , suggests that : </li></ul><ul><li>“ It is easy to assume…..that any adult with Down’s Syndrome will be a happy, placid person who is satisfied with routine, repetitive tasks…..instead, the entire range of possible cognitive abilities, physical capacity, and personal interests must be evaluated. The assumption should be made that the young adult can accomplish any task, until this is proven wrong.” </li></ul><ul><li>Exactly the same perspective applies to working with older people with various degrees of dementia. </li></ul>2) Focus on service user’s assets
  8. 9. <ul><li>When listening, we must be constantly on the look for positives – for capacity, capability & resourcefulness – as Van Wormer (2001, p32) states. E.g. Absence from school – 2 days a week – so focus initially on the 3 days of attendance! </li></ul><ul><li>BUT we cannot ignore negative diagnoses & past behaviours – cannot gloss over them – the secret lies in how such ‘labels’ are applied. We will return to this issue later </li></ul>HOW?
  9. 10. <ul><li>Compare expert-centric & collaborative ways of interviewing & interacting with a user </li></ul><ul><li>Partnership is the first necessary stage for empowerment </li></ul><ul><li>Explore what might, at first, seem to you to be irrational service user responses – as de Shazer (1985) suggests </li></ul><ul><li>Pay attention to physical environment, user’s responses to all situations; mutuality – using 1 st names (but only by agreement) and try to de-mystify all necessary professional procedures </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage the service user to explore ALL possible solutions – how they see it – and however apparently unrealistic – be optimistic </li></ul>3) Collaborate with Service User
  10. 11. <ul><li>Saleebey(1997) quotes Rappaport , stating that a commitment to a service user “requires us to create opportunities for the alienated & distressed to seize some control over their lives & the decisions that are critical to their lives.” </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasis should always be on possibilities rather than past problems – getting at the user’s hopes and dreams </li></ul><ul><li>Affirming users’ resilience and enabling capacities – including those forged in terrible adversity </li></ul><ul><li>Try to gain early initial practical outcomes consistent with longer term hopes and dreams </li></ul>4) Work towards Long Term Empowerment
  11. 12. <ul><li>Always recognise positives in the user’s social networks </li></ul><ul><li>Social networks can be a way of linking users into wider community networks </li></ul><ul><li>Green and Haines (2002) have developed a community development, strengths approach – focussing on Assets </li></ul><ul><li>Good community work practice – seek to build change through members in the community – not from outside </li></ul><ul><li>Use existing capacities and assets, etc </li></ul>5) Create Community
  12. 13. <ul><li>Survival Questions </li></ul><ul><li>Support Questions </li></ul><ul><li>Exception Questions </li></ul><ul><li>Possibility Questions </li></ul><ul><li>Esteem Questions </li></ul>
  13. 14. <ul><li>A positive framework for understanding the personal, community and systemic strengths operating in any situation </li></ul><ul><li>Uncovering strengths and framing them in an accessible and useful way becomes a core social work process </li></ul>
  14. 15. <ul><li>Simple old pop psychology, positive thinking in disguise </li></ul><ul><li>Places too much emphasis on individuals to make their own changes – too individualistic </li></ul><ul><li>Ignores harsh realities & is inconsistent with core components of the role of statutory social work. In some situations, emphasising strengths is both unviable & may exacerbate user’s vulnerabilities – to harm themselves & others </li></ul><ul><li>The partnership ideal similarly disguises the real power differentials between social workers & service users </li></ul><ul><li>It has an absurdly optimistic view of human nature – Pollyanna-ism – it just really re-frames misery </li></ul><ul><li>Not clear about what the limits of a strength actually are – “Well I am very good at fighting”; “I know every dealer in this town”, “I know how to manipulate people”... </li></ul>
  15. 16. <ul><li>Recognises a place for & the power of optimism in achieving change </li></ul><ul><li>Allows us to see how our language, our behaviours and our orientations can disempower users very easily </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges bio-medical and legal discourses in a way that should enable social workers to de-mystify the practices of these professions </li></ul><ul><li>Can be used to emphasise social not individual causes of personal problems </li></ul>