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Problems Facing Human Services Clients

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Problems Facing Human Services Clients

Lizabeth J. Justus - Routson

BSHS – 305

September 18, 2014

Dr. Robert Vado

The Range of Problems Facing Human Service Clients

Client problems are rarely limited to just one, single issue. One problem alone can lead to other problems and the human service helper should always keep this in mind so that specific helping skills can be implemented to serve the clients’ needs. These problems can range from housing, food, physical or mental illness, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, Veteran’s issues and child or family issues. All of these issues are multi-faceted and can be very difficult to help with. (R. Woodside & T. McClam, 2011) Assisting with client’s problems requires gaining the trust of the client. This is important for gathering information so the helper can give the best and most effective help they can. (R. Woodside & T. McClam, 2011) to do this, a human service professional uses helping skills to assist their clients. Some of the basic skills are verbal and non-verbal communication, and listening and responding. These are the foundations to the human service professional and client relationship. Used correctly, they can help form an easy flow of helpful information and an effective helping relationship with the client.


The range of problems facing human service clients is multi-faceted. No one person has just one problem, and there are plenty of clients to go around (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011). I believe this point is well articulated by Neil Headman, assistant professor of human services at the University of Illinois at Springfield (2011), who stated “It does not matter who your client is, everyone needs help” (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011).

Different client problems appear for different reasons and there are various theories used to identify the client’s problems (R. Woodside & T. McClam, 2011). I will explain this with each example of client problems I present.

The first problem I would like to present is Lack of Confidence. This is the most common symptom/problem adults develop who were abused as children. According to “The Penny Parks Foundation” (2014), Lack of Confidence “Stems from mistaken beliefs, developed in childhood, of guilt and an inane sense of “badness” or feeling defective”. () Another problem in adults stemming from child abuse is Problem Relationships. Sexual dysfunction, inability to touch or trust can cause serious relationship problems (“The Penny Parker Foundation”, 2014). Abuse victims often times choose partners that are abusive or inadequate because the dysfunctional relationships have a sense of normalcy to the child abuse survivor. The childhood experience of dysfunction causes the adult to search out a familiar relationship. Sometimes the adult feels like they are not good enough, so therefore, they cannot partner with a “nice” person (“The Penny Parker Foundation”, 2014). Developmental psychologist Erik H Erikson came up with an explanation for these types of problems. His developmental theory describes eight stages that a healthy human should pass through while growing up. They span from infancy to mature adulthood. In each stage, a human faces challenges and, if all goes well, they conquer the challenges and grow into a stable adult. If challenges are not conquered, they could show up in the future as problematic (Psychologist World, n.d.).

Next I would like to discuss a car accident. A man is unlocking his car to get in it. The car is parked in the parking lot of a grocery store. Another car is pulling into the spot next to the man and hits him, pinning him between the two cars. Police and an ambulance are called to the scene. The man is taken to the hospital where he suffers from two broken legs, three broken ribs, contusions and abrasions. Time passes, and he is healing very slow, and now the man has a long list of problems; job loss, income loss, medical bills, nightmares, depression, loss of mobility, constant pain, and a court case to get the other man’s insurance company to pay all of the medical bills, for loss of wages, therapy, mental anguish, and to fix his car. This scenario is an example of a Situational Perspective. One of the definitions for Situational Perspective is being in a certain place at a certain time which is definitely where this accident victim was. The individual does not have to be the cause of the problems. The problems evolve from the situation, in this case an accident, which the victim did not cause (R. Woodside & T. McClam, 2011).

There is one more scenario I would like to talk about. This is the case of a woman who is married and has two children. Her husband is an alcoholic and very abusive to her, but not the children. Whether he is drinking or not, he is controlling and physically, verbally and mentally abusive. The husband constantly tells her she is ugly, fat and worthless. He does not allow her to have friends and has cut her off from her Mother, Father, siblings and all other family members. The only outside contact is when she has to go to the children’s school or to the grocery store.

The woman shows signs of severe depression and is extremely withdrawn. She has medical, dental and psychological problems from neglect and abuse. She is financially dependent on her husband so she feels obligated to stay, and she sees him as a good father to her children.

This woman’s terrible life is an example of Environmental Influences. Her living environment was responsible for her problems. This can be thought of in terms of layers (R. Woodside & T. McClam, 2011) similar to an onion. In the center of the layers is the woman herself, she is the victim. The second layer represents the closest influences in her life, which are her husband and children. What comes next is the third layer which represents secondary influences which would be the children’s school. The fourth layer is the grocery store. This is determined by the fact she cannot speak to anyone other than the people in these two facilities. The final layer represents the least influences. These are global influences like The New York Stock Exchange or National Elections (R. Woodside & T. McClam, 2011).

This is an example of the human ecology theory developed by Psychologist Urie Brofenbrenneer in the 1970’s. This shows how our environment can influence our behavior (Sincero, 2012).



Communication is a vital skill in the helper-client relationship. Whether it is verbal communication; like interviewing, or non-verbal as in a smile, both are equally important. One must be mindful when using either one. What you say and how you say it can make a huge difference in gaining trust or information. Say the wrong thing and the client could lose trust (Zeigler, 2014)

Active listening is a skill used to “read between the lines” to catch what they are not saying out loud. There are also five behaviors a helper can practice that lets a client know that the helper is sincere about helping them called SOLER, which stands for: S-Face the client Squarely, O-Adopt an Open posture, L-Lean toward the other person, E-Maintain good Eye contact, R-Try to be Relaxed (R. Woodside & T. McClam, 2011).

Response to the client should be goal-directed and always have a purpose. Be honest with the client if you do not know an answer to their question. Let them know you will find an answer (R. Woodside & T. McClam, 2011).


Client problems are multiple, often complex and sometimes difficult. The human services helper has many tools at their disposal to better understand the problems of the client. The developmental theory, situational perspective and environmental influences models show the importance of identifying where the problems come from.

The human resource helper needs to have stellar communication, listening and responding skills. Combined with the ability to understand the client’s problems, the helper can assist the client with much success.


Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2011). Helping those in need: Human service workers. Retrieved from

Psychologist World. (n.d.). Erikson's stages of human development. Retrieved from

Sincero, S. M. (2012). Ecological systems theory. Retrieved from

The Penny Parks foundation. (2014). Retrieved from

Woodside, M. R., & McClam, T. (2011). An Introduction to Human Services (7th ed.). Belmont, California: Cengage Learning.

Zeiger, S. (2014). Effective communication skills for social workers. Retrieved from…...

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