During your community services worker (CSW) program, you’ll receive the practical and hands-on knowledge you need to succeed in the field. Your CSW courses will teach you all about crisis intervention, addictions and mental health, case management and much more. However, a very important part of your role as a counsellor will include interviewing clients in order to gather information and establish relationships with them. That’s why you’ll also learn about some of the most effective interview techniques.
Counselling professionals know that an ‘interview’ refers to a meeting or session with a client. And a few interview techniques include how a counsellor carries themselves, asks questions, and guides discussions.
If you’re planning to become a CSW, read on for a closer look at five useful interview techniques you’ll learn in your training.
1. CSW Training Will Teach You to Use Open-Ended Questions
In order to build a rapport with your clients, you’ll need to ask a lot of questions. However, during your CSW training, you’ll learn that how you ask a question can determine the depth of a client’s answer. While closed-ended questions like “did you have a good week?” typically evoke simple yes or no answers, open-ended questions will encourage clients to reflect and provide longer responses as well as more information. For instance, you might instead say “tell me about your week”—this will elicit a far more meaningful response than discovering whether or not their week was good.
2. Probing Questions Will Help You Delve Deeper with Clients
Once you begin interviewing clients, you’ll find that the use of probing questions is helpful in situations where you want to encourage them to dig a little deeper and share more information. A probing question can help clients look closely at a particular situation, feeling or behaviour, which is a helpful part of creating positive change. A classic example of a probing question is “how did that make you feel?” Other examples include “could you tell me more about that particular situation?” and “what do you mean by that?”
3. You’ll Learn Active Listening Skills in Your CSW Courses
One of the most effective interview techniques you’ll learn in your CSW courses is active listening. Active listening refers to listening and responding to your clients in a way that builds mutual understanding. Your body language, for example, reflects the amount of attention you’re giving when a client is speaking. It’s important to remain in a relaxed position and to be conscious of your facial expressions at all times.
For example, if a client is sharing a very emotional experience and you’re staring at them with wide eyes, they might feel judged. On the other hand, nodding at appropriate times is a non-verbal cue that will show them you’re paying attention and encourage them to continue.
4. CSW Training Will Teach You to Rephrase and Use Verbal Cues
Verbalization also plays a key role in counselling. During your training, you’ll learn to maintain a calm voice and give small verbal cues, such as saying ‘yes’ when a client is explaining something. Trained experts know that this can help encourage them to share more.
Rephrasing is also a great way to ensure your client feels heard and to get a better understanding of what they are saying. When a client is finished sharing, try summarizing what they said to make sure you’re on the same page.
5. You’ll Master the Art of Successfully Ending an Interview
Clients rarely check the time during sessions, so there’s a chance that they could be in the midst of sharing when an interview has reached its end. It’s important to remember that no one likes being interrupted, especially when discussing something emotional. That’s why you’ll need to find ways to end your interviews very carefully once you start your career.
One way you can accomplish this is to tell your clients how much time is left in an interview approximately 5 to 10 minutes before it ends. This way, the remainder of the interview can be used to review what has been discussed, set goals for the coming week, or to ask clients if they have anything else they’d like to discuss.
The term mental illness refers to a wide range of disorders that can affect a person’s mood, thinking and behaviour. Mental illness can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological and environmental factors.
One in five Canadian adults will suffer from mental illness in their lives. Unfortunately, because there is a stigma attached to mental illness, many sufferers are stereotyped by their communities. This can prevent them from fitting into communities, and it can also deter them from receiving proper diagnosis and treatment.
Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational backgrounds and cultures. In fact, it touches the lives of many in one way or another—whether an individual is diagnosed, or he or she has family or friends who have been diagnosed.
If you are planning to pursue a community services worker career, read on to learn about a few types of mental illness you might help treat during your career.
Community Service Workers Help Treat Anxiety Disorders
Professionals in community services worker careers often help treat people with anxiety disorders. Experts know that there are multiple types of anxiety, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and more.
Clients with anxiety disorders respond to certain people, objects, or situations with irrational levels of fear or dread. Along with these feelings, they may also experience physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, dizziness and sweating. An anxiety disorder is generally diagnosed when a person’s response to a given situation is extreme, or if a person’s anxiety interferes with his or her normal functioning.
Professionals with CSW Training Help Treat Clients with Mood Disorders
Community service workers often help treat clients with mood disorders (also referred to as affective disorders). Clients with mood disorders usually experience prolonged feelings of sadness. However, they may also experience severe mood swings, or periods of uncharacteristic bursts of happiness.
During your CSW training, you’ll learn that one of the most common mood disorders that many people suffer from is depression. Community service workers know that a person experiencing depression copes with feelings of severe sorrow for an extended period of time. Depression can affect all aspects of a person’s life including their relationships, physical health and emotions.
Other mood disorders include bi-polar disorder and cyclothymic disorder. While a person with bipolar disorder can be subject to extreme feelings of sadness or irritability as well as episodes of mania, someone with cyclothymic disorder can experience less extreme versions of these mood changes.
