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Seven Elements of the Casework (Social Work) Relationship

*Excerpted from the article referenced below These principles have become integrated into social work thought and practice and are often referred to as practice principles. These dynamic interactions, consisting of the back and forth movement of attitudes and feelings in three directions, never completely cease. They are living, vibrant forces that endure in some degree throughout the period of person-to-person contact and in some cases may continue in residual form even after the case is technically closed. They constitute the seven elements of the casework relationship and can be defined as follows: 1. PURPOSEFUL EXPRESSION OF FEELINGS is the recognition of the clients need to express his feelings freely, especially his negative feelings. The caseworker listens purposefully, neither discouraging nor condemning the expression of these feelings, sometimes even actively stimulating and encouraging them, when they are therapeutically useful as a part of the casework service. 2. CONTROLLED EMOTIONAL INVOLVEMENT is the caseworkers sensitivity to the clients feelings, an understanding of their meaning, and a purposeful, appropriate use of the workers emotions in response to the clients feelings. 3. ACCEPTANCE is the recognition by the caseworker of the innate dignity, ultimate destiny, human equality, basic rights, and the needs of the client, regardless of his individual qualities arising from heredity, environment, behavior, or any other source. Acceptance, however, does not necessarily mean an approval of the clients behavior, attitudes, or standards. Acceptance includes thought and feeling elements, and is express primarily in the manner of service. 4. INDIVIDUALIZATION is the recognition and understanding of each clients unique qualities, and the differential use of principles and methods in assisting each toward a better adjustment. Individualization is based upon the right of human beings to be individuals and to be treated not just a human being but as this human being with his personal differences. 5. NON-JUDGEMENTAL ATTITUDE is based upon the conviction that the casework function precludes assigning guilt or innocence, or degree of client responsibility for causation of the problems or needs, but does include making evaluative judgments about the attitudes, standards, or actions of the client.

6. CLIENT SELF-DETERMINATION is based upon the right of the individual to make his own choices and decisions. The client has a right and a need, within certain limitations, to be free in making his own decisions, and the caseworker has a corresponding duty to respect that right, in theory and in practice, by refraining from any direct or indirect interference with it, and by positively helping the client to exercise that right. 7. CONFIDENTIALITY is the preservation of secret information concerning the client which is disclosed in the professional relationship. Confidentiality is based upon a basic right of the client; it is an ethical obligation of the caseworker, and is necessary for effective casework service. The clients right, however, is not absolute. Moreover, the clients secret is often shared with other professional persons within the agency and in other agencies; the obligation then binds all equally. (Father F. P. Biestek was Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois). This article is taken from Social Casework, January, 1954.