Using Counselling Skills in Social Work


Sally Riggall, Jonathan Parker & Greta Bradley

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    Series Editors' Preface

    The Western world including the UK face numerous challenges over forthcoming years, including the need to deal with the impact of an increasingly ageing population, with its attendant social care needs and working with the social and economic implications that such a changing demography brings. At the other end of the life-span the need for high quality child care, welfare and safeguarding services have been highlighted as society develops and responds to a changing complexion. The emotional needs of individuals are often submerged within this sea of change, and demand attention to the complex ways in which social work practice must attend to psychosocial and emotional needs.

    Migration has increased as a global phenomenon and we now live and work with the implications of international issues in our everyday and local lives. Often these issues influence how we construct our social services and determine what services we need to offer. It is likely that as a social worker you will work with a diverse range of people throughout your career, many of whom have experienced significant, even traumatic, events that require a professional and caring response grounded, of course, in the laws and social policies that have developed as a result. As well as working with individuals, however, you may be required to respond to the needs of a particular community disadvantaged by world events or excluded within local communities because of assumptions made about them, and you may be embroiled in some of the tensions that arise from implementing policy-based approaches that may conflict with professional values. What is clear within these contexts is that you may be working with a range of people who are often at the margins of society, socially excluded or in need of protection and safeguarding: in this book, a range of responses drawn from counselling techniques, especially from Egan's work, are redesigned for application to people marginalised within or excluded from society. This text provides an important reminder that social work represents one of the helping professions in our social world, and offers information to help you become aware of these issues, and to respond appropriately when faced with challenging situations.

    The importance of social work education came to the fore again following the inquiry into the death of baby Peter and the subsequent report from the Social Work Task Force set up in its aftermath. It is timely, also, to reconsider elements of social work education as is being taken forward by the Reform Board process in England and its implementation – indeed, we should view this as a continual striving for excellence! Reflection, revision and reform allow us to focus clearly on what knowledge is useful to engage with in learning to be a social worker. The focus on ‘statutory’ social work, and by dint of that involuntary clients, brings to the fore the need for social workers to be well-versed in the ways in which people can be helped to engage with social work. This important book provides readers with a beginning sense of the realities of practice and the importance of understanding and applying interpersonal skills to assist people in moving forwards and/or reaching acceptance of difficult and complex situations.

    The books in this series respond to the agendas driven by changes brought about by professional body, Government, disciplinary review and academic developments. They aim to build on and offer introductory texts based on up-to-date knowledge, social work and social policy developments and to help communicate this in an accessible way preparing the ground for future study as you develop your social work career. The books are written by people passionate about social work and social services and aim to instil that passion in others. The knowledge introduced in this book is important for all social workers in all fields of practice as they seek to reaffirm social work's commitment to those it serves.

    Professor Jonathan ParkerBournemouth University Greta Bradley, University of York

    About the Author

    Sally Riggall is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Health and Social Care at the University of Lincoln where she teaches both communication and counselling skills to social work and social care students. She is a qualified counsellor and has practised in a range of settings, encompassing doctors' surgeries and the public sector. Prior to her current position, she worked as a lecturer in further education where she managed and taught on a programme of professional counselling courses. Her research interests are primarily concerned with exploring how Egan's Skilled Helper model can assist social work students to place service-users at the centre of decision making.


    I would like to thank all the students, practice educators and service-users who have so willingly given their time and contributed material to this book. I would also like to thank my colleagues at the University of Lincoln, especially Leslie Hicks and Leonne Griggs who not only shared with me their considerable knowledge and expertise but also provided me with detailed feedback and unstinting support; and Heather Flynn and Terry O'Sullivan for their kind words and practice wisdom. I would also like to acknowledge the helpful comments and advice given to me by Luke Block, Kate Lodge and Jonathan Parker at Sage/Learning Matters.

    Finally, I would like thank my partner, John Conlon, for his encouragement and support. John, I dedicate this book to you.


    This book is designed to equip students and experienced social work practitioners with knowledge and skills which will help them to engage effectively with service-users. Increasingly, service-users are seen to occupy a central position in terms of practice. The personalisation agenda in health and social care, where service-users take control of their care needs and of the way these are delivered, means that helping people to identify and express their own needs is vital. Achieving this is seldom straightforward. Much relies on a high level of communication and engagement between practitioners and service-users. The skills presented in this book are designed to enable practitioners to assist service-users in expressing their needs and determining the steps which will help them to achieve change to best effect. The person-centred skills offered here are drawn from models used primarily in counselling practice. Here, the particular skills are applied to social work practice. The book uses an incremental approach where skills build on each other to provide a tool-kit of counselling skills which is tailored to use in social work.

