The first of the theoretical approaches towards intervention is the Task Centered Approach. Developed by social workers William Reid and Laura Epstien, it focuses on problems of the client and places emphasis on tasks and the collaboration between client on worker. This social work practice model approaches goal attainment as both systematic and efficient. The prevailing view of the resistant client and the prevalence of an open ended model in social work led to the rise of this model.
Within a brief time, the model attempts to lessen the problems of living, particularly problems of interpersonal conflict, social relations, role performance, reactive emotional distress, inadequate resources or difficulties with organizations. The theory is based on the idea that people are capable of solving their own problems and that it is important to work on problems the client deems important. One of the benefits of this is to empower the client in the collaborative role used in task centered work. It was meant to place itself as an action-oriented approach to provide problem solving activities occurring within a limited time frame. As it has been used in most social work disciplines and populations to date, it has been shown effective in working with minors including schools and residential facilities.
On overview of the Task Centered approach begins here. The client assumes responsibility for identification of his/her problems and the prioritization of such. The goals are then agreed upon and tasks are developed in order to achieve those goals. Clients agree to work with the clinician on a time frame and in each session progress are monitored as tasks are completed. Often this approach is used with minors, including school and residential facilities. The 1980’s saw this approach often used with involuntary clients; those referred by legal circumstances.
However, goals must be followed by the tasks necessary to complete the goal. For example, let’s state that M has been slacking off in school, not doing his/her homework and has begun to ditch classes altogether. To help, try some some goals as these:
1. Improve school attendance by a 15 year old minor
2. Increase GPA by .5 at the end of the school year.
Now assignment of tasks will be necessary to achieve these goals. Note that the goals seem easy to attain at first. The client must feel the goals are attainable for him/her to be willing to attempt the small steps towards change.
Task that could be used to accomplish these may be:
1. Find a program at school that the youth actually enjoys and encourage full participation. This may have the effect of increasing attendance with very little effort. Maybe he/she likes band or drama or a sport of some kind. Each of these places a high emphasis on attendance for success.
2. Encourage the parent(s) to monitor homework closely to make sure they are completed and to hire a tutor for the more difficult sections if they cannot help him themselves. It may be that he is behind in classwork and not know what he should. Perhaps a parent-teacher conference will allow them to plead his/her case and convince them to accept missing homework for partial credit.
3. Develop a home routine that includes a homework period, a recreational period snd a one on one with a parental figure or tutor that can form a bond and help with problems of homework and the underlying problems of being a teenager.
It is most important that you work with the client in order to develop goals and tasks since this will place a higher sense of obligation on the client to see them complete. A person is more likely to try to finish something they have invested their own interests in, raising the chances of success.
Now there are of course weaknesses to this approach. One is that the client fails to complete his tasks and, ultimately, his goal. This could happen in many ways:
1. The occurrence of a crisis.
2. A general lack of commitment.
3. The tasks have been made too vague to complete.
4. A lack of support from teachers, family and the clients social network.
5. Any negative reaction towards the social worker or mental health provider.
6. The failure to properly prepare the client for success.
It is important to have an evaluation plan that will tell you when your task is completed. In this example, a person may say that raising attendance to 85 percent of the time as a success. Another person may say that a .4 raise in the GPA is a success as long as she sees the client working hard. Finally, a social worker or clinician may observe interactions of the family to see if the parental figure is talking a larger role in the scholastic affairs of her child.
The efficacy of thetask centered approach is backed by numerous studies, but still has its criticism. Critics have said that it is overly structured and leaves little chance to form a therapeutic bond with the client. Other arguments include the concern that many clients may not respond to time limitations, a core part of the task centered approach. Nevertheless, this approach has been found to be useful in many situations and even in conjunction with other types of therapy, which we be discussed in further articles in the Treatment Overview Series coming soon.
Sources: Mark Gittner, MSW Candidate
Text: Direct Social work Practice: Theories and skills by /hepworth and Rooney, et. al. 8th edition by Cengage Learning