The importance of communication in social work practices
Discuss about the Communication in Social Work for Frontiers in Psychology.
Reflection is an exercise that is essential in improving the skills of a social worker. This skill is used in developing social work communication and interviewing skills. This essay explores my understanding of social work communication by focusing on strength-based and anti-oppressive practices. My communication strengths and weaknesses are also identified based on my experiences as a tutorial group member and in role plays. Lastly, strategies to improve my communication skills are evaluated.
Communication is an integral part of social work practices. Indeed, Dixon (2012) argues it plays a significant role in enabling social workers to communicate with clients. Based on my experience, communication is made easy by self-awareness. According to Dixon (2012), effective communication occurs when the social workers understand their communication skills and methods. Therefore, my ability to understand my communication skills allows me to use them efficiently in social work practices. Additionally, I have learned that personal reflection enhances individual communication. Dixon (2012) argues that individuals should reflect on their communication within these training exercises to improve their skills. In the group level, communication has assisted in enhancing my learning by making it easier to find solutions through teamwork. I also learned that ethics and values govern this profession. For instance, McDonald et al. (2015) argue that it is vital to incorporate ethics when teaching writing skills used in social work. Generally, communication requires self-awareness and reflection.
In addition, my understanding of the use of anti-oppressive and strengths-based practices was enhanced. I have understood anti-oppressive practices as those acts that are conducted by social workers to liberate oppressed people in the society. These practices provide new ways of opposition that improve liberating approaches, which lead to social change (Baines, 2007). Baines (2007) states that some of the oppressed groups in society may include women, black people, and gays. On the other hand, strength-based practices encourage the use of a client’s strengths in overcoming challenges. According to Rashid and Ostermann (2009), strength-based methods provide clarity that allows the social worker to get a clear picture of the client's situation. These practices are useful in the development of a solution.
During my learning experience, I participated in the tutorial group work as instructed by our tutor. Group work plays a significant role in social work practices. According to Hammar Chiriac (2014), it also enhances the ability of students to learn. Being a group member improved my learning experience by allowing me to learn from my peers. The use of tutorials enhanced my understanding since the tutor was able to provide additional support when carrying out the group assignments. The group work also allowed the lecturer to divide us into small groups. As a result, it was easier to assess individual performance and provide targeted feedback. Additionally, the use of tutorials allowed us to simulate real social work experiences. For example, some of us practiced interviewing clients while playing the role of a women social worker.
Understanding anti-oppressive and strengths-based practices
My experiences when working in the group taught me some lessons. The first lesson was on the importance of icebreakers. The icebreakers allowed us to have fun while making us comfortable to share our experiences with each other. The second lesson was learned through interactions with my group members. My group members assisted by providing clarity on the issues and questions that seemed challenging. The assistance made our collaboration stronger since we learned how to support each other. During the group sessions, we learned a lot about each other’s past experiences and future aspirations. This understanding helped us to respect each other and work without any major conflicts.
As mentioned earlier, role plays enabled us to simulate the experiences of social workers when dealing with clients. Based on MacDonald and Biegel (2012), the use of role plays allows active learning where students learn from experience. In this case, the use of role plays improved my understanding of what being a social worker entails such as communication skills. During the role plays, I was nervous at first because I would play a role in front of an audience. However, I overcame my fear after practicing outside the classroom setting and getting assistance from my peers. For example, they gave me ideas on what to say during my role as a social worker or a client. Lastly, this experience also allowed us to explore different aspects of the interview process such as the use of non-verbal cues.
The use of role plays improved my communication and interviewing skills. The first lesson I learned is on the use of non-verbal cues during the interview process mentioned earlier. For example, the social worker is supposed to sit upright and maintain a safe distance from the client (Gurung, 2018). The distance helps in ensuring that the client is comfortable. The second lesson is on the use of paraphrasing to clarify issues. For instance, the social worker restates the alcoholic problem to the client to ensure she did not misunderstand it (Gurung, 2018). The third lesson is that the first meeting with the client should mainly entail learning about the problem of the client to get an in-depth understanding. The last lesson is that the social worker uses mostly open-ended questions. The use of open-end questions encourages the client to be honest while discussing the problem.
