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The casework treatment of disturbed children : an analysis of social work method in comparison with psychoanalytic techniques as applied to children at the Children's Clinic, Burnaby, B.C. Zimmerman, Sunny Melvin

Abstract

How does the social worker respond to the disturbed child in direct treatment when working in a psychiatric clinic? In other words, in the one-to-one relationship with a child, what techniques does the social worker apply in order to enhance the child's emotional well-being? On what body of knowledge does the social worker base his choice of technique in a given situation? The present study is undertaken to explore these questions, with reference to the special circumstances of the psychiatrically-oriented clinic. In Child Guidance Clinics (specifically, the Children's Clinic: Burnaby, B.C.), social workers are under the supervision off psychiatrists as well, as senior social workers. The other consideration in this complex picture is children are not "miniature adults" - they present practical and theoretical differences from the adult client. It is not, therefore, a simple matter of applying casework skills worked out for adults to the direct treatment of children in a psychiatric clinic. To determine the specific techniques applied by the social workers, one written recording was selected from the caseload of each of a group of social workers. In addition, one fully tape-recorded interview was available for analysis. Each recording followed two criteria: (a) the recording showed workers' responses as well as the child's activities; (b) the children are between the ages of six and ten. This age span includes children old enough to verbalize to the extent that enables some verbal communication between worker and child, and because such children are young enough to be representative of the problems unique to disturbed children. This sample of techniques was analyzed according to two frameworks: (1) the accepted social work body of knowledge and (2) the psychoanalytic viewpoint as set out by Melanie Klein, this latter approach being utilized because it represents the view that children can be psychoanalyzed on the same basic principles as adults. The general psychoanalytic structure is chosen because of the type of psychiatric supervision received by social workers referred to above. On the whole, the workers' responses are clearly identifiable. Almost all of these responses corresponded to the description of social work techniques; only a few (four) corresponded to psychoanalytic techniques. The social work body of knowledge (including the principles, values, knowledge of human behavior, the caseworker-client relationship) was in the main utilized by the workers in the recordings selected, in spite of the different considerations presented in working with children and in spite of the psychoanalytically-oriented supervision. It appears that this supervision or consultation is utilized to increase the worker's understanding of the child, rather than utilized to apply psychoanalytic techniques directly. There is still room for further study, however, on the nature of psychiatric consultation. From such a small sample, the conclusions reached cannot be considered applicable to the clinic as a whole. Also, since the techniques analyzed were each applied in one interview out of a series of interviews, the benefit to the child of the worker's activities is not part of the assessment of this study. Preliminary analysis of this kind however is essential before these further studies can be properly undertaken.

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