Saturday, 17 May 2014


Social case work is a complex, dynamic, and evolving
phenomenon. It is complex by virtue of the varied
knowledge which feed it, the ethical commitments which
infuse it, the special auspices and conditions of its
practice, the objectives and ends which guide it, the
skills which empower it. It is complicated by the fact
that it deals with materials which are in interaction and
change among themselves and also in response to the
interaction of case work itself. As it is experienced,
practiced, or thought about, the social case work is a
living event. As such it cannot be contained within a
definition. Yet we can try to define it in a manner as it
is used by the practitioners.
Social case work is a process used by certain human
welfare agencies to help individuals to cope more
effectively with their problems in social functioning.
Case work is both social and psychological. The term
“social” implies which involves more than one person;
the term “psychological” is that which takes place within
an individual. Since the individual does not live in a
vacuum, the content of much of his inner experience is
“psycho-social.” In other words, there is no real
dichotomy between the social and the psychological.
There is an aspect of experience, however, which belongs
to and is characterized by the individual himself.
The nucleus of the case work event is this: a person
with a problem comes to a place where a professional
representative helps him by a given process. Since this
is the heart of almost any situation where a person seeks
professional help, the distinctive characteristics must
be delineated.
There are four components of case work known as the 4
1. The Person
2. The Problem
3. The Place
4. The Process
Let us examine each, one by one
The Person
The person is a man, woman or child or anyone who
finds himself/herself, or is found to be, in need of help
in some aspect of his social-emotional living, whether
the need be for tangible provisions or counsel. As he/
she begins to receive help, he/she is called a “client”. A
client is one who seeks professional help, one who
employs the help of another or one who is served by a
social agency or an institution.
David Landy has identified the process a person goes
through in seeking help or becoming a client:
1. The help seeker must decide something is wrong.
2. The help seeker must face the probability that
family, friends and neighbours will know of his
3. The help seeker must decide to admit to a helper
he is in distress, failed or is not capable of handling
his own problem.
4. The help seeker must decide to surrender enough
sovereignty and autonomy to place himself in a
dependency role.
5. The help seeker must decide to direct his search for
help among persons and resources known to him.
6. The help seeker must decide to take time off a job
or from other responsibilities to receive help.
7. The help seeker may realize that in receiving help
relationship with others may be threatened.
The person seeking help brings to the helping situation
concerns, needs and problems. The person comes with
concerns, unmet needs and problems of social
functioning. He/She comes from a societal and cultural
milieu, a set of life experiences, and a set of transactions
with other person’s that make the person unique yet
sharing the commonalities of humankind. The client of
a social agency is like the other persons one has ever
known, but he/she is different too. In broad ways he/
she is like all other human beings; in a somewhat more
limited way he/she is like all other human beings of
his age or time or culture. But, as one moves from
understanding him/her simply as a human being to
understanding him/her as this particular human being,
one finds that, with all his/her’s general likeness to
others, he/she is as unique as his thumbprint. By
nuance and fine line and by the particular way his/her
bone and brain and spirit are joined, he/she is born
and grows as a personality different in some ways from
every other individual of his/her family, genus, or
The client role calls for active participation in the helping
endeavor, which includes furnishing appropriate
information to inform the decision making process,
participation in the decision-making process to the limits
of the clients ability and capacity, and the carrying put
of the mutually agreed upon tasks.
Clients are of several types:
1. Those who ask for appropriate help for themselves.
2. Those who ask for help for another person or system.
3. Those who do not seek help but are in some way
blocking or threatening the social functioning of
another person (e.g., the neglectful parent in a child
protection case).
4. Those who seek or use help as a means to reach
their own goals or ends.
5. Those who seek help but for inappropriate goals.
Identification of clients type is the first step in the
delivery of service, for the worker-client relationship and
interaction will vary depending on the type of client and
the nature of help sought.
Felix Biestik has identified seven needs of clients as
they come to the helping situation:
1. To be dealt with as an individual rather than a type
or category.
2. To express feelings both positive and negative.
3. To be accepted as a person of worth, a person with
innate dignity.
4. Sympathetic understanding of and response to
feelings expressed.
5. To be neither judged nor condemned for the difficulty
in which the clients finds himself.
6. To make own choices and decisions concerning one’s
own life.
7. To help keep confidential information about self as
secret as possible.
The client is a person with both needs and a problem(s).
The problem may be related to a client. No one can ever
know the whole of another person, though may
sometimes delude himself/herself to that effect. The
reason for this lies not only in the subtle dimensions
and interlacing of any personality but also in the shift
and reorganization of new and old elements in the
personality that take place continuously just because
the person is alive in a live environment and is in
interaction with it. Nevertheless, the person is a whole
in any moment of his/her living. He/she operates as a
physical, psychological, social entity, whether on the
problem of his/her neurotic anxieties or of his
inadequate income. He/she is a product-in-process, so
to speak, of his/her constitutional makeup, his/her
physical and social environment, his/her past
environment, his/her experiences, his/her present
perceptions and reactions, and even his/her future
aspirations. It is this physical-psychological-social-pastpresent-
future configuration that he/she brings to every
life-situation he/she encounters.
The person’s behaviour has this purpose and meaning
to gain satisfaction, to avoid and dissolve frustration and
to maintain his/her balance- in- movement.
To understand a person, it is important to know his/
her parts of personality that is Id (life forces of the
individual), ego (conscious, drivers gliding our
personality forces) and superego (unconscious, ethical
values and principles) which have an important role in
governing his/her behaviour.
Whether a person’s behaviour is or is not effective in
promoting his/her well-being depends in large part
upon the functioning of his/her personality structure.
The forces of the human personality combine in three
major functions: (1) the life energies that seek
satisfactory outlets; (2) the check system, automatic or
voluntary, that halts, modifies, or re-channel these drives
to make their ends acceptable to their owner and his/
her environment; and (3) the organizing and governing
operations that controls the negotiations and balances
within the person himself/herself, as between what he/
she wants and what he/she can and ought to do, and
between himself and his/her physical environment.
Freud, a psychologist defined them as id, ego and
superego. The harmonious concerted action of these
forces in one makes for personal and social balance and
competence; their discord of faultiness is revealed in
behaviour that is personally thwarting or socially
A person at any stage of his/her life is not only “a
product” of nature but is also and always “in process” of
being in the present and becoming in the future. What
happens to the individual today may be as vital to him/
her as what happened yesterday. Those physical, social
and interpersonal situations he encounters in his/her
operations today as worker, parent, spouse, student or
client will have an impact upon him/her and will respond
that can affect his/her development either morbidly or
The persons “being and becoming” behaviour is both
shaped and judged by the expectations he/she and his/
her culture have invested in the status and the major
social role he/she carries- a man may be a father, a
son, an employee, a club member and a client of the
case worker, all in the space of a few hours. His/her
social role consists of the major function he/she carries
at a given time with broadly designated behaviour,
responsibility and rewards. His/her conflict may be
cause by his recognition of what his role calls for and
his emotional inability to meet it.
The person who comes as client to a social agency is
always under stress. Regardless of the client’s reason
for coming for help, the client brings much more than
concerns, needs or problems to the helping situation.
The client brings the total self as a biological,
psychosocial, cultural and spiritual being. This include
the resources of self and the personal environment and
also environmental constraints. What the client brings
includes perceptions of self and the situations and
patterns of coping with stress and patterns of
interpersonal relationships. The clients present need
and/or problem is affected in part by the way
developmental needs have been met and by needs
arising from the diverse aspects of the client’s lifestyle
and from the expectations of the client’s environment.
One of the major tasks of the worker is to understand
the client as a unique person in a unique situation.
There can never be total knowledge about a client; that
is impossible. The worker seeks knowledge about the
client that is needed for giving the service to be delivered.
The client is the major source of the facts used to develop
the understanding of the person in the situation.
Before a person seeks help from a social agency, he or
she has usually attempted to deal with a problem in a
way that has worked with previous problems commonly
known as “coping”. Coping results not only in solving
problems but in the reduction of tension and anxiety. If
the coping is not successful, a person may then turn to
his or her natural support system ,that is, friends,
relatives, associates etc. Thus, individuals often come to
the agency after a period of unsuccessful attempts to
deal with their problems.
The Problem
Problem, according to the America Heritage dictionary
is a “question or situation that presents uncertainty,
perplexity or difficulty”. This definition is rather
inadequate without elaboration for defining in this
1) When does a situation become problematic?
2) When does a problematic situation become
appropriate for social work concern?
Clarification of the term becomes somewhat easier if
one looks at a problem in terms of both need and social
functioning,. Concern for and need of human systems
is the basis of the social work response. When the need
is seen as mitigating a block to social functioning, a
problem of concern to social work is said to exist. This
concern should be understood also to include potential
blocks to human functioning so as to include preventive
as well as ameliorative concerns. The perplexing situation
is then related to removal of the obstacle that blocks
need fulfillment. For problem solution, goals are related
to need fulfillment.
In order to work out a problem, one must first understand
it, comprehend it and be oriented too In the attempt to
understand any problem, there must be some analysis
of it, some translation into other familiar terms, some
sets of associations which can be brought to it. This is
the way case worker function when they are confronted
with a problem. They must come to the point where
they can see through it. The frame of reference which is
used in seeing through the problem may vary, but the
necessity to understand, it is universal. Moreover, one
must understand not only the nature of the problem,
as a social, economic or psychological entity but also
the personal context of the problem, in other words the
personalities which are involved in it. No service can be
administered effectively without such understanding.
Dimensions of how a problem arises:
1. The problem arises from some need or obstacle or
accumulation of frustrations or maladjustments and
sometimes all of these together which threatens or
has already attacked the adequacy of the person’s
living situation or the effectiveness of his/her efforts
to deal with it.
2. The social-functioning problem may rest in
interpersonal relationships; for example, the
inability of a parent to understand an adolescent
child’s need and thus, is so strict that the
relationship between parent and child is at the point
where there is open rebellion and an inability to
discuss the situation
3. The problem may rest in an inability to negotiate
with systems in the environment for e.g., a patient
in a hospital is unable to ask the doctor the questions
that are bothering the patient or to make his/her
concerns known to the doctor.
4. The problem may rest in inadequate or inappropriate
role performance; for example, the parent does not
meet the nutritional needs of the child or maintain
a suitable home for that child. May be one of
deficiency; that is, an individual does not have either
the material resources or the personal capacity
(temporary or permanent) to carry out the task
needed for coping with a situation. An older person
with a limited income and limited physical capacity
may not be able to maintain a home or fix nutritious
5. One may not have the preparation needed to carry
out a social role. For example, the mother who did
not have adequate mothering as a child and has
received no instruction in childcare may not be able
to properly care for her child because she just does
not know how to care for small children.
6. May be due to disturbances or disorder resulting
in intrapsychic turmoil, constriction or distortion.
For e.g. the person may be mentally ill or have some
perpetual difficulties which result in using
inappropriate or ineffective means for coping with
life situations.
7. May be there is discrepancies between expectations
of a person and the demands of various segments of
that person’s environment. For example, an
individual expects that food, clothing and shelter
will be provided by a social agency without work on
his/her part, but the agency can only provide
partially for those needs.
8. Problems may arise due to discrepancies between
environmental demands and personal needs. For
example, a teenage girl whose mother is ill is
expected to care for younger siblings, but she needs
time for completing her education and for
socialization with her peers.
According to Perlman, the social functioning focus of
social work began to emerge when problems were seen
not as pathological but as part of life. Problems are
frequent and unexpected in the human situation, and
solutions are usually found without professional help.
The concern of social work narrowed to those problems
in which persons cannot readily unblock the fulfillment
of need with their own resources. Problem in social work
usage refers to a social-functioning situation in which
need fulfillment of any of the persons or systems involved
is blocked or has a significant potential of blockage, and
in which the person involved cannot by themselves
remove the block to need fulfillment.
Characteristics of a client’s problem:
1. The problems within the purview of social case work
are those which vitally affect or are affected by a
persons social functioning. The problem may be
some unmet needs-economic, medical, educational,
recreational-which hampers or undermines a
person’s adequate living. Or it may be one of stresspsychological,
social, physical- which causes the
person to be ineffective or disturbed in carrying his/
her social roles.
2. The multifaceted and dynamic nature of the client’s
problem makes necessary the selection by the case
worker and client of some part of it as the unit for
work. Three main considerations enter into the
choice of problem focus: 1) what the client wants 2)
what the case worker’s professional judgment’s
points to as possible and desirable solutions and 3)
What the agency is for and can offer.
3. Problems in any part of a human beings living tend
to have “chain reaction.” This is because while in
the study of a person he/she may be
compartmentalized and analyzed as a biological or
psychological or social entity, a person lives a
dynamic interrelated whole, reacting to and upon
the dynamic whole of his/her environment.
Whatever hurts one parts of his/her living will have
its impact in other parts.
4. Any problem which a person encounters has both
an objective and a subjective significance. A problem
may be seen and understood by an onlooker; it is
felt by its carrier, and it is experienced with the
particularity of individual difference. Two aged men
unable to work and needs money. This is a simple
problem for which there is a ready solution in the
form of age old assistance, yet it may not feel simple
for the two. One may feel depressed by the problem
itself-that he is old, is found useless, and is dumped
by employers and so on. The other may accept his
ageing and feels he has a right to be “given a hand”,
but his anger and anxiety are aroused by the
solution proffered-he cannot see why he must prove
residence in his state or how he is expected to
manage on so little money. Case worker must elicit
and often deal with such feelings so that they may
implement rather than obstruct the client’s work
on his/her problem.
5. Not only do the external (objective) and internal
(subjective) aspects of the problem co-exist, but
either one may be the cause of the other. Everyone
encounters situations in ones social living that, by
his/her own momentary or chronic inability to deal
with them, create internal problem in oneself. Case
work help in problem solving, provides other things,
an intervention which breaks or modifies the causeeffect
chain of difficulties. Since this intervention
may in itself prove problematic to the client, the
social case work must seek to understand his/her
means and processes as astutely as is possible so
that he/she may facilitate rather than complicate
the client’s problem solving efforts.
The Place
The place is a social service agency or a social service
department of another kind of human welfare agency.
The place to which the person comes for help with his/
her problem is known as a social agency. The term
“agency” has a misleading American sound, but it was
used in British case work literature in the late
nineteenth century. Present day usage refers to the
institution within which the case worker practices;
sometimes it is the larger institution that is intended
(e.g. the local authority) and at other times it is the
smaller social work microcosm (e.g. the psychiatric social
work department in a mental hospital). The institutions
in which case workers practice (schools, child guidance
clinics, children’s departments of the hospitals and
courts and so on) have all been established to achieve
certain broad social purposes and case workers have a
part to play in achieving them. Its purpose is to help
individuals with the particular social handicaps which
hampers good personal or family living and with the
problems created by faulty person-to-person, personto-
group or person-to-situation relationships. This
agency’s purpose and functions come to life in the person
and professional performance of the case worker.
Social case work agencies differ one from the other in a
number of ways, but there are three major factors that
determine their classification:
1. Their source of support- public taxation (child
welfare, physical and mental health programmes etc)
or voluntary contribution.
2. Their source of professional authority – primary
agencies carry full authority and responsibility for
their social functions and secondary agencies derive
their authority and responsibility from the host
3. Their special function and area of concern- primary
agencies both public and private, may define certain
areas of social need as the particular fielding in
which they give services. Secondary, case work help
is related to the work of some other profession, such
as medicine, education or law and to its specific
knowledge and purpose.
Perlman has described some of the characteristics of
1. The social agency is an organization fashioned to
express the will of a society or of some group in that
society. An agency embodies a society’s decision to
protect its members against social breakdowns, to
prevent their maladjustments and/or to promote the
development of better or higher levels of humans
2. Each social agency develops a programme by which
to meet the particular areas of need with which it
sets out to deal-The agency programme consists of
the aids and activities by which its intent is
translated into provisions of help. The ways and
means which an agency programme provides will
convey its function effectively or not, depending on
a number of factors: money, the knowledge and
competency of the agency staff; the interest,
resources and support of the community; the
consistency between ascertained needs and the
proffered means.
3. The social agency has a structure by which it
organizes and delegates its responsibilities and
tasks, and governing policies and procedures by
which it stabilizes and systematizes its operationsstructure,
as it may be depicted on an organizational
chart, is the agency’s anatomy. The agency’s body
is made up of many members with different purposes
and powers, all dependent upon one another in the
body’s total working. The structure of an agency
identifies and assigns separate and joint
responsibilities, authorities and tasks to each
personnel and demarcates the relationship among
various functions in the total agency body.
4. The social agency is a living, adaptable organism
susceptible to being understood and changed, much
as other living organisms-If agency structure may
be seen as its anatomy, its operations may represent
its physiology, and the purposes, attitudes, and goal
directions of its personnel and board are its
psychology. The circumstance of its inception, the
person’s who nurtured it and the social situations
it encountered will have affected the agency’s present
5. Every staff member in an agency speaks and acts
for some part of the agency’s function, and the case
worker represents the agency in its individualized
problem-solving help-What a case worker can do with
and for his client derives both from his professional
commitment and skill and from the agency which
hires him/her. In order to represent the agency,
he/she must be psychologically identified with the
purpose and the policies of his/her agencies. Every
social agency banks a fund of knowledge about the
experience with the particular problems it has set
out to solve.
6. The case worker, while representing his/her agency,
is first and foremost a representative of his/her
profession-The social case worker practices in the
conviction that individual human welfare is the
purpose and the test of social policy; that his/her
attitude combine open enquiry with dedication to
the people and the person he/she serves; that he/
she maintains “social-conscience” and that he/she
conducts himself ethically in all his/her professional
Social work is an agency-based profession. The agency
is the immediate environment of the worker-client
interaction. This interaction often takes place in an office
or building identified as the “agency”. The influence of
the agency is strong even when the interaction takes
place elsewhere in the community. As an employee, the
worker is a part of the agency system, and because of
this the worker is accountable to the agency. The form
and content of the service offered must be within the
agency’s purview and guidelines. The manner in which
the agency is structured and functions greatly influence
the nature of the worker-client interaction. The agency
also provides resources for both the worker and the
The agencies are established to carry out broad social
functions as healing and rehabilitation in the case of
hospitals, ensuring good parental care in the case of
children’s department of the local authority and so on.
The worker is expected to contribute to these objectives
and to clarify and develop his/her own function within
this broad social purpose. Yet, the most important aspect
of agency function is that it constitutes the meeting
point of social worker and the client, it is what brings
them together and gives meaning and sustenance to
their continued contact. The community provides
financial and other support and sanction for the agency;
community attitudes impact the agency and its capacity
to deliver services. It also has expectations for the nature
and outcome of services. There are two kinds of
expectations: the professional and the bureaucratic. The
greater the organizations, the larger the differences.
Bureaucratic expectations call for loyalty to the
organization; acceptance of authority from achievement
of goals, on specialization and on efficiency. Professional
expectations call for commitment to professional values
and to the service of clients; ability to have a broad span
of decision-making power; collegial relationship and an
emphasis on meeting client need and allowing for client
self-determination and individualization.
Before a worker can effectively deliver service as a
professional in a bureaucratic organization, the worker
must first understand the organization. The first task
in understanding an agency is to define its boundaries.
The second task is to determine environmental factors
that influence the structure and functioning of the
agency. The third task is to understand the structure
and functioning of the agency system.
Social worker not only needs to understand the agency
in which they are employed but they also need to be
able to understand other social agencies. This is
important if the worker is to help the clients in order to
use the resources and services of other agencies.
The Process
The process, is a progressive transaction between the
professional helper (the case worker) and the client. It
consists of a series of problem solving operations carried
out within a meaningful relationship. The end of this
process is contained in its means: to influence the clientperson
that he/she develops effectiveness in coping with
his/her problem and /or to so influence the problem as
to resolve it or reduce its effects. As the social worker
develops skill in the problem-solving process, thinking
about the phenomena being confronted will begin to
take place in orderly steps. These steps appear to be
simple but are quite complex in application.
Sal Hofstein states: “Process refers to the recurrent
patterning of a sequence of change over time and in a
particular direction.” It is important to note three
qualities of this process: 1) recurrent patterning or stages
2) takes place over time 3) in a particular direction (the
process is irreversible).The problem-solving process as
used in social work has its source in the classic work of
John Dewey and in his description of the thought
process used by human beings when confronted with
difficult situations. Social work problem solving is
finding a way through feeling, thinking, and acting. It
progresses over time in a cyclical, irreversible manner
that is focused on removing blocks to need fulfillment
that individuals cannot remove with their own resources.
In order to understand what the case work process must
include in its problem-solving help, it is necessary for the
social case worker to take stock first of the kinds of
blockings which occur in people’s normal problem-solving
effort. These six are among the most common:
1. A problem cannot be solved if the necessary tangible
means and resources are not available to the person.
A client, for instance, may see and assess his/her
problem and its solution accurately and may lack
only the material provision for it.
2. Sometimes, people are unable to solve their
problems simply out of ignorance or
misapprehension about the facts of the problems or
the facts of existing ways of meeting it.
3. A problem is difficult of resolution when the person
who has depleted or drained of emotional or physical
energy. He/she needs to mobilized himself/herself-
”pull himself together’- when he/she must plan and
act according to plan.
4. When problems sets off a conflagration of feeling, a
person’s thought processes, delicately attuned as
they are to his/her emotions become clouded and
tumbled about.
5. The problem may lie within the person: i.e, he/she
may have become subject to, or victim of, emotions
that chronically, over a long time have governed his/
her thinking and action.
6. Some people find problems in solving a difficult
situation because they have never developed
systematic habits of orderly methods of thinking and
planning. So, the difficulty lies chiefly in the
person’s lack of experience in organizing his/her
power to grapple with problems.
In the case work relationship, a constant medium is
provided that is accepting, nurturing and supporting at
the same time that the stimulus of problem-solving work
is injected to promote the client’s effort to feel, to be or
to act in the ways leading to his/her better social
adjustment. The case work process sustains and fortifies
the functions of the client’s ego. The first part of the
case work process, as in all problem-solving, is to
ascertain and clarify the facts of the problem. The second
aspect of case work problem-solving grows out of and
interweaves with the ongoing eliciting of facts, it is
thinking through the facts. The conclusive phase of each
problem-solving effort in case work is the making of some
choice or decision.
Stages of Problem-solving Process
1. Preliminary statement of the problem,
2. Statement of preliminary assumptions about the
nature of the problem,
3. Selection and collection of information,
4. Analysis of information available,
5. Development of a plan,
6. Implementation of the plan, and
7. Evaluation of the plan.
1) Preliminary statement of the problem-A clear
statement of the problem is necessary before
processing to subsequent steps. Often, problem
statement tends to be vague, global, and lacking in
precision. For example, school dropouts or unwed
mothers are often referred to as problems. A more
adequate formulation in the area of unwed mothers
might be: lack of educational resources for teenage
pregnant girls. In this statement, the need of the
individual and society is education.
2) Statement of preliminary assumptions about the
nature of the problem-This step is necessary to help
make explicit the type of information needed for
understanding and planning. As the problem is
stated, implicit assumptions are made about its
nature and cause, which provide indications as to
the need in the situation and as to the block to
need fulfillment.
3) Selection and collection of information-Sources
for information should include a variety of
perspectives that may be chosen from historical,
social-psychological, biological, economic, political,
religious, and ethical understandings.
Both the facts of the problem itself and the meaning
of the problem to those concerned are important.
Skill in the collection of information also calls for
skill in communication and social interaction with
persons who are sources of the information. The
values of social work call for the client to be a primary
source. There is a need to determine and accumulate
relevant evidence about the situation, and this
evidence needs to be related to the salient features
of the situation.
4) Analysis of information available- Analysis of
information is influenced and directed by the
purpose for which the analysis is to be used. Other
purposes include determination of feasible goals and
possible outcomes and of possible plans of action,
interpretation of the meaning of the information
gathered, and evaluation. The cyclical nature of the
process becomes very apparent, for one returns to
analysis as an ingredient of each step of the process.
The carrying out of the process generates new
5) Development of a plan-Information and its analysis
lead to understanding of what can be done to remove
obstacles blocking need fulfillment. A social worker
uses assessment in developing a plan of action.
Plans develop from a consideration of a variety of
possible strategies and techniques. As a plan
becomes more specific, the social worker will return
to early steps in the process to gather and analyze
new information needed for the specifics of planning.
Consideration of a variety of plans is important in
creative planning.
6) Implementation of the plan-In social work,
implementation involves interaction between people
and is interventive in nature. It is action based on
thinking that has its source in feelings about
concern or need. In addition, it is action based on
substantial knowledge from many sources that
explain and predict behaviour of persons in the
7) Evaluation of the plan-This step may result in
redefinition of the problem, expanded information
gathering and analysis, of reformulation of the plan.
If the goal has been reached, evaluation is an
appropriate and necessary climax to the process.
Regardless of the outcome of the plan, evaluation of
what happened can lead to an understanding that
can be transferred to other situations and to more
effective problem solving in those situations.
The intent of the case work process is to engage the
person himself/herself both in working on and in coping
with the one or several problems that confront him/her
and to do so by such means as may stand him/her in
good stead as he/she goes forward in living.
These therapeutic means are as follows:
1) The provision of a therapeutic relationship that
sustains the client and effects the nature of his/
her emotional relation to his/her problems;
2) The provision of a systematic, though always flexible,
way by which the client may discuss and work over
the nature of his/her problem, his/her relation to
it and its potential solutions; and
3) The provision of such opportunities and aids (those
of communication and/or resources) as will further
exercise and implement the client’s adaptive action
upon his/her problems.
Three essential operations of problem-solving process
1. The facts that constitute and bear upon the problem
must be ascertained and grasped. Such facts may
be of objective reality and of subjective reaction, of
cause and effect, of relatedness between the person
and his/her problems, of the solution sought and
of the actual means available;
2. The facts must be thought about. The facts must be
played upon and organized by ideas-ideas springing
from knowledge and experience and subject to the
governing aim of problem solution;
3. Some choice or decision must be made that is the
end result of the consideration of the particular facts
and that affects or has the intent of resolving the
The process can be conceptualized as having four major
components: assessment, planning, action and
termination. Although assessment precedes planning,
planning precedes action and action precedes
termination, the process is cyclical in nature.
Planning often leads to the need for new or different
understanding of the person in the situation
(assessment). Action often produces new information
for use in understanding or demonstrates the need for
additional planning. Evaluation, the assessment of what
has happened as a result of action, is ongoing in the
process and leads to new understanding and sometimes
to new plans and action. Thus, all four stages are always
present, but at various points in the work one or more
may be the focus and receive the most attention.
All four stages as well as the interactional process
constitute intervention. All can influence changes in
the transactions between clients and the systems in
their environment. All can influence the social
functioning of individuals and social systems.
The aim of case work process is to engage the client
with his/her problem and his/her will to do something
about it in a working relationship with the agency, its
intentions and special means of helpfulness. The context
of the process is a fairly constant one, and its method is
a fairly systematic one-as constant and as systematic as
a process keyed to living, feeling, changing human
beings can be-while it yet remains fluid and flexible.
Finally, for the solution or mitigation of many problems
there must exists certain material means or accessible
opportunities which are available to the needful person
and which he/she can be helped to use. Money, medical
care, nursery schools, scholarship, short-stay homes,
foster homes, recreational facilities- these are the kind
of resources that any person may need in order to resolve
a given problem in his/her daily living. The case worker
should know about these resources or know how to
become informed of them. He/She should be able to
pick the right ones imaginatively in their relation to the
client’s problem.
At the door of the agency, stands the person, who has a
problem. It may be simple or complex, old or new,
commonplace or peculiar, but it always has significance
to the person: it is something that he/she is experiencing
as he/she is frustrated in his/her present living
situation, and it is something that he/she finds he/she
cannot cope with unaided. The problem which the
person carries to the agency, sometimes clutches to
him/her tightly, sometimes distastefully held out at
fingers tip, hurts or incapacitates him today. The social
agency is prepared to receive and if possible to give help
to the person whose problem brings him/her to it. The
agency has a stated purpose, a special set of functions,
structures, policies and procedures, which they have
validated. In other words, the problem must be one with
which the agency is equipped to help. From the facts
regarding the problem and out of the client’s verbal and
behavioural responses, the case worker’s understanding
of the client grows. The case worker understands what
are the inner and outer resources the client brings to
the problems solving situation.
The case worker must not only be a keen listener but
also an active agent in helping the client to communicate
about his/her problem and focus his/her attention and
expand his/her understanding of the client. He/she must
also focus on the purpose of the agency and ability to
Problem solving implies that both the case worker and
his/her client are simultaneously and consciously,
though differently, engaged in problem-solving from the
beginning. The clients sharing and working-through his
feelings, and the impetus and help given to him/her to
know and think about his/her attitudes, behaviour,
needs and goals are in themselves an experience and
experience of adaptation. The by-product of both these
ongoing activities yields the case worker a large part of
what becomes his/her diagnosis. And the taking of next
steps out of considered choice, the planning of action
or the internal settlement arrived at involves the executive
and integrative functions of the ego.
Three interrelated guides have been set down to achieve
and hold focus on dealing with helping the client who
comes to the agency: the selection 1) of that problem or
aspect of which the client himself feels is most important;
2) of that part of his total problem which falls within the
helping function of the agency; and 3) of that problem
which in the worker’s judgment most need and can yield
to help
The mental work of examining the parts of a problem
for th e       import of their particular nature and organization,
for the interrelationship among them, for the
relationship between them and the means to their
solution is known as a diagnostic process. Diagnosis
must result in a “design for action”. Probably no process
has been as troubling to case workers as diagnosis. The
content of case work diagnosis falls into the triangular
pattern as that of other professional design for action. It
consist of: 1) The nature of the problem brought and
the goals sought by the client, in their relationship to
2) the nature of the person who bears the problem (his
social and psychological situation and functioning) and
who seeks (or needs) help with his problem, in relation
to 3) the nature of the purpose of the agency and the
kind of help it can offer and /or make available. The
content of the case work diagnosis, then, is focused,
weighted and bounded by the purpose and means of

the client and the agency.