Assessment is one of the primary tasks of a social worker in supporting clients to alleviate problems and improve health and well-being. After engaging with the client to establish trust and rapport, social workers help clients to identify problems and potential solutions through assessment. Assessment involves gathering essential information about the client’s unique circumstances, social functioning, feelings, and behaviors in order to highlight the client’s strengths, resources, and capacities that might be utilized in resolving problems, and understand the sources of stress, disruptions, and problem behaviors in order to effect change.

Many different tools, techniques, and types of information can be used to assess the client’s situation, but clients are the main source of information about themselves, as they are the experts on their own lives. When assessing a client, social workers should any available data that might shed light on the problems the client is facing, being sure to gather information related to the various systems that impact their lives.

A useful tool for gathering, categorizing, and documenting this information is the biopsychosocial-spiritual-cultural assessment – a means of collecting information about the presenting issue and the current and past life circumstances that may be related to it. This information is gathered through an extended interview with the client, and then written into a biopsychosocial-spiritual-cultural history of the client to assist in determining specific problems and possible solutions. This tool contains five key sections, all of which collect crucial information about the client that will be used in setting goals and making action-plans.

Biological section – includes information about the client’s medical history (past and present, including medications), family history of medical illnesses, substance abuse history, developmental history, and physical functioning and abilities

Psychological section – includes information about any psychiatric symptoms or illnesses the client is currently experiencing, or has experienced in the past, mental status, family history of mental illness, psychiatric medications or treatments (past and present), and psychosocial stressors or traumatic events

Social section – includes information on the client’s social functioning, living situation, personal and family relationships, sexuality, family background, history of abuse, educational background, legal history, employment history, potential risks, and strengths and resources available to support the client

Spiritual section – includes information on the client’s spiritual beliefs, participation in faith-based activities, connections to organized religion, and spiritual practices and resources

Cultural section – includes information about the client’s cultural background, participation in cultural activities and traditions, cultural norms surrounding health, mental health, and social roles, worldview, and cultural practices and resources

The information included in the biopsychosocial-spiritual-cultural assessment can provide a lot of insight, to both client and social worker, about the client’s presenting problem, strengths, and resources. The biopsychosocial-spiritual-cultural assessment is a useful tool during the assessment stage, providing a template for social workers to gather needed information in order to come to a mutual understanding of the client’s unique circumstances that will guide continued work together to accomplish client goals.

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