Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Don't Say "I Know" to a Client

Most of us know this, through advice from another case manager or through having said it to a client ourselves. "I know" being a response to a client talking about a personal and difficult situation, like living in an apartment that's in a poor condition. No, I don't completely know what it's like.

I have said "I understand" in the past but I've been told by a coworker that this may be tricky too because I don't really understand a situation. I mean it more as a I understand where (client) is coming from.

Really though, if I have been in a similar situation to a client, would it still make sense to say I know? Even if I do know what it feels like, would that be helpful? Apart from the fact that some of us may not respond to the same situation, i.e. crisis, in the same way. Though I do think to a degree it may make a client think that the person she's working with does know what she's going through and so respects her more, platitudes only go so far. It's important to acknowledge how a client is feeling, but I've spoken about how venting sessions eventually become unhelpful to a client too. It's also not what case management is about ultimately. We're not therapists. Our goal is to support the client to address her problem (and encourage this to do this on her own). Though the method may not always be a smooth one. (It wouldn't be as much fun if it was, right?)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Clients' Issues are Typically Complex

I've been trying to practice more self-compassion, having realized that I'm fairly tough on myself when it comes to doing my job. See my pacing posts, most aptly the last one I wrote. I want to be able to support my clients and get frustrated at myself when I'm not able to help them solve their challenge as quickly as I would like or when I fail to have a straightforward solution. I thought about this recently and considered something -- the fact that clients' issues and challenges are often complex. If they were simple, my clients wouldn't need the degree of outside support they need. Complex issues may need a step by step approach. Clients need to follow through on the joint plan between them and the case manager. And in situations when, for example, a client shows up 3 months behind rent, and is already being taken to court, a case manager's approach is different (read support is more limited) than if the client showed up the first month he got behind. Our clients need to be accountable to a degree for their choices. As case managers we do the best we can, and at the same time hold our clients accountable for their choices (considering the circumstances they made the choices in, but it's ultimately positive to hold our clients accountable).

This post is to all case managers who set high standards of the support they provide to clients.