    Requirements for Social Work Education

    The Social Work Task Force Report (2010) recommends that social workers should work in a person-centred manner and help service-users to find solutions which leave them in as much control as possible. An important concept in counselling is that of believing the client is the expert on themselves and that, with focused interventions, the person can be assisted to make their own decisions, which will help them to move forward in their lives. Using counselling skills can enable social workers to assist service-users in this process.

    A recurring theme in research with service-users is their desire to have social workers who will listen, respect them and place them at the centre of decision making. The Munro Review of Child Protection (2011, p25) states:

    Children have said they value an ongoing relationship with their worker, that their needs and rights to protection should be at the heart of practice, that they should have a voice, and be listened to.

    The Munro Review lists core skills which are essential for social work practice. These include: conveying respect; interest; understanding; warmth; empathic concern; and being able to reflect and work with complex feelings and emotions. While few people would dispute the importance of these attributes, putting them into practice requires knowledge of how to do this. This book is a practical guide to developing interpersonal skills which will enable you to build effective working relationships with service-users.

    Book Structure

    In Chapter 1 there is an exploration of what counselling skills are and why they are important in social work practice. The importance of using empathic counselling skills in engaging with service-users is established, together with an examination of skills that can help you to place the service-user at the centre of the helping process. The chapter draws on service-users' views of the skills and attributes they would like social workers to have. The Egan Skilled Helper model is introduced as a core model, which will be explored further in later chapters.

    Chapter 2 investigates the person-centred skills which are essential to building meaningful working relationships with service-users. This includes the importance of non-verbal communication. The chapter explores why some service-users may not wish to engage with practitioners, together with techniques for working with people who show reluctance or resistance.

    How to develop techniques of empathic responding is the subject of Chapter 3. The core conditions of empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence, as identified by Carl Rogers, are explored, together with an analysis of the components of active listening.

    In Chapter 4 there is a discussion of different levels of potential barriers which practitioners employ with service-users, including unconscious processes such as transference and counter-transference. Skills from Transactional Analysis are applied and there is a focus on self-development activities to help you to develop awareness of your own barriers.

    Challenging skills are examined in Chapter 5. There is an exploration of common areas where challenging is useful, such as when people have difficulty in identifying the consequences of their behaviour. The chapter explores principles and techniques in relation to challenging, including encouraging self-challenge, identifying blind spots and working with hunches.

    Chapter 6 turns to action-based counselling skills, which enable the service-user to take responsibility for decision making. The chapter focuses on how you can help the service-user to state what they need or want, set realistic and achievable goals and to identify strategies for achieving these.

    The significance of loss in people's lives cannot be overstated. Chapter 7 defines different kinds of losses that service-users may experience, such as those associated with bereavement or entering residential care. The chapter identifies counselling skills which are useful both for helping people who are facing loss and when working with service-users who are nearing the end of their lives.

    Working in difficult situations is often a major challenge for practitioners. Chapter 8 identifies different conflict situations and describes techniques for acknowledging and working with anger. The chapter includes how to engage in difficult conversations, such as breaking bad news. Assertiveness skills are defined and applied in different case study situations. Skills for ending working relationships are explored.

    Skills learned in earlier chapters are developed and applied in Chapter 9 to working in groups. The different stages of group development are discussed, together with using skills to help groups to bond and work through difficulties. The chapter examines the use of counselling skills when working with families.

    Chapter 10 summarises the tool-kit of counselling skills developed throughout the book and examines how these can be used to work with different client groups, including children, older people, those with disabilities and learning difficulties, people from different cultures and older people who have dementia. A key theme is the importance of continuing to see the service-user as a unique person.

    Learning Features

    The book is a practical guide that will help you to engage with service-users. The importance of placing service-users at the centre of decision making is a key theme throughout each chapter. Egan's (2010) Skilled Helper approach underpins the book and is explored and applied to different social work situations. Chapters include excerpts from actual interviews with service-users, students, practice educators and practitioners where skills helpful to social work are discussed. Developing skills necessary for building effective relationships is another key area that is explored in detail. The role and importance of self-awareness is discussed and activities are presented to help you to develop knowledge of yourself. Throughout the book, case study examples and analyses of dialogue are presented as aids to learning practical counselling skills which are appropriate to social work practice. Suggestions for further reading are made at the end of each chapter.

