Techniques in Social Casework

1.      Interviewing in social casework

An interview is communication between two persons with a conscious purpose. According to P.V.Young “interview may be regarded as a systematic method by which a person enters more or less imaginatively with the life of comparative strangers. It is to secure information from the client in a systematic way. It is an art which is used by the caseworker for better understanding between him and the client and makes the caseworker process easier. It is the foundation of the casework as without an interview the worker cannot get all the possible information about the client nor can the client gain any confidence in the worker.

Purpose of interview

  • To obtain knowledge of the situation
  • To understand other person
  • To be understood by the other person
  • For securing some information which cannot be gathered from any other source

Types of interview

a.       Structural interview

The structural interview is known as controlled, guided or directed interview. The interviewer is asked to get information for certain specific questions only. He cannot go beyond the questions and add on anything from his side.

b.       Unstructured interview

In this type of interview, no direct questions are asked to the subject concerning the problem. The interviewer initiates the conversation regarding the topic and the client starts narrating all the happenings with his feelings and reactions pointing to the event. The caseworker listens carefully to the client and finds out the relevant information useful for the casework process.

c.       Focused interview

In this type of interview, the client is shown a film or made to listen to a radio broadcast which is somehow related to his problem. The client is asked to express his feelings, reactions, and attitude toward this problem. The film or broadcasting influences the mind of the client, which provokes inner motivation, feelings, and emotions. Such interview brings out more factual information and helps the casework process effective.

d. Repetitive interview

This type of interview is repetitive in nature when it is asked. There are some gradual influences of some social and psychological processes on the subject pertaining to the problem. The questions may be repeated again and again.

2.      Recording in social casework

The recording has always been given considerable importance in social work. It is because the case worker has to know many clients intimately and it is essential that interviews and details should be recorded in a way that recalls the particular client with all his/her individual differences. The records serve various purposes and some of them are as follows:

  • Documentation of social work activity: case records provide an ongoing picture of the nature of social work involvement with the client, progress in achieving social work goals, and outcome.
  • Continuity of Service: when a client contacts the social work agency, the service is provided by the entire setting. In case an individual staff member is not available the agency must be able to pick up where he or she left up. This would be possible with the help of records only.
  • Quality control: The quality and quantity of services being provided could be known by reviewing written records that present a picture of social work activity. Record review is also a means of assessing the kind and quality of services being provided by the caseworker and identifying the areas of strength and weaknesses where staff needs in service training to upgrade their skills.
  • Statistical reporting: Case records are periodically used by social work agencies as sources of data to justify the agency’s activities, to seek and maintain funding, to substantiate the need for additional staff, or to do program planning.
  • Organizing the worker’s thoughts: recordings provide factual data and observations which could lead to more in-depth diagnostic assessment and treatment planning.
  • Interdisciplinary Communication: Recording is a means to communicate social diagnostic information and recommendations for consideration by other professionals who may be involved with the client in a team approach to treatment.
  • Teaching and research: Properly maintained case records could be a mechanism for mutual assessment of practice skills and the teaching of new techniques. Case records contain a wealth of information for the professional researcher seeking to gather data on various categories of clients and the problems faced by them.
  • A therapeutic tool: recording can be used as a therapeutic tool with the client to help him to respond to treatment.

Types of recording

Records can be written in different ways. These are Process recording, Narrative recording, Role recording, summary recording, and Abstract.

Process recording:

The process is continuous development involving many changes. It is a series of actions, changes, or functions that bring about an end result. Process recording tries to record this development and actions. These developments are directly or meaningfully related to the understanding of the person in a situation and the intervention process. It is selective in its recording. Interactions, which have direct bearing or meaning for intervention are recorded and the rest of the details of interactions are discarded. The focus is not on the development of the events as such but on the development related to the understanding of and intervening in the person’s psycho-social life. In process recording, the process of helping is recorded which includes the relevant conversations, observations, and reactions of the worker in the developmental sequence. It gives an idea to the supervisor if the case worker has used his knowledge of human behavior and social situations, if his reactions to the client’s verbal and non-verbal communications are appropriate, and if planning for the future is consistent with the presenting situation. The usefulness of the process recording depends to a considerable extent on the ability of the worker to recall exactly what had happened, and in what order and to look at the facts in an objective manner in order to get at underlying feelings and meanings. Process recording is time-consuming, so should be used carefully.

Narrative recording:

In the narrative recording, everything that has happened is recorded as it has happened whether it is positive or negative. It consists of all the statements, observations, and comments of the worker. It is the narration of all the happenings and detailed accounts of all the events which go into the narrative recording. The attempt of narrative recording is to reproduce all the situations.

Role recording:

It is the refined version of process recording. It is highly selective in its approach and focuses on the role of the caseworker in his interaction with clients from time to time.

Summary recording:

Summary records are short and easy to use when considering the total service process. It tries to summarize the main events and avoid the details of all events. It includes entry data, social history, a plan of action, periodic summaries of significant information, action taken by the worker, and a statement of what was accomplished as the case gets closed. Summary recordings save time and labor when process recording comparatively is very time-consuming.


It is the basic idea of the case or action plan and does not provide the detailed information. So, it is a condensed form of summary recording.

3.      Referral

In the casework process, it is not possible always to solve the client’s problem in the same agency and by the same worker. Therefore sometimes cases are transferred or referred to another agency for rendering expertise help to the client. The helping process does not end in referral but it is the contact with a particular caseworker or agency who will take over the case. A referral is done for various considerations, when a different type of worker/ therapy is required to achieve the finally formulated goals of treatment, and when the worker and client find it difficult to move to or assume new responsibility. The case may be referred to some other agency if at some point it is decided that the client cannot be helped in this agency for some reason. Referral involves the preparation of a referral note which gives a very brief summary of the problem and the efforts undertaken to solve the problem along with the psychosocial diagnosis.

Preparation for referral should be done in the way preparation for termination is undertaken through the referral stage, not the final stage. Preparation involves explaining the reasons for referral, talking about the positive and negative feelings involved in a referral process, tackling separation anxiety in one or two sessions, handling the question factually, and preparing the client for the new contact. When a referral is done for availing of some concrete or specialized services, the case worker may, if required also assume the role of an advocate or liaison worker. The caseworker links the client with the needed services. Advocacy may be required when the agency does not offer its services to the client. The social case worker tries to interpret the rules, looks for expectations, and pleads for services to the client. While assuming either of these two roles, the caseworker must assess the risk and the time involved. In this process, efforts can also be made to help the client to secure these services on his own with social, administrative, and political pressures. If this is possible the social worker can work as an enabler. In all cases of referral consent of the client is important to help him to use the available services for his problems.

4.      Home visits

The home visit is an important technique used by the case worker to make the treatment process much more effective. Bernard (1964) states that by making home visits one sees the environment in which the client lives, observes family and other relevant social interactions firsthand, and develops a fuller diagnostic understanding of the patient for appropriate treatment planning. A home visit is thus an important tool in the total intervention process. According to Cameron, “in a few minutes at home, an experienced observer can gain more pertinent information about the client and his environment, which can be gained during hours of probing in an office.

The main purposes of home visits are:

  • Getting detailed information about the client and his family
  • Persuading the client to utilize the services to the maximum extent
  • Educating the family members in matters of the client
  • Strengthening the relationship between the client, agency, and the family
  • Facilitating rehabilitation of discharged clients from institutions
  • Family care and aftercare services to the discharged client.

Source: Renuka Kumar, Social Work Methods

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