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Use your exercise manual to read and complete one of the case studies in Exercise 9.8, “Linking Storytelling to Action,” pages 115–116. For this discussion, using the case study, identify two possible client actions and a reason for each one.

Make sure to use the required readings from The Skilled Helper text to support your responses. Specifically, incorporate your understanding of the “Prepare Yourself for Doing the Work of Stages I, II, and III” section on pages 270–273 into your rationale for the possible client actions.

EXERCISE 9.8: LINK STORYTELLING TO ACTION

As noted in the text, clients need to engage in “little” actions throughout the helping process that get them moving in the right direction even before formal goals and action strategies are established. These little actions are signs of clients’ commitment to the process of constructive change. In this exercise, you are asked to put yourself in the place of the client and come up with some possible actions that the client might take to move forward in some way. You are not going to tell the client what to do. But helping clients adopt an action orientation to their problem situations is central to helping.

a. Read each of the stories outlined below.

b. If you were the client, what are two common-sense actions you might consider taking at this stage in order to move forward? Even if “big” actions seem premature, what “little” actions might you take? Indicate the reason for each possible action.

Example. A seventh-grade boy talking to his father (all this is said in a halting voice and he keeps looking down): “Something happened yesterday that’s bothering me a lot. I was looking out the window after school. It was late. I saw two of the guys, the bullies, beating up on one of my best friends. I was afraid to go down there.… A coward.… I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t do anything.”

One possible action: The boy might talk the incident through with his friend and perhaps apologize for letting him down.

Reason: To reestablish trust with his friend and to show basic decency. To clear his conscience.

Another possible action: The boy and his father might discuss how to handle similar situations in the future.

Reason: To learn something useful from this painful experience. To turn a problem into an opportunity.

Case 1. A young woman talking to a counselor in a center for battered women. She has been seen by other counselors on two different occasions: “This is the third time he’s beaten me up. I didn’t come before because I still can’t believe it! We’re married only a year. After we got married, he began ordering me around in ways he never did before we got married. He’d get furious if I questioned him. Then he began shoving me if I didn’t do what he wanted fast or right. And I just let him do it! I just let him do it! (She breaks down and sobs.) And now three beatings in less than two months. What’s happened? Oh what’s happened?”

Two possible client actions and a reason for each.

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Case 2. A man, 70, arrested for stealing funds from the company where he has worked for 25 years, talking to an assigned social worker. This is their second session: “To tell you the truth, it’s probably a good thing I’ve been caught. I’ve been stealing on and off for the last five or six years. It’s been a game. It soaked up my energies, my attention, distracted me from thinking about getting old. Now I’m saying to myself: ‘You old fool, what are you running from?’ You’re probably thinking: ‘It’s about time, old guy.’“

Two possible client actions and a reason for each.

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Case 3. A girl, 15, talking to a psychologist at a time when her parents are involved in a divorce case: “I still want to do something to help, but I can’t. I just can’t! They won’t let me. When they would fight and get real mean and were screaming at each other, I’d run and try to get in between them. One or the other would push me away. They wouldn’t pay any attention to me at all. They’re still pushing me away. They don’t care how I think or feel or what happens to me! My mother tells me that kids should stay out of things like this.”

Two possible client actions and a reason for each.

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Case 4. A young man, 24, is talking to his mentor, a senior partner in the company. A department head has offered him a managerial job in her area. In this job, he will be leading an important project. He says, “I didn’t think this kind of opportunity would come so soon. But I’ve decided to say yes. I’m a bit worried, sure, but I figure I was asked because they think I can do the job. You know, just three years ago I was studying this stuff in school and now I’m going to have a budget, people reporting to me, and a chance to make a mark. I have a pretty clear idea about what I’m going to do when I get started next week. Most of all I want to get off on the right foot with everyone.”

Two possible client actions and a reason for each.

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Share your findings with a learning partner and get feedback on the actions you propose and the reasoning behind them.

TASK I-B: THE REAL STORY USE SELF-CHALLENGE TO HELP CLIENTS TELL THE REAL STORY

This section deals with helping clients challenge themselves to find value by participating as fully as possible in the helping process. Helping is, ideally, a collaborative venture.

Clients add value by owning and participating as fully as possible in the helping process. This section focuses on some of the challenges to engagement clients face. Even clients whose good will is beyond doubt can have trouble participating for a variety of reasons. First, clients may lack the skills, especially the communication skills, needed to participate fully. If this is the case, you can use your communication skills to help them overcome obstacles to participation. For instance, if Alex is having problems with expressing himself, use probes to help “walk” him toward clarity. Second, clients do not participate fully because they do not understand what the helping process is or how it works. If this is the case, find ways to help them understand the essentials of the helping process as suggested in Chapter 2 of The Skilled Helper. Third, clients are often reluctant to participate fully in the helping process because they are reluctant to change. In helping sessions, clients manifest reluctance in many, often covert, ways. They may talk about only safe or low-priority issues, seem unsure of what they want, benignly sabotage the helping process by being overly cooperative, set unrealistic goals and then use their unreality as an excuse for not moving forward, not work very hard at changing their behavior, and be slow to take responsibility for themselves. They may blame others or the social settings and systems of their lives for their troubles and play games with helpers. Reluctance admits of degrees; clients typically come “armored” against change to a greater or lesser degree. Make sure you become a partner with your clients in overcoming whatever form of reluctance they get mired in. Finally, clients fail to participate because they resist what they see as your heavy-handed approach to change. When clients resist, they are no longer partners but adversaries. Chapter 9 provides hints on to how to befriend a client’s reluctance or resistance.



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