The Social Context Of Assessment

Assessment takes place in the context of a helper -client relationship. The nature of this relationship is considered important in all practice frameworks. Influence of the clinician on the client has been found even in very nondirective approaches. The role of the relationship is viewed differently in different practice perspectives. Great attention is given to the diagnostic value of transference and countertransference effects in psychodynamic therapies and the relationship itself is viewed as the primary vehicle of change. Traditionally, transference has been viewed as a reenactment between the client and the counselor of the client's relationship with significant others in the past, especially parents. Countertransference effects refer to feelings on the part of helpers toward their clients. Transferences are distinguished from therapeutic or working alliances within psychodynamic perspectives. Understanding and analyzing how the client relates to the clinician are of major importance. The way the client relates to the clinician is considered to be indicative of the client's past relationships with significant figures in the past and is thus viewed as a key source of information about the client. Within other perspectives such as cognitive - behavioral approaches, the relationship is viewed as the context within which helping occurs. The interpersonal skills of the clinician are viewed as essential for facilitating a collaborative working relationship, validating and supporting the client, and encouraging clients to acquire valued behaviors.

There is a continuing need throughout assessment to explain the roles and requirements of the client and the counselor, the process that will occur, and the rationale for this. Introductory explanations include an overview of mutual responsibilities and of the framework that will be employed. Because different client behaviors may be required during different phases of assessment and intervention, this "socialization" of the client is an ongoing task. Behavioral clinicians tend to be more directive than psychoanalytically oriented clinicians. They more frequently give instructions, provide information, influence the conversation, and talk more. Clinicians may err by being too directive or too nondirective. Overly directive clinicians may not rec ognize the need to help clients to explore and to understand their behavior. In contrast, nondirective counselors may err by assuming that self-understanding is sufficient to achieve desired outcomes (when it is not).

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