    Professional Development and Reflective Practice

    This book offers opportunities for you to learn and develop a tool-kit of skills. It is difficult to learn how to use counselling skills in social work solely by reading about them in a book. Embedding skills requires practice. I do not advocate that you should try out new skills for the first time with service-users. Instead, I suggest you practise new techniques in a safe environment where it does not matter whether or not you get it right. Engaging a classmate or colleague with whom you can try out new skills in role-play is a helpful way to begin developing your expertise. Feedback can be elicited using this method. Additionally, this enables you to reflect on your development before using newly acquired counselling skills with service-users.

    This book has been carefully mapped to the new Professional Capabilities Framework for Social Workers in England and will help you to develop the appropriate standards at the right level. These standards are:

    • Professionalism

      Identify and behave as a professional social worker committed to professional development.

    • Values and ethics

      Apply social work ethical principles and values to guide professional practice.

    • Diversity

      Recognise diversity and apply anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive principles in practice.

    • Justice

      Advance human rights and promote social justice and economic wellbeing.

    • Knowledge

      Apply knowledge of social sciences, law and social work practice theory.

    • Judgement

      Use judgement and authority to intervene with individuals, families and communities to promote independence, provide support and prevent harm, neglect and abuse.

    • Critical reflection and analysis

      Apply critical reflection and analysis to inform and provide a rationale for professional decision-making.

    • Contexts and organisations

      Engage with, inform, and adapt to changing contexts that shape practice. Operate effectively within your own organisational frameworks and contribute to the development of services and organisations. Operate effectively within multi-agency and inter-professional settings.

    • Professional leadership

      Take responsibility for the professional learning and development of others through supervision, mentoring, assessing, research, teaching, leadership and management.

    References to these standards will be made throughout the text and you will find a diagram of the Professional Capabilities Framework in Appendix 1.

  • Conclusion

    The aim of this book has been to enable social workers to develop a range of counselling skills which will be useful in engagement with service-users. The main themes that I wish to emphasise in these concluding paragraphs are:

    • the use of counselling skills in helping social workers to develop effective relationships with service-users;
    • the importance of placing the service-user at the centre of decision making;
    • the significance of social workers becoming aware of their own conscious and unconscious processes when working with service-users;
    • how using particular counselling skills can serve to encourage sustainable change for service-users.
    Using Counselling Skills to Develop the Social Work Relationship

    Throughout this book there has been an emphasis on the importance of developing an effective working relationship with the service-user. Having a genuine interest in each service-user, wanting to engage, and striving to see each person as an individual are all necessary foundations for creating good working relationships. Service-users themselves tell us how much they value social workers who express warmth and respect and who offer space and support. Above all, service-users want their social workers to listen and to work collaboratively with them in finding solutions to their difficulties.

    In this book, I have defined what constitutes effective listening skills and have explored particular techniques for listening well. These have included empathic responding where we try and put ourselves in the service-user's position and attempt to try and understand what the person might be thinking and feeling and why they may be behaving in a certain way. I have emphasised that while empathic responding is a difficult skill to achieve well, we need to strive to use it throughout every session with each service-user. There is a need to use empathic responding when forming relationships, when maintaining relationships, when challenging the person, during the process of finding out what is needed and in supporting the service-user through change.

    Placing Service-users at the Centre of Decision Making

    A key theme of this book is that when practitioners use counselling skills this can help service-users to take control of their own lives. Instead of telling someone what to do, we could say what would help you most at the moment…or if nothing changes, what would your life look like in, say, six months from now? Asking the right questions, which will help people to project themselves forward and think about the costs and consequences of making or not making changes, leaves the service-user in control of decision making rather than the practitioner. Many of the chapters have referred to and explored the Egan (2010) Skilled Helper model. Although this is used predominantly as a counselling model, it is also relevant to social work. The three stages of the model have been illustrated by their application to social work case studies. Using the model when engaging with service-users can help us to think: what is happening to the person now, what do they want or need at this moment and how can I help them to get there? Working in this way also keeps the service-user at the centre of the process and reduces the power of the practitioner.