From the experiences mentioned earlier, I developed some strengths that improved by communication skills. The first strength is my listening skills. During the role plays, I learned how to listen to clients without interruptions effectively. My listening was enhanced by avoiding distractions such as using my mobile phone. Active listening also involves paying attention to details about the clients' statements to decipher any hidden meaning (Zeiger, 2018). Another strength that I acquired is patience, which I learned by waiting until the client was done talking. Patience also aided in improving my listening skills. The third strength is paying attention to the service user's body language, which improved my non-verbal communication. For example, maintaining eye contact makes the client comfortable (Zeiger, 2018). However, the social worker needs to ensure that staring is not used. These skills have developed my ability to be a social worker.
Learning experiences through tutorial group work and role plays
I also learned about my communication skills weaknesses from my role play and group work experiences. One of the weaknesses is the lack of confidence when communicating with my group members. As mentioned earlier, I get nervous when I have to address more than one person. This weakness affects my ability to collaborate with my team members. The second weakness is that I am unable to ask leading questions consistently. Leading questions are useful because they assist the social worker to get the information that is required from the client (Communication Care, 2008). This skill is essential in interviewing clients who are withholding information. My inability to use leading questions has made it difficult to retrieve the information I need from the service user. Ultimately, I plan to work on strategies that strengthen these skills.
The use of critical reflection is one of the strategies I will use to improve my communication skills. Jarris et al. (2012) argue that critical reflection entails the use of external feedback to develop a plan for improvement. In this case, I will use the assessment of my strengths and weakness done earlier to identify the techniques I will use to improve my skills. For example, to build my confidence when communicating with people, I can look for opportunities where I can speak publicly such as class presentations. During the presentations, I can ask my classmates to assess my skills and provide feedback. I would then use the feedback to enhance my skills. Another strategy that can be used to improve communication skills is supervision. Supervision is crucial because it provides the social worker with an opportunity to enhance skills using feedback from the supervisor and reflection (Hughes, 2010). The plan would be to use the input provided by the supervisor or tutor to enhance my skills.
The last strategy that I can use to improve my communication skills is self-care. Before discussing self-care, it is worth noting the significance of the use-of-self in social work practices. The use-of-self entails using the knowledge gained from learning about social work with ones’ personal experiences, and personality to be a social worker (Walters, 2008). For example, I draw from my experience of feeling hopelessness when understanding a client's frustrations. Based on the importance of the use-of-self, I plan to exercise self-care through exercising. Lastly, it will also provide a break from the routine to avoid boredom.
Communication is crucial in social work practices. Reflection is useful in enhancing communication skills. Reflection is also helpful because it identifies my strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, participating in group work and role plays encourages active learning, which enhances my comprehension. Lastly, to be an excellent communicator I need to strengthen my skills using strategies such as supervision and self-care.
Baines, D. (2007). Anti-oppressive social work practice. Doing anti-oppressive practice: Building transformative politicized social work, 1-30.
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Dixon, J. (2012). Effective strategies for communication? Student views of a communication skills course eleven years on. British Journal of Social Work, 43(6), 1190-1205.
Gurung, P. (2018). Communication and Engagement in Professional Contexts [Video File]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kyk-snqEe_8&feature=youtu.be
Hammar Chiriac, E. (2014). Group work as an incentive for learning–students’ experiences of group work. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 558.
Hughes, J. M. (2010). The role of supervision in social work: a critical analysis. Critical social thinking: Policy and Practice, 2, 60-77.
Jarris, Y. S., Saunders, P., Gatti, M., & Weissinger, P. (2012). Critical reflection: lessons learned from a communication skills assessment. Medical education, 46(5), 504-504.
MacDonald, C., & Biegel, A. (2012). Using role-play to teach competencies for acquiring behaviors as a social worker. North American Association of Christians in Social Work. Huntington University.
McDonald, D., Boddy, J., O'Callaghan, K., & Chester, P. (2015). Ethical professional writing in social work and human services. Ethics and Social Welfare, 9(4), 359-374.
Rashid, T., & Ostermann, R. F. (2009). Strength?based assessment in clinical practice. Journal of clinical psychology, 65(5), 488-498.
Walters, H. B. (2008). An introduction to use of self in field placement. The New Social Worker Online. Retrieved from https://www.socialworker.com/feature-articles/field-placement/An_Introduction_to_Use_of_Self_in_Field_Placement/
Zeiger, S. (2018). Effective Communication Skills for Social Workers. Chron. Retrieved from https://work.chron.com/effective-communication-skills-social-workers-7168.html
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