For this assignment, you are to conduct a thirty-minute interview (an ideal interview would be in person or via the telephone, but an e-mail or chat-based interview is also acceptable) with a human service professional (for example, a social worker, community-organizational professional, or a counselor). The focus of the interview should be on the person's training and education in listening skills. Ask questions to determine whether he or she has had formal training in listening as well as what specific strategies he or she uses to effectively listen to patients or clients.
Working as a social worker is one of the most challenging yet rewarding career options. A social worker is usually responsible for helping groups, families and individuals cope with the challenges that they are facing in order to improve their welfare. For one to be an effective social worker, he/she needs to have effective active listening skills. This is important largely due to the fact that a good social worker needs to be able understand the demands, needs and problem of the individual that they are aiding. Other than being able to communicate effectively, a social worker needs to have high level training for him or her to interact with the patient (person being cared for). For a social worker to be effective in executing his/her responsibilities, he/she needs to be trained in different areas that deal with client interaction. Some of the areas that a social worker needs training in include communication skills, sensitivity training and decision making skills. This will help the social worker in developing a solution that best serves the needs of the individual. This paper provides an in depth analysis of social worker listening skills through a comprehensive interview with a social worker.
1.What exactly does a social worker does and what are your key responsibilities as a social worker?
A social worker is a professional who works to enhance the overall well-being and social functioning of individuals, groups, families and communities. The term socio functioning in this definition is used to refer to the manner through which individuals go around there social roles and the different structural institutions provided to help them. Social work is usually divided into micro and macro- work. Micro-work refers to social work that focuses on working directly with individuals or small groups. Macro-work on the other hand relates to social work that focuses on working with large groups or communities and within a predefined social policy with the objective of creating change on a larger scale. Due to the diverse nature of social and individual problems, there are different categories of social work that one can engage in. The five most common categories of social workers are family, child and school social workers, medical social workers, substance abuse and mental health social workers, community social workers, and military social workers. Personally I work as a Mental health and substance abuse social worker. Under my profession, my main responsibility is working with groups, families couples and individuals to provide them with treatment for substance abuse and mental illness. Some of the treatment options that I employ in my profession include counseling and intense therapy and I had to attain a MSW to start in this career.
2. What skills does a social worker possess?
In dealing with the diverse range of problems, social workers must employ different skills based on the nature of the task at hand. Even though some skills that social workers employ are naturally acquired, a significant percentage of the skill used are developed through training programs that social workers engage in while pursuing their bachelor’s or master’s degree. There are a lot of skills that a social worker can employ when working with a patient/client. I will just highlight what I consider to be the most important skills.
- Active listening- This entails giving ones full attention to what another individual is saying, with the aims of understanding the points that are being made by the other party. To achieve this one should ask questions that are appropriate to the conversation and not interrupt the communicator.
- Speaking- This entails talking to other people with the aim of conveying information to them effectively. It is one of the most important traits of a social worker as the manner through which one speaks determine how responsive the other party is.
- Social Perceptiveness- This entails being aware of the reactions of others and understanding the reasons behind those reactions.
- Critical Thinking- This entails utilizing reasoning and logic in the identification of strengths and weaknesses associated with conclusions, solutions, or different approaches to going around the problems.
- Service orientation- this entails actively reviewing ways through which you can help other people.
- Coordination- this entails adjusting one actions based on the actions of others.
- Judgment and Decision Making- This is the skill of being able to consider the benefits and costs of different actions so that one can select the most appropriate action.
- Complex Problem Solving- This skill entails being able to identify the complex problems and reviewing the information related to this problem with the aim of evaluating and developing solutions for the problems.
3. What is your definition of listening skills?
In the social work profession, listening entails having the ability to capture and understand messages being communicated by clients/patients as they narrate their stories regardless of whether the message is being transmitted verbally of nonverbally. Active listening is one of the most important aspect of social work. It involves four key skills namely, being able to listen and comprehend the verbal message being communicated by the client, being able to listen, interpret and understand the nonverbal messages from the client, listening and comprehending the context of a conversation and listening to the client with empathy.
4.. How important are listening skills in social work?
As I have already stated, listening skills are among the most important skills for a social worker. Listening skills are usually employed in the engagement phase where the social worker interacts with the client/patient to identify the problem. Effective listening is an essential skill in both non-caring and caring professions and it is very helpful to social workers as they conduct their counseling. One of the most important aspects of listening skills in social work is that they help in the creation of an inclusive relationship between the social worker and the client/patient that consists of verbal and non-verbal cues. This is largely due to the fact that through active listening the social worker is able to discern the challenges that the client is going through. This places him in a position of being able to aid the client with his/her problem. Active listening also psychologically aids the client to know someone is listening to their story. Listening is also important because it helps in the development of a rapport between the client and the social worker as this serves to make the client more comfortable with sharing his story. Effective listening also helps in bridging the difference that exists between the social worker and the client by aiding the counselor better understand the perspective of the client.
Another major reason as to why listening is important is because it allows the client open themselves up to experiencing feelings associated with the problems. Most clients who feel that they have not been adequately listened to in their past tend to relinquish a certain capacity of emotional responsiveness with regards to the issue they feel disenfranchised to. Effective listening helps clients to be able to acknowledge and tune into their emotions. It is also important to note that effective listening helps the social worker to develop an influence base with the client. This makes the client to be more receptive to some of the suggestions that will be made by the social worker. I also believe that listening is important because it aids the clients to assume responsibility for his/her actions. Individuals who feel that their perspective is listened to are more likely to assume responsibility for addressing the problems that they are facing.
5. How important is training for social workers?
Training is very important for social workers. This is largely due to the fact that as a social worker, one is bound to encounter a wide array of various challenges as he/she engages in counseling. To effectively navigate through these challenges, a social worker needs to have professional skills which can only be obtained through training. In summary training helps to equip the social worker with the tool sets that they need to effectively execute their responsibilities.
6. What is the level of training you have received?
For me to work as a social worker dealing with Mental illness and substance abuse, I had to attain a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. This is a master’s degree in social work focusing on the meso-, macro-, and micro-aspects of social work practice at a professional level. I also had to attain a degree in Bachelor of social work which focuses on social work practices that relate to hospitals, community and other areas of social services.
7. What are the key elements of active listening skills?
As indicated, active listening is based on four key skills.
The social worker needs to be able to listen in a manner that allows him/her understand the verbal messages of the client. This entails being able to listen to the mix of behaviors, feelings and experiences employed by the clients in the communication of their problems.
The social worker needs to be able to listen and interpret the nonverbal cues of the client’s message. This entails learning how to read and listen to nonverbal cues being put out by the client like body posture, gestures and body movement.
The social worker should listen and understand the context of the conversation. This refers to being able to listen to the whole problem in context of the client’s social setting.
Lastly the social worker needs to be able to listen with empathy to the client’s problems.