Social Work in My Opinion

How “Resistance” Should be Viewed in Any Helping Situation/Ways to Encourage Non-Voluntary Clients to Engage in the Helping Process

Helping situations, within the scope of modern social work, represent a tremendous opportunity for the social workers.  Properly executed and completed, the situations can be a wonderful personal and community service (Vourlekis, et al, 1992), such as one would find in the case of voluntary clients.  This being said, however, in the case of non-voluntary clients, resistance can and does often manifest itself, especially in the case of the chronically mentally ill for example (Hodge, 2001).  Therefore, resistance needs to be viewed in such a way that it will encourage the non-voluntary client to engage in the helping process itself, which can be accomplished in a variety of ways.

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First, as an overall guideline, it is important to take a step back from the helping process itself and consider the physical setting in which the helping process will be conducted.  Research indicates that carrying out the helping process in a more structured setting such as the clinical setting as an example can and has been shown to facilitate a smoother helping process when the subject is showing some apprehension; from the practical point of view, the effectiveness of the setting, because it will make it possible for the helping process to be completed in a more rapid faction, also controls treatment costs which is something that is a practical reality that needs to be monitored in social work environments where budgets are of a concern, such as in the use of paid social workers rather than unpaid volunteers (Kemp, et al, 1997).

Having the proper setting for the helping situation is an important first step.  Going forward, the resistance itself needs to be viewed not as an insurmountable obstacle, but rather as an indicative symptom that, if properly understood by the practioner, can in fact shed a lot of light on the underlying issues within the helping situation (Saleebey, 2001).  For example, if the resistance is found to be based on the approach, style, or even gender of the social worker, the resistance can easily be countered with a few minor compensations on the part of the social worker themselves.  On a deeper level, if the resistance involves more complicated root causes,  this is a strong indication that perhaps multiple practioners and/or specialists need to get involved for a correct implementation of help.

Finally, the issue of encouraging the non-voluntary client to engage in the helping process must be understood.  Once again, it must be repeated that it is fair to say that many of the non-voluntary clients are that way because of chronic mental illness, which precludes the legitimate encouragement process- in this context, we are essentially talking only about non-voluntary clients who are this way outside of any factors beyond their control and free will.  With this fundamental understanding, it is possible to motivate non-voluntary clients to become engaged in helping.  Possibly the most basic, yet effective ways to do this is to approach the client from a standpoint of being completely focused on what they have to say- their point of view, concerns, complaints, fears and anxieties.  When the client begins to realize that the social worker is there to give the client the opportunity to express their own feelings, goals, and expectations for the helping process because once they start to create the vision of what the bright future looks like, they own a piece of the solution, and therefore will be more likely to become involved.  Simply put, encouragement, communication and collaboration will aid in the resolution of  resistance.

A Critical Analysis of the Strengths/Resilience Perspective-Values/Challenges/Limitations

A particularly interesting perspective in the field of social work is the strengths/resilience perspective, which, simply put, holds that individuals have within them certain coping mechanisms, abilities to overcome adversity, and to help themselves and accept help from others (Sibicky, et al, 1995).  This perspective, of course, has drawn its share of supporters and detractors; with this in mind, the pros and coons of the perspective should be explained in more length.

Strengths/resilience perspective has practical value from several angles; first, by recognizing that individuals have the mental faculties to be able to not only play a role in their assistance, but also to tolerate certain levels of adversity gives hope to the social worker who feels like they are fighting an uphill battle in the assistance of clients who are totally helpless-whether voluntarily or involuntarily (Robinson, et al, 2003).  Armed with this information, the social worker can develop practices and methods that will make the most of the inner attributes of the client, thereby reducing client resistance and forming a stronger bond with the client, as trust is a very important factor in the success of social assistance.


Just as the perspective has certain values within it, it also poses challenges not only to the social worker, but also to the client themselves.  If, in fact, strength/resilience exists within the client to the levels that are suspected, there is also the unique possibility that the client may have strength and resilience to the point where they will refuse assistance from the social worker, thereby putting up a barrier against any sort of meaningful exchange between social worker and client, and resulting in ineffective outcomes for all concerned (Hodge, 2001).  Also, the social worker must be extremely mindful that they do not give the client too much latitude or responsibility in the helping process, lest the ability of the social worker to assist be diminished by a client having too much to accomplish in the process.

Finally, the strength/resilience perspective has also been shown to have some inherent limitations after being studied by some of the most knowledgeable authorities on the topic of social work.  One of the broadest criticisms that has been leveled against this perspective is as much a part of the human psyche as it is a part of modern society and popular thinking, which is the tendency of many individuals who are in need of social services to view themselves as hopeless victims of circumstance itself, discrimination, or any other of a host of unseen foes that lock the client into thinking that there is nothing that can be done-either on their part or on the part of social workers- that can help them to any measurable extent.  With a victim’s mentality, the client is unable to even approach a consideration of inner strength or resilience, much like a self fulfilling prophecy.

Going hand in hand with the victimization that permeates modern society and some sources say defeats the strength/resilience perspective is the need in the mind of individuals to attribute every ill-physical/social/economic- to some sort of a syndrome, disease, or phenomenon.  Once again, by compartmentalizing one’s problems into an incurable infirmity, the client is in essence given a perpetual excuse to avoid having to rely on their inner strength or coping ability to help themselves.

In short, the strength/resilience perspective, while far from perfect, does appear to have a certain level of value and functionality; however, it is up to the social worker to understand its limitations and use it wisely.