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A framework for strength-based group work practice with children and adolescents

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A framework for strength-based group work practice with children and adolescents was introduced in Chapter 15 (Garvin, Gutierrez and Galinsky, 2017). Your setting is a school-based mental health/day treatment facility. The Clinical Director has encouraged you to develop a weekly, Strength-Based Group for teens. Seven principles were described and illustrated to serve as a foundation to inform group practice. As a clinical social worker, briefly discuss each principle and illustrate its practical application for Derek. CASE EXAMPLE:
Derek, 17-year-old male
The client recognized that his main reason for seeking treatment is that his anxiety was “really affecting” him. At times, he felt like his mind turned into “mashed potatoes,” even with basic information that he already knew. He reported sweating, feeling dizzy and losing thoughts or train of thought. He believes he has had anxiety throughout his life, but never gave it much thought until now. He recently became more aware of this, noting that talking on the phone or times when he is put on the spot tends to be the worse. He mentioned that he has functioned in school and sport settings and found ways to deal with his anxiety. He also believed that speaking in front of his peers seems to evoke many discomforts. When asked about previous coping mechanisms, he noted that not looking at the person or group “eye to eye” or focusing on speaking at a level toward people he recognizes is helpful.
SOCIAL HISTORY: In terms of hobbies or interests, the client reported that he enjoys spending time outside. He and his girlfriend enjoy jogging, concerts and writing music.

In terms of his relationships with others, the client reported that he has dated his current girlfriend for about 2 years. In regards to friendships, he reports that he does not have many friends, though he and his girlfriend have a group of people that they spend time with playing cards or having sports or holiday parties. He discussed that he is not much of a “talker,” though he enjoys the parties because he gets to organize an event “so it flows well.” He said that his girlfriend is the “more social one” and participates in various activities with friends. He noted that trust, mutual interest in recreational activities, and good communication are present.
In terms of personal strengths, he is a better listener than a talker. Furthermore, he states that his bedroom may not appear organized to the outsider, though he does take pride in keeping his personal property cleaned and well maintained. In regards to areas that he wants to improve upon, his anxiety is the primary issue. He wants to work on his “people skills,” in terms of speaking and being comfortable engaging others in conversations.
CULTURE: The client stated that he was raised within the Catholic faith system, though participation in such activities tapered off after his parents’ divorce last year. He noted that church made him nervous, even passing out one time. He added that he was unsure why this happened. In terms of cultural influence, his mother was of eastern European descent and his father was of Hispanic descent, both having a strict Catholic upbringing. However, religion or spiritual activities are not an important part of his life currently.
FAMILY HISTORY: The client reported that his relationship with his parents as “really good.” He denied any regular or significant arguments, stating that they probably argue far less than the average family.
He was raised on the outskirts of Chicago for his first 15 years, moving around the Illinois area until relocating to Indiana after his parents divorced. He was raised by his parents; primarily by his mother. He is the youngest of three boys. He noted that this was rough for a few years, though he reestablished a healthier relationship with his father and brothers.

When asked about his current relationship with his father, he believed they were both good, noting that they visit and talk on the phone regularly. In regards to relationships with his siblings, he notes “typical” difficulties with them with occasional disagreements. However, he stated that they both live out of state and all maintain regular contact through email.
SUBSTANCE ISSUES: The client stated that he and his girlfriend drink about six alcoholic drinks a couple times a week. They enjoy a range of alcoholic beverages but prefer only to drink at home unless it would be a party. He noted experimenting with several illegal drugs, though he has not used any legal or illegal drugs since he was 15.
Reading/Resources/Reference:
Theory and treatment planning in family therapy: A competency-based approach. Cengage Learning. Gehart, D. R. (2016). Chapters 12 & 13, 17
Handbook of Social Work with Groups, Second Edition 2nd Edition
Garvin, Gutierrez & Galinsky – Chapter 15

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