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Defense of the Client

Discuss about the Goals of Structural Social Work.

Structural social work gives support to practitioners when they need to form ethical relations with people, and to guide them, just like a compass does. According to Mullaly (1993), structural social work strives to find out the causes of social problems. Fook (2002) portends that society tends to discriminate against people in the society on the lines of religion, race, class and gender and that those in power are favored by social structures. Regarding this, he says that structural social work aims at reducing inequalities in society.

According to Moreau (1979), structural social work must be put into practice for it to be understood. He argued that there were five goals which guide the practice of social work and guided on how they would operate. The first is Defense of the client where the social worker aims to support the client by providing information to the client about programs and their benefits. This means that the worker should encourage the client to try out the program, by supporting the program and at the same time defend the client. Social workers use this goal in defending the rights and entitlements of the clients from the systems that discriminate against them. The client can defend themselves from societal structures that threaten to oppress them. Hick & Furlotte (2009), argue that the work of the social worker, in this case, will be to be the friend and advocate of the client and give the client information about his or her rights (Moreau, 1990). Other information that the worker can avail is that of the structure and resources that the agencies have so as to support the client, should they need to address the agencies. Furthermore, the worker can go with a client to meetings and write letters towards the benefit of the client. The worker also challenges policies of agencies and their procedures so as to benefit fully from the agencies.

It is prudent to note that certain policies cause conflict between the state and the social workers as well as the organization in which the worker is. When this conflict arises, the worker decides on the best strategy to use. For instance, most people are not aware of the benefits of agencies like retirement benefits or other programs that can aid those living in poverty or those who are homeless. The social workers here act as the bridge and the information hub for programs that their clients are eligible for and which can benefit their lives. To achieve all this, it is prudent that the social worker has external support form an association or a union.

Collectivization

The second goal is collectivization which refers to making the client feel that they are not alone in what they are undergoing. By communicating to the client that there is not an isolated case, the client can feel blameless by knowing that there are others who have the same problem, and thus focus on solving the problem or learn how to live with it (Weinberg, 2008). For instance, in the fight against HIV/AIDS, many victims blame themselves and may feel as though they are suffering alone. It is up to the social worker to normalize the situation. This goal attempts to avoid alienation through some activities. One of them is by organizing a support group for the victim according to the needs of the client. For instance, for a substance addict, the social worker can connect the client with a support group that has other substance users who are trying to quit the habit so that the client cannot feel isolated. The result is that the client will share his or her experiences in the group and when he or she makes progress, the group celebrates the little steps that she or he makes. Some groups even assign one of their own who has already succeeded in the program to guide the new ones so as to ensure that the client does not go back to the habit. Collectivization allows the worker to work with the client in analyzing decisions of the client, and see if there is a need for collective action. In the situation of the substance user, the stories of others abusing substances and the levels they had gone to, serve to help the client see that they are not alone and that if another got through the problem, then they can also do it. There is togetherness in a support group, and thus collectivization makes the problem normal and empowers the client, through the social worker (Moreau, 1990).

The third goal is Materialization. Materialization has the objective of understanding the social class to which the client belongs, by assessing their income, quality of food, clothing, shelter and social services so as to identify which resources they require most(Davis, 2007).Non-material resources can also be obtained in their aid, like social standing, respect care and love. Materialization strives to understand how material things affect the perception that clients have their problems and themselves. Lack of material resources is a major cause of concern for clients who blame their problems on the lack of it. For instance, most clients who are poor think that the bane of their problem is caused by their lack of money and other resources. In fact, a common scenario is that of poor women who undergo domestic violence in their homes. This kind of client may blame the lack of love and care from their spouse on the lack of material things; that maybe their partner is abusive since he lacks money and might be distressing through physical abuse. According to (Wood & Tully, 2006) helping such a client should not be mechanical or intellectual. He calls for Understanding of the social elements that contribute to each and every case. For instance, for a woman who undergoes domestic violence, it might be that she condones it because she is jobless and cannot leave the marriage since she is jobless and cannot fend for her children alone. She might also condone it because the society around her makes it seems okay, or if the society is chauvinist. The worker, therefore, needs to understand the material and nonmaterial resources contributing to the client’s challenges, and then strive to provide them or give platforms that can help the situation (Middleman & Goldberg, 1974).

