Social work recording has long been recognized as a vital component of
professional and competent practice in agency, private, and community settings.
A Process Recording in social work education is a written format designed to provide a structure
for the student to become aware of and gain a greater understanding of themselves in the
process of intervention with an individual client or target system. As a learning tool, a process
recording assists the student in assessing the degree to which they are achieving their learning
objectives during their interactions with individuals and/or groups. A process recording is holistic
in that it incorporates the skills, theories and interventions learned in other social work courses,
particularly direct practice courses. There are many types of process recordings. The two
formats utilized by George Mason University are the Direct Service Process Recording for and the
DEAL Process Recording.
The field instructor uses the student’s process recording as an evaluation tool to gauge the
student’s growth and development as a professional social worker. The Field Instructor’s
observations, noted in the process recording, provide an opportunity for the student to gain
experience in the use of consultation and to critically analyze and improve their practice skills.
WHAT IS SOCIAL WORK RECORDING?
The Social Work Dictionary (1995) defines “recording” as
The process of putting in writing and keeping on file relevant information about
the client; the problem; the prognosis; the intervention; the progress of
treatment; the social, economic, and health factors contributing to the situation
and the procedures for termination or referral (p. 317).
The social work record should also emphasize the client’s strengths and solutions for
change. The dictionary acknowledges that there are many types of social work recording
and the type used may depend upon factors such as agency requirements, the social
worker’s theoretical base, style and type of intervention. Kagle (1991), describes that
“social work records
Individualize and typify the client, the need, the situation and the service
transaction. Link goals, plans and activities to the assessment of the client-needsituation and to the resources available. Facilitate the delivery of services to or
on behalf of the client. Through the process of making the record, which involves
reviewing, selecting, analyzing and organizing information; and through the
product, the record, itself, which becomes an important resource in
communication about the case Therefore, the purpose of social work recording is to provide:
Accountability to the client, the organization and to relevant legislation
Evidence of facts gathered, assessment, intervention and outcome
On-going essential information
A clear statement of social work involvement on an on-going basis
Relevant information for future social work involvement and continuity of
Information about the role of social work in an interdisciplinary team
Documentation for the purposes of research and program evaluation
Purpose of Recording
According to experts, recording in social casework
serves the following purposes:
It aids practice
It aids administration
It aids teaching and supervision
It aids research
Benefits of Recordings:
• Teaches the student how to listen and attend to critical points of a conversation
• Increases the student’s awareness of skills utilized and names them
• Provides a forum for the student to assess their practice and identify areas of strength, to
include the WAY a student sees things, the WAY a student understands, and the WAY a
student might conduct the intervention differently in the future
• Gives the student an avenue to be honest about what they were feeling/how they
reacted during a session
• Improves the student’s ability to recall information
• Creates a supervisory bond as discussion of the client interaction takes place
• Gives the student permission to self-reflect directly after a client interaction for
RECORDING OUTLINE FOR GROUP PRACTICE
Group Process Recording Outline
A. Information about the Group
Date of Group:
Group Members Present:
B. Purpose of the Group/Meeting
1. Write a brief statement on the overall purpose of the group
a. This statement is include only in the first process recording, or it there is an agreed upon change in the group's overall purpose.
2. Write a concise statement about the goals of the meeting of the group being recorded.
a. How were these goals perceived by the group?
b. How did you perceive these goals?
c. What are the similarities or differences between the group's perception of these goals and yours?
C. Group Process at the Meeting
1. Initial Observations
a. Describe briefly, in general terms, the physical and emotional climate at the beginning of the group meeting.
b. Describe briefly your initial impressions of the attitudes and feelings of the group members at the beginning of the meeting.
c. Describe any significant changes in the appearance or feelings or attitudes of the group members since the last meeting.
2. Group Member Interaction (Group Process)
a. Describe what went on within the group during its meeting. For example:
(1) Describe the means of interaction, e.g., program activity, discussion, debate, tasks, etc.
(2) Describe the feeling reactions of the members to this interaction.
(3) Describe your feeling reactions to this interaction.
b. Describe the effectiveness, vitality, and responsibility of the group's members during the
c. Describe your role in the group's interaction.
d. Describe the ways the group moved toward attainment of its goals.
e. Describe how the group's members dealt with obstacles to attainment of the meeting's
D. Analysis of the Group Meeting
1. Describe your understanding of the nature of the interaction of the group members, including you, at this group meeting.
2. Indicate the theoretical or other knowledge, learned in your other courses, that helps you to understand the process and content of this group meeting.
3. On the basis of your analysis, what is your current assessment of:
a. the stage of the group's development,
b. the commitment of the group members to the group's purpose,
c. the climate and tone of the group,
d. if relevant, discuss specific roles played by individual group members and how they impact the group process.
E. Plan for the Group's Next Meeting
1. Write a brief statement of the plan for the next meeting of the group.
a. Explain how the members of the group, including you, arrived at this plan.
b. Explain how the plan relates to the purpose of the group.
2. Describe what you and the other group members are to do prior to, and in preparation for, the next group meeting.
F. Analysis of the Student Social Worker's Practice
1. Discuss your use of social work practice knowledge and skills during the group meeting.
a. What specific social work skills and/or techniques learned in your practice courses, did you use
during the group meeting?
b. What were the strengths and weaknesses in your practice during the group meeting?
An outline for group recording
- Relationship to Agency
How does your group relate to the overall mission and purpose of the agency? What kind of staff and administrative support exists for this group? Is this an ongoing service of the agency?
