Social Work Working with Non-Voluntary and Mandated Clients
by
Jacqueline Corcoran
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 May 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0005

Introduction

Social work’s traditional commitment to impoverished, socially diverse, and otherwise vulnerable and oppressed populations means that, as a by-product, social workers often work with people who have been ordered by the courts to retain their services. Authors in the field have noted that the majority of clients seen by social workers in public agencies are mandated, or at least to some degree involuntary in that they are pressured to attend services by partners, spouses, supervisors, or under some threat of future punishment. Unfortunately, many models of helping are built on the notion of a person voluntarily seeking services and one who is motivated to change behavior. Certain values of social work are also more difficult to enact with mandated clients, such as self-determination (they would prefer not to engage in services) and confidentiality (the courts might require assessment of progress). Court-ordered populations are involved with the criminal justice system in which debate, confrontation, and punishment are primary approaches. However, social work values, such as the dignity and worth of the individual and the importance of relationships, dictate that we take a more humanistic approach.

Introductory Works

Despite the prevalence of work with mandated populations, surprisingly little has been written in the field. The following entries refer to resources that deal specifically with this topic. Rooney is the recognized social work expert on working with mandated and nonvoluntary clients. Rooney 2009 retains a task-centered approach but with the addition of motivational interviewing and edited chapters on work with involuntary populations, such as perpetrators of domestic violence, and in settings such as corrections and child welfare. Ivanoff, et al. 1994 is another text devoted to work with mandated clients. In many respects, Rooney 2009 and Ivanoff, et al. 1994 share approaches, acknowledging the realities of direct practice with mandated populations, but offering strategies on how to work in a respectful, collaborative, and productive way, offering choices and minimizing confrontation except in nonnegotiable matters. De Jong and Berg 2001 describes these writers as having used “congruence as a strategy to increase compliance,” that is, they have sought to bring the client along to the helper’s position. De Jong and Berg contrast their solution-focused approach, in which nonvoluntary clients come up with their own goals and solutions to problems, while helpers avoid the use of advice or confrontation (even in its gentler forms). Barsky 2010 focuses on the ways in which ethics and values in social work relate to problem areas in which clients are mandanted to participate in services.

  • Barksy, A. 2010. Ethics and values in social work: An integrated approach for a comprehensive curriculum. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    A recent comprehensive text with three chapters (on mental health, child welfare, and criminal justice) that relate to ways in which to preserve ethics and value in the face of clients mandated to attend services.

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    • de Jong, P., and I. K. Berg. 2001. Co-constructing cooperation with mandated clients. Social Work 46.4: 361–374.

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      This article describes the use of solution-focused techniques with nonvoluntary clients.

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      • Ivanoff, A., B. Blythe, and T. Tripodi. 1994. Involuntary clients in social work practice: A research-based approach. Modern Applications of Social Work. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

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        Uses the problem-solving process as a framework for work with involuntary clients. Has special sections on criminal justice, child welfare, and mental health populations.

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        • Rooney, Ronald. 2009. Strategies for work with involuntary clients. 2d ed. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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          This dense volume takes the reader through the legal and ethical requirements of work with mandated clients and the initial contact, operating under a task-centered approach to practice, with the addition, in this updated edition, of motivational interviewing.

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          Transtheoretical Stages of Change Model

          The transtheoretical stages of change model was developed for substance abuse, but it can be applied to other problems in which motivation and compliance are at issue. Prochaska and colleagues (Connors, et al. 2001; Prochaska, et al. 1994) developed the stages of change model, which assigns six stages of change in terms of people’s readiness to change their behavior. Although the model has been critiqued empirically for the fact that people do not always progress through change in a stagelike fashion, it is a helpful way to conceptualize work with mandated problems. Indeed, Rooney and Chovanec 2006 uses the model to conceptualize the stages of group development with involuntary clients in a group setting.

          • Connors, G., D. Donovan, and C. DiClemente. 2001. Substance abuse treatment and stages of change: Selecting and planning interventions. New York: Guilford.

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            One of the most recent books to describe the stages of change model and how it can be used to treat substance-use problems.

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            • Prochaska, J., C. DiClemente, and J. Norcross. 1994. Changing for good. New York: Avon.

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              An accessible, self-help version. Describes better than any other source the types of techniques that are appropriate for each stage of change.

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              • Rooney, Ronald, and Michael Chovanec. 2006. Involuntary groups. In Handbook of social work with groups. Edited by Charles D. Garvin, Lorraine M. Gutiérrez, and Maeda J. Galinsky, 227-242. New York: Guilford.

