Some thoughts on clinical social work assessments


Your blog is a great resource. I have a question and was hoping you’d give me some insight. I’m a clinical social worker. In most places I’ve worked, I’ve had to do assessments. Even with the most neutrally-worded assessments, clients often…

tardis60 said:

I’m glad that someone in social work not only had this concern but took the time and effort to ask, and ask realsocialskills in particular. This answer articulates for me so much about what I and family members have run into in these situations and explores many issues I identify with. And also made me think about all the reasons why these questions might be asked, all the reasons why reactions can be so uncomfortable, and what it’s like for the asker.

realsocialskills said:

Social work is really, really hard to do well. There’s so much going on in the field that puts pressure on social workers to treat people poorly and take them over.

And assessments are often part of that. They contain a lot of questions that are cognitive cues for views-from-above thinking, and the ways social workers are expected to phrase reports contribute to that even more. (And that kind of thing is really the tip of the iceberg.)

But social workers also sometimes do really important work, and a lot of it is work no one else is doing (the same is true of therapists, which is a similarly problematic field). So I don’t mean this as a general condemnation of social workers - social work is important, and important to get right. (There are social work roles that are wholly bad. But not all social work roles are like that). It’s hard to be in that field without adopting some really dangerous kinds of thinking.

I wish I knew more about how to do it well. I’m trying to find out as much as I can. Because I really, really want to support people who are trying to be good social workers.