Case Studies / Activities

Activity 1

The SFA chapter has provided you with a detailed account of the techniques involved in using the approach. One thing that should have been particularly noticeable throughout the chapter, and indeed which was commented on specifically in terms of the Key Concepts, is the importance of language and the way that questions are phrased. Developing the ability to use the SFA effectively will take time and you should try to hone your skills in different settings by becoming more aware of how you use language. The following exercise will assist in thinking further about these issues.

Task: Next time a service user, friend or relative discusses a problem with you try to pay attention to your use of language during the conversation (whilst of course actively listening to the person as well). Afterwards reflect on the extent to which your use of language helped the person to move towards a solution. Identify the things that you did well and anything that you could have done better. Did you fall into any of the Reassurance, Direction, Passive support or Taking control ‘traps’? If so, how could you avoid this again? Try to implement your learning in future situations.

Activity 2 – Skills practise

This is an exercise which we understand Insoo Kim Berg used to use in her training workshops.  You may find it useful to carry it out with another student or a colleague, perhaps someone else with an interest in developing their social work practice.

Begin by agreeing your roles for this exercise.  One of you (we’ll say ‘you’ but you can, of course, swap roles) takes the role of the social worker, the other person takes the role of a service user.

Imagine an interview scenario where a service user is meeting with a social worker to discuss a problem they have. You can choose any scenario you like, but if you are struggling to get started example issues might be , ‘my daughter won’t go to school’, ‘I am drinking too much alcohol’, ‘I feel hopeless and depressed’, ‘nothing about my support package is working for me’ or ‘I keep getting into arguments with my co-tenants’.

Instruction for the person being the service user – during the interview behave in as challenging manner as possible, although remain in the interview. Challenging does not only refer to being angry or aggressive, but can also refer to being dismissive of anything the social worker says or being unresponsive.

Instruction to the person being the social worker – begin the interview how you would generally expect to, for example, asking the person what the problem is and how you can help. Continue to progress the interview in this way for five to ten minutes. At the end of this period, stop the interview and, using the questions bulleted below, start the interview again.

  • Tell me about the times when this problem is a little bit better.
  • Tell me the most times that this [the problem being a little better] has happened.
  • How did you make this happen?
  • What else did you do?
  • What are you doing differently during those times when things are a little better?
  • What would your best friend / mother / partner / child / dog tell you they notice at these times?

What differences did you notice between the first and second interviews?

Ask the ‘service user’ what they noticed and/or experienced different between the two interviews.