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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Evaluating the modifiability of the client : one factor in determining treatability : a definition of personal potential and its place in the treatability of social problems by casework method, and an evaluation of criteria found in pertinent professional literature Daly, Katherine Aldworth


The treatability of social problems by social casework method needs study for two reasons: (1) the obligation of the profession to those it serves, to always refine and develop its services; (2) the practical consideration of achieving optimum economy of service. Among the factors enumerated by authorities in the field of social casework as components of treatability are: the scope of social casework, the development of the profession, agency function, community resources, the skill of the caseworker, the problem, the reality situation and the client. Of these only the latter has been singled out for independent study. The purpose of the study was to survey professional literature for criteria, necessary for recognition and assessment of this factor, which could be submitted to the test of empirical research for validity and reliability. The potentialities of individuals for personal change is not a new concept in the profession, but one which has only recently begun to receive special consideration. Personal potential, as defined within this thesis, is the ability of the individual to solve his personal problem by means of casework treatment, the problem being defined as the inner difficulty underlying his symptomatic difficulty, and solution being considered as an inner and positive change in relation to the problem. Evaluation of this factor, therefore, presumes a clarity of diagnosis, which points up the need for developing more satisfactory diagnostic classifications than exist at present. Professional literature offering criteria of personal potential was found to be limited in quantity and generally incidental to other subject matter, and therefore not thoroughly or systematically considered. On the other hand, the quantity of criteria suggested was proportionately large. The number and nature of criteria varied widely among the authorities, as did the form in which they were presented. It was at first hoped to be able to sort and classify these. However it became apparent that the ambiguity and inconsistency with which terms were used would make such classification a highly subjective task. The criteria found did not possess generally accepted or precise definitions, and could not be measured statistically. A subjective appraisal of the criteria in terms of validity suggested that of the two main categories into which they seemed to fall, namely, level of adjustment and motivation, there was some theoretical and practical basis for considering motivation as essential for personal potential, and for considering level of adjustment as helpful and as an indication of the level at which treatment should start. There was also the suggestion that all people can be helped. The findings indicated that current criteria need to be reduced to items which can readily be defined, detected and measured for validity and reliability. Until such time as criteria are developed, practitioners will continue to rely on clinical judgements. In view of the hypothesis that all people can be helped and that motivation is of prime importance, there is reason for evaluating the adequacy of casework diagnostic and treatment skills and for clarifying how treatment goals are established.

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