Materialization

The fourth goal is increasing Client Power in the Worker-Client Relationship. The social worker increases the power of the client by making them feel equal to the worker, and thus the client can relate well with the worker. There are ways in which the worker can do that; use of appropriate language that the client understands, by referring to them as a friend and using the first name of the client and by assuring them of the confidentiality of their communication (Lundy, 2004).For instance, when dealing with a client who has substance abuse, if the social worker looks down on them, the client can be withdrawn as a result and refuse to share or open up, and which can be a hindrance to their recovery. According to Baines (2002), this goal calls for the worker to respect the dignity of the client and by being close to the client like a friend would. By the worker validating the strengths of the client, the client feels that they have the go-ahead to continue with the behavior, and by the worker drawing limits, the client can avoid the undesirable traits, since he or she sees the worker as a friend, and not as an authority. The worker is then advised to use simple terms when communicating to the client. It would also be effective to use a guideline that indicates the goals and purpose and the tasks that the client and social worker will engage in so as to realize the goals. The social worker, in this case, is seen as the catalyst for change and not as the problem solver for the client, and thus the social worker empowers the client to make their decisions (Moreau, 1979). This goal reduces the power of the social worker and increases that of the client so that they can both have a relationship that will benefit the client in the end.

The fifth goal is enhancing the Client's Power through Personal Change (Carniol, 1992). The worker, in this case, is supposed to identify the strong points of the clients and reinforce them through words of encouragement so that the client can see it too in themselves. To help them see the challenges they have, the social worker helps them to understand that whatever they are undergoing is not their fault, but rather because of the social context and their social environment in which they are. For instance, a client who is an alcoholic and who has no employment may change his ways and be willing to look for a job, but the social elements in society may not support it when he or she experiences racism while job searching. The situation is out of their control, and the best they can do is learning to live with it. According to Carniol (1992) this goal essentially strives to change the behavior, feelings and thoughts of the client which are beneficial to the client and others in the society, while validating those that are beneficial. If the destructive behavior of the client harms the client or others in the society, the social worker strives to make the client know how it is hurting those around the client and self-destruction as well. This goal does not ignore the fact that the society plays a role in the perception the client has, as well as thoughts and feelings. The worker, therefore, communicates to the client the strengths he or she has to encourage them. The worker also communicates and makes the client understand the impact the problem has on the society, thus the client will have to change personally so as to see a change in the society as well. The worker's job here will be to catalyze personal goals and help the client to find possible solutions to the problem.

References

Baines, D. (2002). Radical Social Work, Race, Class, and Gender. Race, Gender & Class, 145- 67.

Carniol, B. (1992). Structural social work: Maurice Moreau's challenge to social work practice. Journal of Progressive Human Services, 3(1), 1-20.

Davis, A. (2007). Structural approaches to social work. Handbook for Practice Learning in Social Work and Social Care: Knowledge and Theory, 27-38.

Fook, J. (2002). Social work: Critical theory and practice. Sage.

Hick, S. F., & Furlotte, C. R. (2009). Mindfulness and social justice approaches: Bridging the mind and society in social work practice. Canadian Social Work Review/Revue  canadienne de service social, 5-24.

Lundy, C. (2004). Social work and social justice: A structural approach to practice. University of Toronto Press.

Middleman, R. R., & Goldberg, G. (1974). Social service delivery: A structural approach to social work practice. Columbia University Press.

Moreau, M. J. (1979). A structural approach to social work practice. Canadian Journal of Social Work Education/Revue canadienne d'éducation en service social, 78-94.

Moreau, M. J. (1990). Empowerment through advocacy and consciousness-raising: Implications   of a structural approach to social work. J. Soc. & Soc. Welfare, 17, 53.

Mullaly, R. P. (1993). Structural Social Work Ideology, Theory, Practice.

Weinberg, M. (2008). Structural social work: A moral compass for ethics in practice. Critical Social Work, 9(1), 1-10.

Wood, G. G., & Tully, C. T. (2006). The structural approach to direct practice in social work: A   social constructionist perspective. Columbia University Press.

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