    Self-awareness when Working with Service-users

    Self-awareness is a key component of social work and counselling training. If we can develop awareness of how we consciously and unconsciously engage with people then we will be better able to overcome barriers in our communication with service-users. Each chapter has included a number of activities which have invited you to explore your thinking, feelings and behaviour. Tuning in to service-users (Egan, 2010) requires practitioners to bring into conscious awareness that which is just out of reach. For example, in Chapter 4 we explored how having knowledge of ego-states from Transactional Analysis can help us to choose consciously from alternative forms of communication. Good supervision can help us to develop awareness of how we may be experienced by service-users and also helps us to engage more effectively. The more we understand ourselves, what motivates us, how and why we respond to each individual service-user as we do then the better we will be at remaining open, honest and congruent. Congruence, together with empathy and respect, deepens the social work relationship by developing trust.

    Promoting Change

    Effective social workers uphold the worth and uniqueness of each service-user. Prizing the person (Rogers, 1961) in this way also means holding a fundamental belief that they have the capacity to change. Without this attitude, we would rapidly become cynical and dismissive towards service-users. If you have completed, engaged with and reflected on the counselling skills activities in this book, you may find that you have changed your approach to engagement with service-users in a number of areas. Change is not easy but reflecting on our own ability to change can help us to assist others to begin this process. Learning counselling skills that can help people to change or to make changes in their lives has been a key theme of this book. We have explored how to help service-users to recognise their own strengths; we have analysed skills which can help us to challenge service-users constructively. We have examined methods of encouraging people to set their own goals and also ways of supporting them to sustain change.

    Building counselling skills into social work practice not only helps us in forming relationships, it also assists in those circumstances which require the assessment of risk and direct protective action. For example, empathic responses can encourage parents to disclose information in child protection cases. Using counselling skills to help parents and carers to self-assess the costs and consequences of continuing with a particular behaviour helps to place them in control of their own lives and potentially to bring about lasting changes.

    A Final Point

    I hope you have enjoyed this book and feel inspired to try out the models and skills that it contains. For me, developing expertise in using counselling skills requires constant practise and reflection. Each time I try to use an empathic response I wonder if I succeed in communicating back to the other person my desire to understand what they are saying directly and indirectly to me. Every time I engage with someone, I learn more about myself and my unconscious processes and how these might help or hinder our relationship. Using counselling skills is not easy but when we use them well it can be tremendously helpful and beneficial.

    Reading a text about skills is never sufficient on its own to develop our proficiency so I urge you to practise the skills you have learned in this book and to reflect regularly on your progress. I hope you have found the chapters and activities useful and that they have helped you to develop your confidence in using counselling skills in social work.

    Appendix 1: Professional Capabilities Framework

    Appendix 2: Subject Benchmark for Social Work

    Subject Knowledge, Understanding and Skills
    Subject Knowledge and Understanding

    5.1 During their degree studies in social work, honours graduates should acquire, critically evaluate, apply and integrate knowledge and understanding in the following core areas of study.

    5.1.1 Social work services, service users and carers, which include:

    • the nature of social work services in a diverse society (with particular reference to concepts such as prejudice, interpersonal, institutional and structural discrimination, empowerment and anti-discriminatory practices);
    • the nature and validity of different definitions of, and explanations for, the characteristics and circumstances of service users and the services required by them, drawing on knowledge from research, practice experience, and from service users and carers;
    • the focus on outcomes, such as promoting the well-being of young people and their families, and promoting dignity, choice and independence for adults receiving services.

    5.1.3 Values and ethics, which include:

    • the moral concepts of rights, responsibility, freedom, authority and power inherent in the practice of social workers as moral and statutory agents;

    5.1.4 Social work theory, which includes:

    • research-based concepts and critical explanations from social work theory and other disciplines that contribute to the knowledge base of social work, including their distinctive epistemological status and application to practice;
    • the relevance of psychological, physical and physiological perspectives to understanding personal and social development and functioning;
    • social science theories explaining group and organisational behaviour, adaptation and change;
    • models and methods of assessment, including factors underpinning the selection and testing of relevant information, the nature of professional judgement and the processes of risk assessment and decision-making;
    • approaches and methods of intervention in a range of settings, including factors guiding the choice and evaluation of these;
    • user-led perspectives.

