The client of human services can be defined by the nature of the problems that exist in their individual, family or group situation. Those individuals and their problems are the reason human services exist from the start. Problems are a part of everyday life, they can come and go and be major or minor. In understanding this essential part of human service, the helper can fully understand what exactly can help the client and what helping skills can be utilized. In this paper, I will discuss the range of problems facing these clients and what helping skills can be used by the helper in order to help the client. When problems exist that causes a client to experience trouble or discomfort it is essential that human service professionals are able to identify those problems and provide a course of action to resolve those problems. Problems can be described as a situation, event, or condition that is troublesome for the client. There are five ways to think about a client’s situation in terms of problem identification, developmental and situational problems, hierarchical needs, needs created by societal change and environmental influences.
The developmental perspective theorizes that individuals engage in certain tasks or activities at different points in their lives. These developmental stages occur from the day an individual is conceived until the day of their death. It is based on a study by Erik H. Erikson and breaks down an individual’s life into eight stages. The problems that occur within these stages of life of an individual dictate how well they meet a later stage. For instance, as an infant, he or she learns trust within his or her environment. The infant depends on the caretaker to meet his or her needs and a special bond is developed. Care and warmth is shown during this stage between the caretaker and infant. This theory states that if that infant does not experience this stage entirely they will find it difficult trusting others in life. In the situational perspective, problems are a result of an accidents, violent crime, natural disaster, and major changes of life; such as divorce, move, or job change. This range of problems usually occur because the client is in a particular place at a particular time, unlike that of the developmental perspective.
In this perspective the individual may have not done anything to contribute to or cause them to occur, responsibility begins once this problem has occurred and identified as an issue. In examining a client after they have been violently assaulted there are problems that exist because of the assault. The feelings of anger, fear, shame, and questioning their own actions can occur. It is important for these individuals to seek help for the aftermath of the assault in order for them to return to a previously psychological healthy place. Another way to identify a client’s problems is to establish which needs are being met and which are not through the hierarchical perspective. This theory is best described by Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model. It was later suggested by Brammer and MacDonald (2002) that these hierarchy of needs could be divided into two categories: deficiency needs and being needs. This perspective says that if a person is unable to provide themselves with the physiological needs such as food or shelter, they would not be able to focus on other needs such as protection or even concentrate on the love and belonging needs.
With the societal change perspective, problems are experienced by clients as a result of sudden changes in society that leaves individuals in unfamiliar situations. A huge societal problem occurring in today’s world is homelessness. Communities are experiencing a spike in the amount of homeless clients due to the high unemployment rates and mental health issues being ignored. Companies are evolving with the technological times of today therefore forcing individuals out of the factories and businesses they have been secure in at one point. The other problem with homelessness is for those individuals who experience severe mental illness disorders and once resided in mental health institutes.
Due to the underfunding and budget cuts these mental health facilities have been forced to put these individuals out faster and unprepared causing them to either end up in the criminal justice system or on the streets of communities. There are other individuals and groups that fall into the problem of homelessness due to societal changes such as, veterans and children. The last perspective in identifying problems of a client is the environmental influence perspective. Environmental influences include specific locations in which a client lives, friends and family that influence the client, groups to which the client belongs, and activities the client engages.
This perspective is best when you view each aspect as a layer, the further distance away from the client the less they have an influence on that individual. In terms of a child the first layer of influence would be the family. This influence includes the interactions of parents, child care situation, the presence or absence of a parent(s), or the age of their sibling(s). These influences determine a child’s thought process and problem solving ability from the start. If these influences are negative then the outcome as the child grows into adulthood could become negative. A middle layer of influences in terms of a child are those represented by neighborhood, social organizations, and faith based organizations in which they are involved with. The secondary environment of a child can influence a lot with the child. If a child lives in a drug, gang, and crime infested neighborhood this influence can lead a child into the same choices as a young adult.
They can be led through pressures into a gang or tempted with drugs because that is the environmental influence they are seeing every day. They may begin to think it is the norm and although a secondary influence a lot of times when a child’s primary influence is absent they can turn to their secondary influence. The global layer is less influential in terms a child. These factors are those such as international, regional, or global changes. Although in certain circumstances these can lead to influences they are less than that of the family and social interaction layers. As you have read problems can be viewed in many different perspectives, the range of problems can be those occurring during the stages of their development; problems from situations such as car accidents, violent crimes, or natural disasters; a hierarchy of needs; societal changes and environmental influences.
The ranges of problems are vast and unique to each individual’s situation or background. It is imperative for the human service professional to understand the client and how each element has affected or influenced that problem or problems of living. In doing so the helper must be proficient in the helping skills and how specific skills are able to meet the needs of that client. Specific helping skill that is essential for the helper and client is communication. In order for the helping process to be effective the helper must demonstrate excellent communication, it is the foundation for all interpersonal relationships. As a human service professional if there is an inability to understand just what the client’s problem is or their concerns the helping relationship will fail. There are verbal and nonverbal messages that can exchanged in effective communication. Verbal messages are those spoken words such as “hello” where nonverbal messages are a person’s body language such as eye contact, body posture, or tone of voice. These messages can be viewed in many different cultural context and thus being important for the helper to know the cultural background of their client.
If a client receives negative verbal or nonverbal messages the process will turn immediately negatively and cause the client to mistrust the helper or worse yet not return for help. In understanding the client’s background and situation the helper can determine how to effectively communicate through verbal and nonverbal methods. Each client may differ so it is important to know all aspects of the client’s situation prior to or within the first visit in my opinion. In conclusion, clients become part of the human service delivery system because a range of problems that have affected their ability to live a better life. In most cases, the client does not have just one problem but several. It is important for the client that the helper be able to identify and put into action a resolution and they complete this by communicative skills, listening skills, and problem solving skills. Without the effectiveness of the helper, the client will not meet even the basic of needs that you or I may take for granted.
Woodside, M. & McClam, T. (2011). An Introduction to Human Services. (7th Ed.) Belmont, CA: Brooks / Cole Publishers