CSWs Help Clients Affected By Addiction Disorders
Addiction disorders are another common form of mental illness. Individuals suffering from addiction are typically unable to stop using addictive substances like drugs and alcohol. They grow dependent on such substances and this dependence begins to interfere with their ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships and health.
Another form of mental illness, known as impulse control disorder, refers to the inability to resist a temptation, urge or impulse that can cause harm to the individual or to others. Impulse control disorders can include compulsive gambling, eating disorders, stealing and more.
After earning their community services worker diploma, students might go on to work at women’s rehabilitation facilities, community centres and emergency shelters, helping those in need get their life back on track. Because community services work revolves around helping others through difficult and stressful times, counselling skills are an important component of a CSW’s training.
Here are some of the essential counselling skills used by community services workers in the field.
1. Active Listening is a Must for Counsellors
Professionals with CSW training who work with individuals dealing with grief, or who have behavioural problems, know about the importance of active listening. Active listening is how community services workers really get at the core of what their clients are trying to tell them. Active listening includes giving small prompts of encouragement, and paraphrasing the individual’s concerns in order to reflect on the root causes of their problems.
2. CSWs Know How to Interpret Body Language
Psychology, communication skills and counselling techniques are all areas of study for students earning their community services worker diploma in Ontario. This specialized training ensures that community services workers know how to interpret body language and understand emotions that someone might be burying, or unable to communicate outright.
For example, a client with crossed arms might be defensive or closed to communication, while someone who is rubbing their hands together or touching their neck might be unhappy and trying to reassure themselves. Community services workers are highly attuned to these kinds of indicators, and what they say about a person’s emotional state.
3. Community Service Workers Use Open Questions
Community services workers use open questions to give clients a chance to expand on their feelings and elaborate on key issues that are bothering them. This technique helps to generate a dialogue and establish a conversation so that the client and CSW can get to the core of a problem, and begin working on establishing solutions.
4. Using Closed Questions
While open questions help begin a conversation, a closed question will help direct it. Community services workers will sometimes use a closed question to get more information about a specific incident, or identify the parameters of the issues the client is facing.
5. Using the Miracle Question as a Counselling Tool
Another kind of question that community services workers use is the miracle question. This question tries to change a person’s perceptions by asking them what their life would be like if a miracle happened. What would that miracle be? How would the client’s life be changed by it? The miracle question focuses on a positive change that would make life better, and switches the focus from the present to where a client wants to be in the future.
Professionals with community services worker training are increasingly in demand, because of the range and scope of the work that they do, as well as the positive impact they have on others and on their community.
Do you have strong communication skills and enjoy helping others? Take a look at our Community Services Worker program.
Students taking community services worker training in hopes of working in crisis intervention, should know that this field has a rich, albeit recent history. CSW training will help students familiarize themselves with the many operational theories being used to help those who have undergone or are living through a crisis. Read on to find out what these various theories are.
A Brief History of Crisis Intervention
Modern crisis intervention techniques and the practice itself can be traced back to the need for expanded psychological methods of treatment following World War II. Preliminary theories however, stemmed from the aftermath of the 1942 Coconut Grove Nightclub fire in Boston.
The fire killed 493 people, and Dr. Eric Lindemann of the nearby Massachusetts General Hospital was responsible for helping the survivors of this tragedy cope with their grief. He developed a theory that survivors go through several stages of grief, which ultimately ends with them accepting and resolving the loss. Lindemann’s stages look like this:
Guilt and Hostility
Crisis Intervention Theories
Since Dr. Lindemann first published his theories, other theories of crisis intervention have emerged. Here are some you may discover while earning your community support worker diploma:
Systems Theory: This theory argues that all crises have to do with the relationships between people or between people and events.
Adaptation Theory: This is the belief that when a person’s negative thoughts, destructive defense mechanisms and maladaptive behaviour is replaced by positive equivalents, the crisis will be over for them.
Interpersonal Theory: According to this theory, a crisis arises when people place their self-validation in the opinions of others. Re-localizing this self-validation is the common solution.
Applied Crisis Theory: This theory rejects the notion that all crises can be treated the same. Instead, there are three main types – normal developmental crises, situational crises and existential crises.
Crisis Intervention Models
There are currently four main models used to successfully intervene in a crisis situation. The first three are:
Cognitive: The goal of this model is to help a person change their views and beliefs about an event, because faulty thinking is the root of the crisis.
Equilibrium: This model, ideal for the early stages of a crisis, helps the patient re-establish the equilibrium of their normal coping methods.
Psychological Transition: This model aims to eliminate factors brought into a situation by a person’s heredity and learning.
The Six-Step Crisis Intervention Model
The six-step crisis intervention model, which is commonly used today, was designed by Gilliland and James. This model is designed to be implemented by a support worker, such as a CSW, and the first three steps are:
Define the problem
Ensure client safety
This is followed by steps that take action and put recovery into practice:
Are there any other crisis intervention strategies you know of that are effective?