Psychosocial assessment is a social work tool that helps a social worker summarize a client’s problems that need to be worked on and to understand a client’s mental health, social well-being, support systems, strengths, and barriers they face. The following paper is a psychosocial assessment written by a Wayne State University student based on a fictitious case study. The case study follows Tara, an African-American teen, who has run away from multiple foster homes and has come to live at a residential program.
She has many different areas of concern reported by previous therapists, and foster parents such as: a history of abuse, a breakdown in relationship with her mother, and a romantic relationship that is demonstrating signs of abuse. Tara is a voluntary client and expresses a desire to maintain therapy with the social worker at her residential program and a commitment to improving her life. Background Information Tara Jones is a 16-year-old African-American female who resides in Alberdeen County. Tara lived with her mother and two brothers until the age of 11 years.
Her brothers are her only siblings. Her brother Dan is older than Tara, and her brother Theo is younger. She has not had contact with her father since she was five years old. When Tara was 11 years old, she revealed to her mother that she had suffered physical and sexual abuse for three years perpetrated by her older brother, Dan. Her mother refused to believe that the abuse occurred and forced Tara to leave the home. At that time, Tara moved in with her aunt, Sally Johnson, where she remained until she ran away at age 13.
It is unknown why she left her aunt’s home. She then became a ward of the state and was placed in three different foster homes over a three-year period. Currently, she has been placed in a residential program and will remain in residential care until she is 18-years-old by order of the magistrate presiding over her case. She maintains weekly visits with her Aunt Sally and monthly phone calls with her younger brother. Tara’s most recent foster mother, Ms. Boot, described Tara as cheerful, polite, kind, considerate and helpful.
However, she also described Tara as having difficulty resolving conflict and would become overwhelmed and stressed during common arguments with her foster siblings. This is confirmed by one of her therapists, Ms. Ludwig, who reported that Tara has difficulty expressing her feelings and often “shuts down” and avoids people when she feels stressed and overwhelmed. Tara also expressed to Ms. Ludwig that she felt hurt that her mother did not believe her. In addition, she reported frequent nightmares regarding her older brother and says she is afraid for her younger brother who still lives in her mother’s home.
Tara has changed therapists with each foster placement and now receives counseling at the residential program, Smith Center for Youth, where she lives. She has been complicit with therapy and expressed a desire to continue. Tara’s therapist, Ida Dogoode, contacted Tara’s mother to request background and developmental information regarding Tara. At that time, she also invited Ms. Jones to participate in counseling sessions with Tara. Ms. Jones refused to participate, which resulted in Tara expressing feelings of anger at her mother.
She also discussed feeling fearful and uncertain regarding her future as an adult. Ms. Dogoode’s time with Tara is limited due to a decrease in state funding which has forced the residential program where Tara lives to soon close down. Tara will be transferred to Tanner House, a larger facility that deals with troubled and sometimes violent youth. Ms. Dogoode expressed concern that Tara may become overwhelmed at this new location. Tara reports a positive social network. She says she makes friends easily and maintains contact with the friends she made at each of her foster placements.
She identifies as a member of the Baptist faith, and she finds participation within a church setting to be helpful and comforting. Tara expressed a desire to marry her boyfriend, Tyler, a 25-year-old man. This was a concern to her previous therapist, Ms. Ludwig, who documented that Tara has begun to withdraw from her friends. She believed this was a result of controlling behaviors exhibited by Tyler. Tara reported that Tyler had once grabbed her by the wrist and pushed her down a flight of stairs. Tara is in relatively good health according to her last medical exam.
She is within normal limits for height, weight, and blood pressure. She declines usage of alcohol or drugs. However, her previous foster mother reported that Tara came home intoxicated on a few occasions. Tara is sexually active and reports that she does not use condoms. Her medical exam revealed that Tara had contracted gonorrhea and was subsequently treated with an antibiotic regime. She declined birth control when offered by her physician. Tara is in her sophomore year of high school where she currently has a 1. 87 GPA. Her previous foster mother, Ms. Boot, reported that Tara enjoyed several subjects, but she had difficulty turning in her homework.
She also revealed that Tara received tutoring at the local community center. This is corroborated by her teachers’ reports that Tara participates in classroom discussion, but she does not submit her homework. Assessment It is necessary for a social worker to build rapport with their client in order to build a working alliance. Tara switched therapists each time she changed foster homes and residential facilities. She may find it difficult to open up and enter a working phase because of this.
Also, she may find it difficult because of the rejection she faced when she disclosed the abuse to her mother. In addition, African American clients may fear “therapists will be biased, use stereotypes, minimize the clients’ experiences of discrimination and not understand black cultural traditions” (Sanchez-Hucles, 2001, p. 1). Therefore, I would begin by asking how does Tara identify as her race. As a Caucasion social worker, it’s important not to over generalize or assume her human experience is like other young African American teens, but rather, I am showing her that I value her individual experience.
At the beginning of the first meeting I would engage in small talk, often times African American clients feel more comfortable after they get a sense of how invested the therapist is in getting to know them as a person (Sanchez-Hucles, 2001). I would also use verbal and non-verbal communication to convey warmth, empathy, and genuineness in order to begin to develop rapport. I would pay close attention to my body language and facial expressions so as not to accidentally display signs of discomfort, which may disengage a client.
Micro practice skills such as empathic responding, furthering, and interpretation are examples of the interviewing skills that help to build the worker-client relationship (Kirst-Ashman & Hull, 2012). I would also integrate my personality along with my practice skills. By this, I mean I would laugh, smile, and present myself as me while using the practice skills I have learned through my education. I would also be aware of my personal beliefs and values and make sure that I am not operating from those places but rather from the values and ethics as presented in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) code of ethics.
This use of self establishes authenticity to help deepen the worker-client relationship. Tara is part of many systems. In order to help her effectively, it is important for the social worker to explore her many relationships with family, school interactions, and friends. I would carefully review all notes and reports regarding Tara from her other therapists, school, etc. Then, I would ask Tara for her permission to speak with any other individuals necessary, for example, her family including her mother, aunt, and past foster parents.
As a social worker, I recognize the NASW value regarding the importance of human relationships (NASW, 2008). I would want her permission because I want to respect her right to self-determination and demonstrate that we are working together. I also want to show her that I will respect her privacy and confidentiality. She may need time to build up to that level of trust, and I would respect her right to do so. Also, it demonstrates my integrity as a social worker and shows her that I will behave in a trustworthy manner (NASW, 2008). Personal Strengths and Weaknesses
Tara has several strengths to note. She is amicable and makes friends easily. Also, she engages adults in a polite and respectful manner suggesting Tara has appropriate social skills in varied settings. She displays some positive help-seeking behaviors, for example, her willingness to work with therapists and telling her mother about the abuse. She cares about her future and has set personal goals to help her become independent when she reaches 18 years of age. She also has areas that need improvement. Tara engages in unsafe sex and has already been treated for gonorrhea.
If she continues to engage in unprotected sexual activity, the likelihood of her contracting another STD or becoming pregnant is high. Also, Tara has poor conflict resolution skills, which have presented challenges with her foster families and other residents at her facility. While Tara has presented a willingness to participate in therapy, she remains guarded about the abuse she suffered. Therefore, she will likely continue to manifest dysfunctional behavior patterns until she works through her thoughts and feelings regarding the abuse.