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                Unique conceptualization of group treatment for mandated clients using the transtheoretical stages of change model as a way to structure the stages of group development.

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                Motivational Interviewing

                Miller and Rollnick 2002 formulates motivational interviewing for people with substance-use problems. The emphasis is on a collaborative approach rather than confrontation. Empathy is used in a strategic fashion to effect change, and the ambivalence that is presumed to underlie problem behaviors offers a strengths-based interpretation (i.e., there is part of the person that desires change). This collaborative approach is compatible with social work values and principles of respect for the dignity and worth of the individual and client self-determination. In a more recent work, Arkowitz, et al. 2008 applies motivational interviewing to psychological problems. The website Motivational Interviewing provides an abundance of resources: manuals, self-report instruments, publications, and training opportunities. Rosengren 2009 is a workbook to help the beginning practitioner to practice motivational interviewing skills.

                • Arkowitz, Hal, Henny Westra, William Miller, and Stephen Rollnick, eds. 2008. Motivational interviewing in the treatment of psychological problems. New York: Guilford.

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                  Moving beyond substance-use problems, this edited volume applies motivational interviewing to other types of client problems, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder, where there is ambivalence about getting better or engaging in treatment.

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                  • Miller, W., and S. Rollnick. 2002. Motivational interviewing: Preparing people for change. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

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                    This book describes the principles and techniques of motivational interviewing, with many practice examples. Reflecting how the model was developed, the focus of the book is on work with substance-use problems.

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                    • Motivational Interviewing.

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                      Information on resources and training for motivational interviewing is available at this site, including a bibliography and various training manuals.

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                      • Rosengren, D. 2009. Building motivational interviewing skills: A practitioner workbook. Applications of Motivational Interviewing. New York: Guilford.

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                        This practical workbook offers an abundance of exercises, interspersed with instructional material, so that the practitioner can learn motivational interviewing.

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                        Solution-Focused Therapy

                        Solution-focused therapy is a brief, strengths-oriented, direct-practice model (see Introduction) that identifies and enhances clients’ resources for coping with life’s difficulties. De Jong and Berg 2008 is a comprehensive text on solution-focused therapy, whereas de Jong and Berg 2001 focuses solely on using the approach with mandated clients. Although solution-focused therapy (SFT) is classified as a “therapy” approach, it is actually applicable to the wide range of settings and problems with which direct-practice social workers are involved, particularly those with large numbers of involuntary populations. For instance, Lee, et al. 2009 uses a solution-focused approach with men who have committed intimate partner violence; Berg 1994 and Christensen, et al. 1999 utilize SFT in child welfare settings.

                        • Berg, I. K. 1994. Family-based services: A solution-focused approach. New York: Norton.

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                          Although one of the earlier solution-focused writings, this easy-to-read book clearly describes how solution-focused interventions can be used when social workers are delivering home-based services.

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                          • Christensen, D., J. Todahl, and W. Barrett. 1999. Solution-based casework: An introduction to clinical and case management skills in casework practice. Modern Applications of Social Work. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

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                            This book has been overlooked as a resource for working toward what is desired in parents and emphasizing the positive intention of parents’ abusive behaviors, rather than condoning the behavior or forcing parents to own up to problems. Not prescribing services for parents in child welfare, but developing individualized plans based on an assessment of the client’s trigger behaviors and client goals.

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                            • de Jong, P., and I. K. Berg. 2001. Co-constructing cooperation with mandated clients. Social Work 46.4: 361–374.

                              E-mail Citation »

                              This article describes the use of solution-focused techniques with nonvoluntary clients.

                              Find this resource:

                              • de Jong, P., and I. K. Berg. 2008. Interviewing for solutions. 3d ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

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                                Written by two social workers, one of them an originator of SFT, this book goes through the process of helping graduate students learn interviewing according to solution-focused principles and techniques. Engagement strategies for working with “the visitor” relationship (i.e., nonvoluntary clients) in a respectful and collaborative manner are described.

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                                • Lee, M. Y., J. Sebold, and A. Uken. 2009. Solution-focused treatment of domestic violence offenders: Accountability for change. 2d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                  Describes and details, from the first contact to termination, the implementation of a solution-focused group treatment with people who have committed domestic violence. A nonconfrontational and respectful approach that focuses on goal formulation and changing behaviors rather than responsibility and blame.

