Monday, September 21, 2009

Clients Leading Workshops Independently

I had lunch outside my office today with Ann, a friend of mine and a case manager at another agency. Lauren, her coworker, hung out with us too. Shockingly we didn't talk about work the entire hour, but while we did Ann told me that there was some debate in her agency. It centered on whether it was appropriate to have clients teach budgeting classes on their own (specifically under the umbrella of her agency). In the past case managers typically taught budgeting classes (usually an hour and a half session) but Ann was trying to push for graduates of her budgeting class to teach it on their own. She didn't want to stop leading classes but wanted to introduce the idea that on occasion clients teach the workshop independently.

A few of Ann's coworkers, including Lauren, disagreed that it was appropriate for a client to be the only teacher and compromised that a case manager should co-teach the class alongside the client. Lauren said that while some clients know a lot about budgeting case managers had more training and experience (most case managers who taught the class were trained on the topic, but some were not).

I was a bit torn on this though I sided more with the idea of clients leading budgeting workshops on their own (though with a presence of a case manager). I myself had taught a couple of budgeting classes and had a mix of students -- clients who seriously mismanaged their money and others who had it down. [At this point I'd like to note that class structure was based a good deal on discussion and every participant shared valuable insights -- of course I have to add this social worker qualifier]. Ann argued she would only approach specific students who excelled in her class to teach.

A lot of what she said made sense. After all, aren't clients who have their financial management down also the best teachers since they share common challenges? In return to feeling they could relate to a client-teacher better, clients may respond better to the material. On the other hand, I understood an agency's hesitation to put it all on clients' shoulders. It wasn't necessarily the question of clients' ability to teach the class as much as teaching while representing the agency (as case managers do when they run workshops).

Interestingly, we've had a precedent at my agency of a client leading a workshop. A few months ago a client ran an art workshop that encouraged clients to express themselves through drawing, painting, cartooning, and so on. It was very successful and well received. As I pondered a client teaching a budgeting workshop in Ann's agency I thought back to this example. I had no problem with the idea of a client teaching art. Is it less threatening to have a client teach certain workshops because there's no threat they'll "get it wrong?" This based on an assumption that some topics will have a more serious fallback if not executed "right"?


antiSWer said...

Peer led treatment is the future. And it's efficacious! We have to get on board. I'd be ALL OVER having a client lead a workshop, or even helping them set up their own!

Anonymous said...

I would think it would be really great to have a client co-teach with an agency member and even teach a few classes independently. I'm with you in thinking that the new clients might think the task of budgeting is more realistic if it presented by a peer versus someone "Who has a job so it's probably pretty easy for him/her to make a budget! They have money to budget!"

And then the sense of accomplishment the client would be able to achieve in teaching their peers...