Using Assessment Tools

Assessment tools are all too often written as though they are primarily intended to help a worker to make an assessment of the client’s problem. They are framed in professional language – long words are all too often a strong feature. They tend not to make clear why questions are asked – the client is expected in this respect to defer to the worker’s wisdom. The worker may not even share the assessment result with the client, though since the assessment is framed in a manner that gives more importance to data collection or to a fellow professional’s need to understand than to creating a picture that might shed light on things for the client, the lack of access to the assessment result is less of a disadvantage than it may appear.

This point may be repeated a number of times. I am not suggesting that a sentimental deference to the supposed wisdom of the client is what is required. On the whole, the client would not be in a mess if they were in a position simply to lead the worker to the right solutions. I am also not suggesting that there is no technical, professional knowledge available to the worker that may not be understood by the client. After all, if the worker has no expertise that is not available to the clients, why should they present themselves to services at all?

What I am saying is that the professional’s task is to turn their technical or professional know how into something that the client can use. This is a kind of necessary argument and tussle. The professional’s knowledge places them in a powerful position; there is an understandable fear and resentment of, or a tendency to dependence on that professional power from the client. Dependence and simple compliance with that power is not a hopeful sign, as I have discussed above. Tension is productive. A good assessment tool will therefore prompt a negotiation between the professional’s know how and the client’s view of the world. The positive outcome is when both worker and client emerge with a fuller view of the client’s problem and the context in which it is being faced.


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