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                                  Practice Areas

                                  This section focuses on references targeted at practice areas that tend to comprise nonvoluntary clients. These include substance use, child welfare, severe mental illness, domestic violence perpetration, and criminal justice more broadly. Rather than comprehensively reviewing these practice areas, the slant of the selected works will be on collaborative work with clients in a way that enacts social work values and principles.

                                  Substance Abuse and Dependence

                                  Several models have been created for intervention with the problems of substance abuse and dependence when motivation is an issue. Motivational interviewing was created by Miller and Rollnick 2002. Van Wormer and Davis 2008, and Barsky 2006 discuss both motivational interviewing and harm reduction in social work practice for substance abuse. On a direct-practice level, harm reduction means working with clients to reduce the harmful consequences of the behavior, such as encouraging the use of condoms and clean needles. On a policy level, it means refraining from administering legal consequences and punishment for the use of illegal behaviors, such as using drugs. Punishment is seen as driving risk behavior underground for fear of consequences, and actually encouraging the use of unsafe practices. Alternatives, such as methadone treatment instead of illegal heroine use and the provision of clean needles and condoms, are promoted instead. Another type of policy-and-practice approach involving harm reduction specifically targeted at homeless people with substance use and mental health treatment needs is the “housing first” model. Rather than requiring that people go through detoxification and treatment before entry into housing, as is traditionally the course of intervention, people are provided instead with housing and the supports that will help them maintain housing, with abstinence not being seen as a requirement (Padgett, et al. 2006).

                                  • Barsky A. E. 2006. Alcohol, other drugs and addictions: A professional development manual for social work and the human services. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

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                                    Barsky describes a range of possible approaches, most notably the stages of change model, motivational interviewing, and harm reduction, and encourages student engagement and critical thinking about the approach that best suits the client.

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                                    • Miller, W., and S. Rollnick. 2002. Motivational interviewing: Preparing people for change. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

                                      E-mail Citation »

                                      This book describes the principles and techniques of motivational interviewing, with many practice examples. Reflecting how the model was developed, the focus of the book is on work with substance-use problems.

                                      Find this resource:

                                      • Padgett, D., L. Gulcur, and S. Tsemberis. 2006. Housing first services for people who are homeless with co-occurring serious mental illness and substance abuse. Research on Social Work Practice 16.1: 74–83.

                                        DOI: 10.1177/1049731505282593E-mail Citation »

                                        Contrasts the treatment-first and housing-first perspectives on working with the homeless with substance abuse and mental health needs, and reports the results of an experimental design to evaluate the effectiveness of Pathways to Housing in New York City.

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                                        • van Wormer, K., and D. R. Davis. 2008. Addiction treatment: A strengths perspective. 2d ed. Belmont, CA: Brooks Cole/Thomson.

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                                          The strengths perspective is evident throughout in its focus on motivational interviewing and harm reduction at the practice and policy levels for the treatment of mostly alcohol problems.

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                                          Child Welfare

                                          Although the slant of its text is not on the mandated nature of child welfare services, Mallon and Hess 2005 offers a comprehensive compilation of current practices in child welfare that gives the reader a picture of what child welfare practice looks like today. Works that center on the motivation of clients and engagement with nonvoluntary clients include solution-focused approaches, represented by both Berg 1994 and Christensen, et al. 1999.

                                          • Berg, I. K. 1994. Family-based services: A solution-focused approach. New York: Norton.

                                            E-mail Citation »

                                            Although one of the earlier solution-focused writings, this easy-to-read book clearly describes how solution-focused interventions can be used when social workers practice with families in the child protective services system.

                                            Find this resource:

                                            • Christensen, D., J. Todahl, and W. Barrett. 1999. Solution-based casework: An introduction to clinical and case management skills in casework practice. Modern Applications of Social Work. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

                                              E-mail Citation »

                                              This book has been overlooked as a resource for developing parenting capacity rather than pathologizing parents who have been abusive. Not prescribing services for parents in child welfare, but developing individualized plans based on an assessment of the client’s trigger behaviors and goals associated with them.

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                                              • Mallon, Gerald P., and Peg McCartt Hess, eds. 2005. Child welfare for the twenty-first century: A handbook of practices, policies, and programs. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                                A comprehensive overview of early-21st-century practices in child welfare, described in one edited volume.

