Monday, November 2, 2009

During an intake

Me, verifying: "Do you have a disability?"
Client: "No, but sometimes my wallet feels disabled."

When I stop and think about all the personal information us staff gathers during an initial appointment with a client it's mind boggling. Sure, some folks answer questions with barely a yes or shake of the head for no and others tell you everything about themselves you ever hoped to know. Most clients share a good deal (we do let clients know that if they don't feel comfortable answering something they don't need to). And we ask quite a few questions, involving health concerns, work history, legal background, and the like. I typically learn a good deal about a new client from our first appointment, and when I ponder this fact I remind myself it can be a lot easier to share oneself with a stranger.

Sometimes my inquisitiveness leads me to ask follow up questions that I don't have to ask. For example, I've had a few female clients answer the education section (what is your highest level of education?) with a number lower than 12. Twice I asked if they felt comfortable telling me why they didn't finish high school, and twice the response was because they got pregnant.

1 comment:

Melinda said...

Kudos to you for being thoughtful about the questions you ask in intake--too many social workers feel that it's their right to know all of these really personal details about their clients, and that sets up such a disempowering relationship. The politics of agency intake processes are an important place to begin with empowerment practice.