The way that professional workers approach to the client is through interview in which determines their success to build a relationship and rapport building with service users.
Interview is a mutual and dual interaction between interviewer and interviewee, but there is a huge difference between conversation and interview because interview is targeted and guided dialogue based on obtaining specific information for specific application. In social work practice, professional interview is the inseparable part of this profession and they are using different kind of techniques and skills to reach an accurate assessment. Screen interview designed based on brief review of client’s background and a list of questions to provide shortlist of information and we can access only in basic material which is not guide us to correct direction and accurate data. Intake interview which is more applicable to professional social work and health care providers is a mutual interaction and shapes on trust between the client and professional worker to achieve different angels of client’s situation, so we can delve more to access to the current situation of client and the causes of issues. Professional counselors or social workers need to be able to provide appropriate assessment from their clients which is shapes through an accurate intake interview that is more common in social work profession and clinical psychology. The importance of an accurate intake interview is due to collecting the facts and determines the results of interaction between the counselor and the client, also recording documentation needs to be relevant and a base for the final establishment and clinical standards (Cumming, Fitzpatrick, McAuliffe, Mckain, Martin & Tonge 2007). The aspects of post modernism have influenced the process of assessment in social work practice and it has led to a scientific approach. (Fook 2012).
As a counselor, we are doing assessment based on our professional judgment around the client’s situation which is involved a scientific dialogue. Conceptualization is one of the important part of the assessment which is crucial and it is identifying the roots and causes of the client’s problem and addressing the appropriate intervention (Fook 2012).
Based on the Fook’s article making an assessment is formed based on the organization’s function and sometimes assessment is made based on the checklist, but most common existing approaches to assessment are followed by; professional narratives which shapes through an intake interview and requires acknowledgment of an extensive recognition and reflection of the counselor and professional worker about the situation (Fook 2012).
Systematic assessment and problematising the client situation is another method of assessment which is based on intake interview, it shapes based on our knowledge and focuses on exploring multilayered of client’s situation in order to search for different factors which is involved in this particular circumstance (Fook 2012). The benefit of this method is that we can explore the layers of issues one by one. In this situation, we might face with client intersectionality which issues interact each other and it requires a multidisciplinary perspective and pay attention on the dominance discourse (Fook 2012). The point of view of service users need to be understood and it must be translated properly into a professional manner and language. To provide and stablish an appropriate climate for worker and service users, it is necessary to work collaboratively and jointly together in order to narrative client’s problem effectively (Fook 2012). Professional workers need to be consider that service users are not essentially passive receivers of services however, they need to be empowered and heard that they are included in part of interview and assessment process (Fook 2012). In terms of concept and language to provide a professional assessment, professional workers need to be familiar with choosing appropriate word and try to avoid using the words with negative impact or stigma on the client. Exposure the client to variety of “why” questions will affect the process of interview and the tone of asking questions, type of questions all has an impact in client’s reflections and responses (Fook 2012). For example, asking “tell me about yourself or your experience” will build more engagement between counselor and the client and help to create comfortable, equal and friendly environment. To reach a better assessment and understanding of the client’s situation the factors of politics and context have an important role, for instance, social workers and service users need to be aware of the impacts of client’s past experiences on the current situation and also the client’s point of view about the issues (Fook, 2012).
Undoubtedly, cultural differences and socio-political structure of each country influences the assessment of the client in social work profession, therefore the outcome of the interview and assessment is affected by ethno-cultural and socio-political environment. (Benbenishty, Osmo & gold 2003). The techniques of interview in Iran are similar to the models of western countries but with the difference that the outcome of interview and assessment process due to specific socio-political situation and the mainstream oppression is different. For clarification, I have to mention that the scope of social work profession is limited in Iran and social workers have to practice based on the conventional theory and there is no place for AOP approach or structural theory, therefore it is not permitted to explore and delve the roots and causes of client’s problem, because the source of most personal and social problems is rooted in oppression and corruption of the state, therefore touching the power relation and changing in status quo is not permitted. For example, as a counselor in supportive center for women (victims of violent) during the interview and assessment the main reason behind the most violent cases who came for support was unjust religious laws in which endorsed and even encouraged men’s dominance over women. So, when social workers are faced with injustice and systemic oppression which expanded all over the community and Islamic society it is difficult to guide their client to focus on their own perspective situation and investigation about the causes of social issues only leaves the clients and social workers in a hopelessness cycle. As a result, it is crucial that professional workers must be aware of interaction and the role of other players such as government policies, cultural differenced, organization’s framework, communities and groups on service users, it is crucial to understand the dominance discourse and related problematic elements and identification of aggravated elements in order to guide service users to access appropriate service (Fook 2012).
In Iran, I worked with different population who were faced with intersectionality of poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, mental health, gender inequality and so many other issues and was rarely possible to provide them proper services or basic needs and temporary shelters or harm reduction and other essential services .By bringing all those examples I wanted to go back to the idea that cultural and socio-political condition affects the methods and techniques and outcomes of interview and evaluation. Given the fact that social workers are continuously serving the clients despite the lack of resources and lot of limitations in Iran, the outcome is not satisfactory for them because of the oppression and mismanagement of government officials.
In general, the usual techniques which are common among Iranian social workers are structural interview which is based on multiple choice question and the purpose is to put everyone in a similar position, it may be increases reliability but it is not possible to make a deep analysis of client’s problem. Another technique is unstructured interview which has more flexibility and during the interview social worker can changes the direction of interview or in order to focus on client’ s strengths and situations. During the interview, social workers are encouraged to use role play to explore more about the covert sides of problem.
To sum-up and summarize the interview skills and assessment shapes through an agenda and structure of interview that begins with greeting the client and making a friendly and calm environment to rapport building or engagement then it will continue with explaining about confidentiality statement and later initiating the conversation by asking questions and more thickening the issue and focusing on the client preference. Some other tools of assessment that are usual among social workers for exploring the information are genogram, social mapping, observation, role play, support system identification and documentation. The ultimate goal of all these steps are a better identification of client’s needs based on existing services.