The Secret of Assessment

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Credit: Tom Ray (tmray02), Flickr. License: Creative Commons.

Quiz time.

During the interview process, what is the MOST important thing a social worker should know that will strengthen their assessment skills?

A. Always performing an assessment at the beginning of treatment.
B. Assessment is an ongoing process that occurs at all stages of treatment.
C. An assessment can only be done after a medical evaluation is ruled out.
D. Assessment is required in the case of suicide assessment.

In social work school, we’re formally taught about assessment as part of the interviewing process. It’s part of both the engagement and data-gathering phase of treatment. It’s a challenging phase because we’re required to obtain specific information about clients, while still managing to build rapport, and still “being with” the client at the moment where they may be at their most vulnerable or in crisis when they seek services.

While assessment explicitly occurs at the beginning of treatment, remember the last blog post—we always want to be where the client’s at. To do this requires consistently checking in with clients about how they’re progressing, what has changed, and trusting them as experts of their own experience. While A is true, the best all-inclusive answer is ultimately B, because the most important definition of assessment is that it is an ongoing process that reinforces the collaborative nature of treatment and informs our interventions.

Process of elimination: C is not always true about assessment. While it’s important to rule out medical causes for symptoms, an assessment in other areas can be done. D is important, but assessment does not have to be limited to crisis.

Anything can change from the very beginning to the very end of treatment—things can improve, get worse, or stagnate, and we always want to have that conversation whether it’s a second session or a last one.

Takeaway tip: Assessment is an ongoing process that occurs at every stage of treatment, and informs our interventions.

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