The Range of Client Problems and the Helping Skills Used with Clients
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The Range of Client Problems and the Helping Skills Used with Clients Buddha once said, “If you light a lamp for someone else it will also brighten your path”. The purpose of helping is to assist others in learning to overcome and/or cope with the problems they face in every day life. Those providing the help often do so to feel a sense of purpose by making a positive impact on other’s lives. In terms of human services, helping comes from working professionals who possess the knowledge and expertise to effectively provide services to those in need. In order to better understand the helping process, we will define who a client is, the wide range of problems that clients face and the specific set of helping skills that human professionals use with clients. Defining the Client
An individual who receives human services holds the title of client, consumer or customer. Each title emphasizes the relationship between the individual and the type of services they are receiving. “Client” is a general term referred to an individual who obtains assistance from a helping professional. The label “consumer” stresses the business aspect of service delivery and “customer” signifies the exchange of money for services. A client can take several forms. Sometimes they are individuals, while other times they can also represent a small group of people or even a large population. For arguments sake, the term “client” will be used to describe the recipient of human services. If there were no clients, the human services profession would cease to exist.
The helping process occurs because some people are unable to meet even their most basic needs of survival in order to live efficiently on their own. According to Woodside and McClam (2011), the phrase “working with the whole person” is the “guiding principle in human services and focuses on the many components that define an individual and the areas of support a helper must consider when providing assistance” (p. 130). It is pertinent to understand the range of problems that clients face in order to truly appreciate who they are as a “whole person”. Now that we’ve effectively established who a client, we will dive into the problems that these clients face. Defining the Range of Client Problems
Experiencing problems and struggles is ordinary in the cycle of life. Some problems are short lived and can be solved quickly and efficiently with the help of a human service professional. Other situations that persist for long periods of time need extra work from the client and professional in order to be realistic and effective in their problem-solving strategies. With that being said, it can be difficult to perceive what someone might distinguish as a problem. A person’s culture, ethnicity, religion, community and other factors play a key role in delineating what is or isn’t a problem. With this knowledge, a human service professional can help the client cope with their condition more successfully. There are a few different perspectives significant in defining the wide range of problems that clients face. The Developmental Perspective
First is the developmental perspective. The text explains, “The development begins at the point of conception and ends at the time of death. During the time between these two points, the individual experiences systematic changes” (Woodside, McClam, 2011, p.134). This demonstrates that life is an ongoing process and people continue to grow and change throughout their course of development. A client’s background contributes to their development just like it does when attempting to identify something as a problem. Clients face problems in development when their environment is not conducive to growth and change. This can lead to problems correlated with mental disorders, criminal behavior, etc.
The Situational Perspective
Another approach that is helpful in identifying the wide range of problems that clients face is through the situational perspective. “Problems resulting from accidents, violent crimes, natural disasters, and major changes in life – such as a move, job change, or divorce – are all defined as situational problems” (Woodside, McClam, 2011, p.137). Situational problems differ significantly from developmental problems because the client simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s impossible for an individual to live freely without facing any type of situation that can lead to both short and long-term problems.
“The complexity and quantity of assistance required depend on the severity of the problem and the state of the client when the situation occurs” (Woodside, McClam, 2011, p.137). Clients who often face situational problems are most commonly labeled as victims. This is because the individual’s problem most likely developed through unforeseen circumstances that were out of their control. For this reason, it is the human service professional’s duty to help the client take responsibility for their situation in order to make room for improvement. The Environmental Perspective
Finally, we will take a look into the environmental perspective. There are many different environmental influences that can create countless problems for clients. The text suggests viewing a client’s environment in terms of layers, beginning with the individual at the center and branching out to family, social institutions and finally global stimuli (Woodside, McClam, 2011, p.143). The influences that are most closely related to the client are the ones that have the greatest impact on causing environmental problems. In order for the client to effectively manage environmental problems, a period of adjustment or change must occur.
Defining the Helping Skills Used with Clients
With an improved awareness of client problems, it will be easier to understand the types of specific helping skills human service professionals practice in the field. The effectiveness of the helping process depends greatly on the skills of the helper… The helper’s ability to communicate an understanding of the client’s feelings, clarify what the problem is, and provide appropriate assistance to resolve the problem contributes to the effectiveness of the process (Woodside, McClam, 2011, p.194). In order to achieve positive results, the human service professional must set aside their own personal desires to remain focused on the client. Building a foundation for a helping relationship begins with the professional because they have the acquired expertise to help a client successfully begin the process of change. Communication
The skill that ultimately facilitates this change is communication. Effective communication involves listening and responding and is essential to the helping process. The human service professional must first have the ability to recognize both verbal and nonverbal forms of communication. Nonverbal communication generally hints to the thoughts and feelings that the client is incapable of expressing through words. Verbal communication is much easier to understand as it easily conveys the message the client is attempting to express. Recognizing both verbal and nonverbal cues in communication helps the professional participate in responsive listening. Egan (2010) lists five behaviors that professionals can use as guidelines to reassure clients they are actively involved, both physically and mentally. These behaviors are easy to remember with the help of the acronym SOLER.
S Face the client Squarely
O Adopt an Open posture
L Lean toward the other person
E Maintain good Eye contact
R Try to be relatively Relaxed (p. 134-135)
Attending behavior. The professional can also prove they are engaged in responsive listening through attending behavior. Attending behavior is implemented in order to help the client open up about their problems. Attending behavior has four dimensions: three nonverbal components and one verbal component (Ivey, Ivey, & Zalaquett, 2009). 1. Visual/eye contact
2. Vocal qualities
3. Verbal tracking
4. Body language: attentive (p. 65)
“Engaging in these behaviors encourages the client to talk, reducing the amount of talk from the helper. Benefits include communicating interest and concern to the client and increasing the helper’s awareness of the client’s ability to pay attention” (Woodside, McClam, 2011, p. 205). Responding. The professional can purposefully respond after interpreting both the client’s verbal and nonverbal messages. It is important to remember that the conversation between the professional and the client is goal-oriented.
Accordingly, their response needs to remain clear and focused. Helpful responses might include paraphrasing, asking for clarification and, in appropriate situations, presenting thoughtful questions. The main objective of such communication is to gain a deeper insight into the thoughts and feelings of individuals. A helping relationship is fortified when this set of skills is implemented effectively. Conclusion
People experience problems on a daily basis. Many individuals lack the skills and resources necessary for managing such problems in a healthy and productive way. Consequently, there is a high demand for the human service delivery system. Individuals who receive services through this system of helping are called clients. Human service professionals engage in helping relationships committed to enhancing the lives of these clients in need. These professionals have extensive knowledge and an acquired set of skills that give them the ability to assist clients in successfully coping with a wide range of developmental, situational and environmental problems. There will be a need for human services as long as problems in the world continue to exist. Success in the helping process is more easily achieved with a comprehensive understanding of client problems and the helping skills used with clients.
Egan, G. E. (2010). The Skilled Helper: A problem Management and Opportunity Development Approach to Helping (9th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Ivey, A. E., Ivey, M. B., & Zalaquett, C. P. (2009). Intentional Interviewing and Counseling: Facilitating Client Development in a Multicultural Society (7th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Woodside, M., & McClam, T. (2011). An Introduction to Human Services (7th ed.). Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning.