Social Work Approaches and Therapies
Collaborative and Narrative Therapies are considered to be the “postmodern therapies”. These social work approaches are similar in their social constructionist premises but differ significantly in their use of interventions and their use of the facilitator.
Collaborative therapy is based on postmodernism and hermeneutics (the study of interpretation), has no interventions, utilizes the therapist as a facilitator of dialogical processes and raises political issues “tentatively for client consideration”.
Narrative therapy in social work focuses on critical theory and Foucault’s philosophical writings, has structured interventions, utilizes the therapist as a “co-editor” or “co-author” and regularly includes social justice issues within the therapeutic conversations.
Collaborative Therapy focuses a lot on the process of therapy itself and on how the client’s concerns are explored and exchanged. Because this therapy avoids scripted techniques, it is very informal. The therapist’s role is based on the idea of “Not Knowing” which translates to simply not assuming they know the client’s story or not assuming that this client’s story is just the same as everyone else’s.
The therapist’s role is based on the idea of “Not Knowing” which translates to simply not assuming they know the client’s story or not assuming that this client’s story is just the same as everyone else’s.
For example, how is this client uniquely depressed, because it does not mean the same to them as another client who also feels depressed? This technique is quite similar to that of the Solution-Based Therapies’ of “The Beginner’s Mind”.
Other techniques utilized within Collaborative Therapy are:
- Mutual puzzling
- Shared Inquiry
- Two-way dialogue
- Democratic relationship
- Making “appropriately unusual comments”
- Multiple voices in writing
The client is the expert in this theory and the therapist’s expertise is navigating a useful, productive conversation. Every technique utilized is to foster an open dialogue as a way for both the therapist and client to go on an equal journey with one another. Together they will figure out what the obstacles are and how to address and fix them.
The strengths of Collaborative Therapy are that it is genuine, natural and promotes a comfortable, empathetic and warm environment. However, it is up to the therapist or facilitator to determine if it would truly be beneficial for the long-term success of their client.
The narrative approach in social work has a different take on the therapeutic process and clients in comparison to Collaborative Therapy. This therapy is based on the idea that we “story” and create the meaning of our experiences using “dominant discourses” which are broad societal stories, sociocultural practices, assumptions and expectations about how we should live. “Problems” come about when our own personal lives do not fit these dominant discourses.
Therefore, what this therapy does is separates the problem from the person to examine different ways to address this “problem” and how to move forward from it. Narrative therapists also believe all people to be resourceful and to have strengths and, therefore, it is not the people who have the problems, rather problems are imposed upon them. This idea of truly believing that everyone has strengths within them also has similarities to such beliefs found within Solution-Based therapies.
The process of the Narrative Therapy treatment is as follows:
- Meet the person
- Separate the person from the problem
- Enacting Preferred Narratives (creating a new story)
A significant strength of Narrative Therapy is that it gives the client control of their life, giving them the idea that they can create their own story. This is incredibly powerful for a client who may feel helpless. Clients who believe they have the control of their lives can have a greater chance of success as opposed to someone who believes things simply happen to them and there is no way to change such circumstances.
Certain social work approaches found within this theory are:
- The therapist as an investigative reporter
- Local and alternative discourses
- Dominant cultural and gender discourses
- Unique and sparkling outcomes
- Relative influence questioning
- Letters and certificates
There are many different social work approaches to work with clients within this theory. The basis is to reframe and rework the idea of the presenting “problem(s)”.