- Client Population
Identify the specific population for whom the group serves. What are their common needs? How did you become aware of these commonalities you have identified? What factors influenced your choice of a small group approach?
- Goals and Objectives
What are the goals/objectives for your group?
- Theoretical Background
What theoretical knowledge/concepts will be needed to work with the group?
- Main Themes
What are the expected themes/issues to be pursued in the group?
- Proposed Activities
What are the proposed programs and/or activities?
What are the criteria for membership in your group? How will group members be selected and/or recruited? How will they be informed or screened for the group?
- Role of Worker
What will be your initial and ongoing role in this group? How will you work together with a co-leader to maximize effectiveness?
- Diversity Issues
Are there any racial, ethnic or sexual diversity issues related to the client population, worker(s) or agency orientation? How will these issues relate to group functioning?
- Size of Group
What is the preferred and actual size of the group? What is your rationale for the size of the group?
- Physical Structures
Where will meetings be held? What factors were considered in selecting this location? What will be the length and frequency of the meetings? How long will group last?
What types of forms are needed? What type of record keeping is required? Who needs to be kept informed of client progress?
What is the plan for evaluating the service given? Who will be involved? By what criteria and method will service be evaluated?
of Social Work Indiana
Tips for writing Process Recordings:
• Write a draft immediately after the session so you capture the dialogue and your gut
• Give yourself 30-45 minutes after an interview to write the process recording (you may
need more time depending on the intensity/length of the session)
• For the analysis section, reflect on what you have learned in your social work courses
(theory, direct practice, human behavior) and how it relates to your interaction.
This type of recording is performed when the student has a face-to-face interview with an
individual, family or group. The student may also use this format in conjunction with a direct
telephone contact with an individual client.
Direct Service Process Recordings:
Process recording in this context is a detailed word for word exchange between the student and
the client. It would be prudent to recount this exchange as soon as possible in order to
accurately retain information. If there is an opportunity to use an audio or video recorder, then Process Recording
permission to record from the client is necessary, and their consent should be documented. In
the case where you will not be electronically recording, it would be helpful to take notes in a
manner that does not detract from your engagement with the client.
Process Recording as a DEAL Format:
In circumstances where the student is attending and/ or facilitating an agency or community
meeting, observing an event, such as a legislative vote, or performing administrative tasks, a
narrative DEAL format in process recording is used to document student observations and
PROCESS RECORDINGS SERVE THE FOLLOWING FUNCTIONS:
A. They are primarily useful as a teaching learning tool. The process recording helps the
student to recall the interview in an objective manner, and to see the interview in a different
light. By providing an approximate text of the interview, the process recording allows the
Field Instructor to follow the interview, see the steps taken by the student, and then either
affirm the process or suggest alternative approaches for future reference. A Field Instructor
may see problems or issues that a student may not pick up on, and thereby may alert the
student to different directions for the future.
B. Process recordings do give the pertinent information that assures appropriate followup in
case the student is not available in a time of crisis.
C. An important learning experience for students is learning about themselves, particularly in
their relationships with other people. Through process recording, the student learns how
he/she relates to other people. Space is reserved in the process recording format for the
student to identify his/her feelings relating to interactions with clients (see col. 3 on sample).
Through the use of the process recording, the Field Instructor can assist the student in
understanding his/her feelings and behavior in interactions with clients.
Types of Recording
From the literature available on casework recording no
clear cut classification of records on the basis of their
types is available. However, for our understanding we
can give the following classification of recording.
(a) Process (b) Summary (c) Verbatim (d) NonVerbatim
Process recording is a form of recording used frequently
by the caseworker. In this type, the process of interview
is reported and is a rather detailed description of what
transpired with considerable paraphrasing. It preserves
a sequence in which the various matters were
discussed. It includes not only what both the worker
and the client said but also significant reaction of the
client and changes in mood and response. In this the
interview and observation go hand-in-hand. It may be
verbatim or non-verbatim reproduction.
Summary is a good device for organising and analyzing
facts. Summary points into meaning and relative
importance of material gathered. A careful summary made at appropriate intervals reduces bulk, clarifies
direction and saves the workers, time. Summary is
commonly assumed to be a review or recapitulation of
material that has already appeared in the record. It
may be either topically arranged or may appear as
condensed chronological narrative.
Mrs. Sheffield has defined summary in social casework
recording as “A digest of significant facts in the client’s
history which has previously been recorded”. Summary
could be a diagnostic summary, periodic summary or
The closing summary is a summary made at the time
the case is closed. To be most effective it should be
written by the worker who was responsible for the case
at the time of closing.
The periodic summary is simply the summary of material
previously recorded and is made at more or less regular
intervals or at the end of more or less definite episodes
in the family history.
It is reproduction of factual data in the individual’s own
words. It is commonly used in casework because of its
accuracy and objectivity. However, it should not become
a mechanical reproduction of information because
casework as an art requires an intelligent selection
and rearrangement of material. As a part of training of
the worker, verbatim recording may be of value in
Non-verbatim /narrative recording
Narrative recording has been and still is a predominant
style of recording. It is the style found in newspapers
and magazines. It is the way we speak of the day’s events, it is the way we write letters, and it is the ways
we keep diaries. Narrative form of recording is preferred
for reporting acts of practical helpfulness, events and
most collateral visits or conferences. It may be used for
the contents of the interview in all instances except
when the process itself and use of relationship have