Strength- based framework has transformed social work practices and policies for many decades. In a private practice setting, using strength-based practice reinforces to individuals that their personal change is their investment. As a private practice practitioner, I have focused upon developing a mission that meets an anti-oppressive framework and builds upon individuals’ strengths. My mission statement uses words such as “empower, strengthen, educate…and client-centered, flexibility, innovation, results-oriented and holistic”. The cornerstone of my practice is the belief that my role is to walk with, encourage, and support individuals and families as they undertake healing within their lives. This is reflected when often clients would say to me, “what do you think I should do?” and I reflect back with a statement, “I trust your ability to know, what do you believe is the best path for you to take?” Client-centered approach is aligned with strength-based practice, and both have similar approaches to working with individuals. Similar to Graybeal (2000), a strength-based practice incorporates ideas such as resilience, healing, possibility and change that comes from the client’s work in therapy. The same is true for client-centered work.
Another important piece for strength-based practice is building of “relationship” between the client and the therapist. The therapeutic relationship, in my practice, is an integral part of healing and change. Once the client feels safe within the therapeutic relationship, they can fully begin to shield their emotions, their feelings, and their worries within the relationship knowing that they would feel supported and accepted unconditionally. Graybeal (2000) emphasizes that the client may be experiencing a host of inner and external difficulties from loss, trauma, poverty, isolation and more. Therefore, it is critical for the social worker to engage the client in a meaningful way. Graybeal (2000) writes, “learning to ask questions that open up possibilities is an art form that takes practice” (p. 141), but is work that leads to shifts within the client’s life. As an example of strength-based and relationship-centered practice, last year I supervised a residential treatment center as a clinical counsellor, I reinforced to the staff team the importance of integrating a strength-based practice with relationship building. This was a foreign topic to child and youth workers who were taught and trained to follow a behavior approach to working with youth. However, the shift for them came when they started to engage seemingly “difficult and resistant” youth to try new things because they focused upon developing the relationship with them, and using their strengths to gain greater participation within their program. Connecting strength-based practice to the policies and practices I enforce, the relationships I build with service users, and the leadership and training I provide in my community will ultimately help create shifts in people’s lives.
Graybeal, Clay (2000). Strengths-based social work assessment: Transforming the dominant paradigm in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services. 82(3).