Sunday, 15 April 2018

Intake Interview and Social Work Assessment

Most of the clinical/community services are begins with an intake interview. Depending on the setting and the purpose of the service the interview may vary from structured or unstructured. Freeburg & Van Winkle (2011) elucidates that a balanced and effective intake interview could gather information and builds a working alliance between the worker and client. I think workers should demonstrate a comprehensive rapport building skill to manage the dynamism involved in the screening process. Also exhibits an applied understanding that intake assessment is a skilled effort to adapt individual needs (Freeburg & Van Winkle, 2011).
Intake is defined as “an act or instance of taking in” (Random House, 1993, as cited in Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2003). This definition is very much apt for the intake screening as it is the entry point of a professional service. From my experience, many of the screening processes determine the eligibility of the client in order to seek services using structured interview schedules to gather information from clients. Most of the intake interview schedules are focused on the data collection for basic eligibility for the services; few screenings are intense by identifying, assessing and exploring client’s problems and goals. It also gets hold of client’s interpersonal skills, personal and medical history. In addition, these in-depth assessments took account of client’s present life situations and functions. For instance, community programs for a low income families include current situation of the life, problems of life, education, family details, employment, mental health history, medical history, substance use, legal issues, support systems and reason for service (goal). In a social work point of view, many of these determinants were assessed with an ecological perspective, structural factors had limited or no role in the assessment process.
From a critical standpoint, most of the intake process are merely a risk assessment or identification of problem rather no action for alternative solutions. According to Fook (1993) defining a problem itself is a persuasive force to establish constructive steps to alleviate it. In my experience intake assessment process is always framed on the basis of government guidelines; a standardized form of assessment and procedures are followed. The intake assessment mandate of the Canadian Social Service programs crop up in association with individual responsibility of neo-economic ideology of the state. As a result intake assessment practice is simply a formal review model of practical approach. Apparently, welfare programs turn out as an involuntary social intrusion with more focus on identification of the problem with no remedial recommendations or no emphasis on alternative solutions of the problem.  I think these kinds of approaches are not really helping the families in terms of a long term sustainable change.
As Fook (1993) explains an assessment process should determine the category and type of the problem, so that the intervention matches with the exact situation of the individual and address the particular causes. She classified the human problems into two broad categories according to the factors predominates in their problematic situation, personal factors, and structural factors. Not all the personal problems are structurally driven but structural factors interplay with personal factors can intensify the problem (Fook, 1993). A general classification of the causes of the problem as personal factors and structural factors would help the workers to find more appropriate services for the client. A clear applied understanding of various socially constructed and structurally influencing factors are very much relevant for a reliable assessment.  

Arboleda-Flórez, J., & Stuart, H. (2012). From Sin to Science: Fighting the Stigmatization of Mental Illnesses. Canadian Journal Of Psychiatry, 57(8), 457-463.

Diaz-Granados, N., Georgiades, K., & Boyle, M. H. (2010). Regional and Individual Influences on Use of Mental Health Services in Canada. Canadian Journal Of Psychiatry, 55(1), 9-20.

Fook, J. (1993). Radical Casework: A Theory of Practice. St. Leonards, Australia: Allen & Union.

Freeburg, M. N., & Van Winkle, J. L. (2011). Increasing intake interview skills: A creative approach. Retrieved from vistas/vistas11/Article_33.pdf

Hickson, H. (2011), Critical reflection: reflecting on learning to be reflective, Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives12(6), 829-839.

Sommers-Flanagan, J., & Sommers-Flanagan, R, (2003). Clinical Interviewing (3ed). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons, Inc.