    5.1.5 The nature of social work practice, which includes:

    • the nature and characteristics of skills associated with effective practice, both direct and indirect, with a range of service-users and in a variety of settings;
    • the processes that facilitate and support service user choice and independence;
    • the place of theoretical perspectives and evidence from international research in assessment and decision-making processes in social work practice;
    • the integration of theoretical perspectives and evidence from international research into the design and implementation of effective social work intervention, with a wide range of service users, carers and others;
    • the processes of reflection and evaluation, including familiarity with the range of approaches for evaluating service and welfare outcomes, and their significance for the development of practice and the practitioner.
    Subject-specific Skills and other Skills

    5.2 As an applied subject at honours degree level, social work necessarily involves the development of skills that may be of value in many situations (for example, analytical thinking, building relationships, working as a member of an organisation, intervention, evaluation and reflection). Some of these skills are specific to social work but many are also widely transferable. What helps to define the specific nature of these skills in a social work context are:

    • the context in which they are applied and assessed (eg, communication skills in practice with people with sensory impairments or assessment skills in an interprofessional setting);
    • the relative weighting given to such skills within social work practice (eg, the central importance of problem-solving skills within complex human situations);
    • the specific purpose of skill development (eg, the acquisition of research skills in order to build a repertoire of research-based practice);
    • a requirement to integrate a range of skills (ie, not simply to demonstrate these in an isolated and incremental manner).

    5.3 All social work honours graduates should show the ability to reflect on and learn from the exercise of their skills. They should understand the significance of the concepts of continuing professional development and lifelong learning, and accept responsibility for their own continuing development.

    Problem-solving Skills

    5.5 These are sub-divided into four areas.

    5.5.1 Managing problem-solving activities: honours graduates in social work should be able to plan problem-solving activities, ie to:

    • think logically, systematically, critically and reflectively;
    • apply ethical principles and practices critically in planning problem-solving activities;
    • plan a sequence of actions to achieve specified objectives, making use of research, theory and other forms of evidence;
    • manage processes of change, drawing on research, theory and other forms of evidence.

    5.5.3 Analysis and synthesis: honours graduates in social work should be able to analyse and synthesise knowledge gathered for problem-solving purposes, ie to:

    • assess human situations, taking into account a variety of factors (including the views of participants, theoretical concepts, research evidence, legislation and organisational policies and procedures);
    • consider specific factors relevant to social work practice (such as risk, rights, cultural differences and linguistic sensitivities, responsibilities to protect vulnerable individuals and legal obligations);
    • critically analyse and take account of the impact of inequality and discrimination in work with people in particular contexts and problem situations.

    5.5.4 Intervention and evaluation: honours graduates in social work should be able to use their knowledge of a range of interventions and evaluation processes selectively to:

    • build and sustain purposeful relationships with people and organisations in community-based, and interprofessional contexts;
    • make decisions, set goals and construct specific plans to achieve these, taking into account relevant factors including ethical guidelines;
    • negotiate goals and plans with others, analysing and addressing in a creative manner human, organisational and structural impediments to change;
    • implement plans through a variety of systematic processes that include working in partnership;
    • undertake practice in a manner that promotes the well-being and protects the safety of all parties;
    • engage effectively in conflict resolution;
    • support service users to take decisions and access services, with the social worker as navigator, advocate and supporter;
    • manage the complex dynamics of dependency and, in some settings, provide direct care and personal support in everyday living situations;
    • meet deadlines and comply with external definitions of a task;
    • plan, implement and critically review processes and outcomes;
    • bring work to an effective conclusion, taking into account the implications for all involved;
    • monitor situations, review processes and evaluate outcomes;
    • use and evaluate methods of intervention critically and reflectively.
    Communication Skills

    5.6 Honours graduates in social work should be able to communicate clearly, accurately and precisely (in an appropriate medium) with individuals and groups in a range of formal and informal situations, i.e. to:

    • make effective contact with individuals and organisations for a range of objectives, by verbal, paper-based and electronic means;
    • clarify and negotiate the purpose of such contacts and the boundaries of their involvement;
    • listen actively to others, engage appropriately with the life experiences of service users, understand accurately their viewpoint and overcome personal prejudices to respond appropriately to a range of complex personal and interpersonal situations;
    • use both verbal and non-verbal cues to guide interpretation;
    • identify and use opportunities for purposeful and supportive communication with service users within their everyday living situations;
    • follow and develop an argument and evaluate the viewpoints of, and evidence presented by, others;
    • write accurately and clearly in styles adapted to the audience, purpose and context of the communication;
    • use advocacy skills to promote others’ rights, interests and needs;
    • present conclusions verbally and on paper, in a structured form, appropriate to the audience for which these have been prepared;
    • make effective preparation for, and lead meetings in a productive way;
    • communicate effectively across potential barriers resulting from differences (for example, in culture, language and age).
    Skills in Working with others

