SOCW-6060 & 6443-WK4-Discussions
Discussion 1: Client Empowerment
The concept of empowerment has meaning and relevance in these times of growing inequality, diminishing resources, and increasing intergroup conflict. These problems might seem too large and pervasive, yet social workers effect social change in these areas one client at a time. Sometimes that “client” is an entire community or population in need of empowering support and advocacy. The alleviation of oppression and discrimination for one client can change the experience for many others who are faced with the same plight. Social workers examine a client’s identity characteristics or factors, in terms of social class, race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and education. Based on theories of empowerment, what influence might these characteristics or factors have on clients’ senses of empowerment? Are there times when a social worker or the system might work against client empowerment? How might you assist your clients in recognizing their strengths, in order to empower them against the oppression and discrimination they might be facing?
For this Discussion, review this week’s resources, including the Cortez case study. Consider Paula’s situation. Consider the ways each professional may be supporting or stifling her empowerment. Select two of the professionals involved and consider how their approach compares or contrasts with social work values and ethics related to empowerment. Then, consider how Paula’s situation and the professionals involved might affect her personal empowerment. Finally, think about Paula’s strengths and how you might help her to recognize and build them to improve her sense of empowerment.
· Post a brief description of the approach each of the professionals involved are using that may support or limit Paula’s personal empowerment.
· Choose two professionals and explain how their approach either may or may not reflect social work values. Then, explain how Paula’s personal empowerment might be impacted by the approaches chosen.
· Describe two social work skills you might use with Paula Cortez to overcome the presenting concerns she is facing in light of her current hospitalization and the professionals involved.
· Finally, identify the social work skills you would use with the rest of the treatment team.
The Cortez Family
Paula is a 43-year-old HIV-positive Latina woman originally from Colombia. She is bilingual, fluent in both Spanish and English. Paula lives alone in an apartment in Queens, NY. She is divorced and has one son, Miguel, who is 20 years old. Paula maintains a relationship with her son and her ex-husband, David (46). Paula raised Miguel until he was 8 years old, at which time she was forced to relinquish custody due to her medical condition. Paula is severely socially isolated as she has limited contact with her family in Colombia and lacks a peer network of any kind in her neighborhood. Paula identifies as Catholic, but she does not consider religion to be a big part of her life.
Paula came from a moderately well-to-do family. She reports suffering physical and emotional abuse at the hands of both her parents, who are alive and reside in Colombia with Paula’s two siblings. Paula completed high school in Colombia, but ran away when she was 17 years old because she could no longer tolerate the abuse at home. Paula became an intravenous drug user (IVDU), particularly of cocaine and heroin. David, who was originally from New York City, was one of Paula’s “drug buddies.” The two eloped, and Paula followed David to the United States. Paula continued to use drugs in the United States for several years; however, she stopped when she got pregnant with Miguel. David continued to use drugs, which led to the failure of their marriage.
Once she stopped using drugs, Paula attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. Upon completing her BA, Paula worked for a clothing designer, but realized her true passion was painting. She has a collection of more than 100 drawings and paintings, many of which track the course of her personal and emotional journey. Paula held a full-time job for a number of years before her health prevented her from working. She is now unemployed and receives Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) and Medicaid.
Paula was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She experiences rapid cycles of mania and depression when not properly medicated, and she also has a tendency toward paranoia. Paula has a history of not complying with her psychiatric medication treatment because she does not like the way it makes her feel. She often discontinues it without telling her psychiatrist. Paula has had multiple psychiatric hospitalizations but has remained out of the hospital for at least five years. Paula accepts her bipolar diagnosis, but demonstrates limited insight into the relationship between her symptoms and her medication.