    5.7 Honours graduates in social work should be able to work effectively with others, ie to:

    • involve users of social work services in ways that increase their resources, capacity and power to influence factors affecting their lives;
    • consult actively with others, including service users and carers, who hold relevant information or expertise;
    • act cooperatively with others, liaising and negotiating across differences such as organisational and professional boundaries and differences of identity or language;
    • develop effective helping relationships and partnerships with other individuals, groups and organisations that facilitate change;
    • act with others to increase social justice by identifying and responding to prejudice, institutional discrimination and structural inequality;
    • act within a framework of multiple accountability (for example, to agencies, the public, service users, carers and others);
    • challenge others when necessary, in ways that are most likely to produce positive outcomes.
    Skills in Personal and Professional Development

    5.8 Honours graduates in social work should be able to:

    • advance their own learning and understanding with a degree of independence;
    • reflect on and modify their behaviour in the light of experience;
    • identify and keep under review their own personal and professional boundaries;
    • manage uncertainty, change and stress in work situations;
    • handle inter and intrapersonal conflict constructively;
    • understand and manage changing situations and respond in a flexible manner;
    • challenge unacceptable practices in a responsible manner;
    • take responsibility for their own further and continuing acquisition and use of knowledge and skills;
    • use research critically and effectively to sustain and develop their practice.


    Active listening

    The process of listening to people and demonstrating that listening is taking place, by, for example, paraphrasing back to the service-user what has been heard.


    Loss of the ability to speak due to a brain injury or disease.

    Asylum seeker

    A person who leaves their country of residence because of persecution for race, religion or political beliefs and who seeks refugee status in another nation.

    Body language

    Non-verbal and often unconscious communication conveyed by, for example, our facial expressions and posture.

    Clinical depression

    A severe form of depression which is not easily attributable to environmental factors or life events.


    To work alongside a service-user by finding out what they need and want and together identifying ways forward that will make a difference to their lives.


    Unconscious processes and memories which are invoked in response to something that someone else says to us. For example, the service-user may remind us of someone significant in our own life and then we react to the person in a similar way.


    Where a person's views are self-conflicting, discordant or incongruous.

    Egan Skilled Helper model

    A three-stage model developed by Gerard Egan (2010), which places service-users at the centre of decision making.


    The process of trying to put ourselves in another person's position in an attempt to understand how they might be thinking, feeling or behaving. Empathy is not how we would feel if we were in the service-user's situation, it is about identifying what might be happening for the other person (Rogers, 1961).


    Fully involving service-users in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of decisions determining the function and well-being of themselves and their wider environment (Parrott, 2010, p42).


    Repeating back to the service-user what they have said using their exact words in order to highlight something of deep meaning (Clabby and O'Connor, 2004).


    Repeating back to the speaker the essence of what they have said using mainly our own choice of words (Hough, 1998).

    Person-centred approach

    A way of engaging with clients devised by Carl Rogers (1961) where the helper works in a non-judgemental, empathic manner in order to help the service-user find their own solutions to their difficulties.


    This involves the introduction of personal budgets to give service-users as much control as possible over their own lives. It places people at the centre of a process which enables them to identify their needs and make choices about how they would like to live their lives (Carr, 2010).


    Establishing a connection with a service-user where they feel understood, listened to and supported to find their own way forward.


    A person who has been awarded the right to remain indefinitely or temporarily in a country to which they have sought asylum.


    A plan of action which will assist in achieving a particular goal (Egan, 2010).


    A process where an experienced practitioner offers guidance and support in the practice of social work to students and qualified social workers.

    Therapeutic relationship

    A working alliance between the social worker and the service-user which brings about growth and change. According to Rogers (1961), a therapeutic relationship is one where the practitioner is genuine, accepting and understanding.

    Transactional Analysis

    A theory of personality, communication and child development which helps people to better understand themselves and the ways in which they relate to others.


    A process where we unconsciously use our past experiences to shape our communication with others. For example, a service-user who has experienced a controlling parent may invite the social worker to be similarly dominant towards them.

    Unconscious processes

    Often repressed memories and experiences from our past, which are relived in our current engagement with others without our conscious awareness of this happening (Casement, 1985).


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