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                                                Domestic Violence

                                                Domestic violence treatment has been dominated by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs’ Duluth model, which essentially involves feminist-informed group anger management. Lee, et al. 2003 takes a different approach, offering solution-focused treatment of domestic violence offenders. The focus here is on strengths and exceptions, and on staying away from power struggles and blame. Lehmann and Simmons 2009 expands on solution-focused therapy to discuss other strengths-based approaches that can be used for people who commit intimate-partner violence. For the most part, these models have not been rigorously researched, but a recent systematic review, Feder, et al. 2008, indicates that the effectiveness of batterer-intervention programs, such as the Duluth model, may be limited. Some beginning research on motivational interviewing and the stages of change model is posed in Murphy and Maiuro 2009.

                                                • The Duluth Model: Social Change to End Violence Against Women.

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                                                  Describes the Duluth model and offers resources, training, and publications related to this intervention.

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                                                  • Feder, L., S. Austin, and D. Wilson. 2008. Court-mandated interventions for individuals convicted of domestic violence. Campbell Systematic Reviews 12. Oslo, Norway: The Campbell Collaboration.

                                                    DOI: 10.4073/csr.2008.12E-mail Citation »

                                                    This systematic review of ten studies indicates that although official reports of domestic violence decreased after batterer intervention, victim reports were that partner violence had not changed as a result of program participation. Available online.

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                                                    • Lee, M. Y., J. Sebold, and A. Uken. 2003. Solution-focused treatment of domestic violence offenders: Accountability for change. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                                      E-mail Citation »

                                                      Describes and details, from the first contact to termination, the implementation of a solution-focused group treatment with people who have committed domestic violence. A nonconfrontational and respectful approach that focuses on goal formulation and changing behaviors rather than responsibility and blame.

                                                      Find this resource:

                                                      • Lehmann, P., and C. Simmons, eds. 2009. Strengths-based batterer intervention: A new paradigm in ending family violence. New York: Springer.

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                                                        Expanding beyond solution-focused therapy, this edited volume includes other strengths-oriented interventions with perpetrators of domestic violence to include motivational interviewing, narrative therapy, and strengths-oriented cognitive-behavioral therapy.

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                                                        • Murphy, C., and R. Maiuro, eds. 2009. Motivational interviewing and stages of change in intimate partner violence. New York: Springer.

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                                                          This edited volume details some initial research projects examining the effectiveness of motivational interviewing and the stages of change model in work with perpetrators of partner violence.

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                                                          Criminal Offending

                                                          For the background and history of social work’s involvement in the criminal justice system, Roberts and Springer 2007 offers a good overview. A number of other resources are relevant for social workers interested in humane ways to intervene with people who are involved with this system. Tyuse and Linhorst 2005 discusses specialized courts for substance-use problems and mental illness that lead to law-enforcement involvement, including their relevance for social work. These specialized courts downplay the adversarial process and instead follow a pre-sentence or diversion model, emphasizing treatment in which case charges are dismissed. Yet another nonadversarial policy and practice approach to crime and legal involvement is restorative justice, which “advocates nonadversarial forms of settling disputes and strives to restore individual lawbreakers to the community rather than isolating them from it” (Restorative Justice Online, van Wormer 2003). Van Wormer, in fact, argues that such approaches are more aligned with social work values than are typical criminal-justice proceedings. Another website of relevance to crime and justice is that of the Campbell Collaboration Crime and Justice Group, devoted to conducting methodologically rigorous, high-quality systematic reviews of interventions conducted in the criminal justice system.

                                                          • Campbell Collaboration Crime and Justice Group.

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                                                            Provides a number of systematic reviews of relevance to interventions at both the policy level (i.e., formal systems processing for juveniles) and the individual level (i.e., cognitive-behavioral therapy of offenders).

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                                                            • Restorative Justice Online.

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                                                              This website offers advocacy, resources, and information for various types of crime internationally. Produced by the Prison Fellowship International, Centre for Justice Reconciliation.

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                                                              • Roberts, A., and D. Springer. eds. 2007. Social work in juvenile and criminal justice settings. 3d ed. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

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                                                                This edited volume explores the history and background of forensic social work and focuses on work with victims (crime and partner violence), as well as criminal offenders, including juvenile offenders, in community, institutional, and court settings.

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                                                                • Tyuse, S., and D. Linhorst. 2005. Drug courts and mental health courts: Implications for social work. Health and Social Work 30.3: 233–240.

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                                                                  A good overview for social workers on specialized drug courts and mental health.

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                                                                  • van Wormer, K. 2003. Restorative justice: A model for social work practice with families. Families in Society: The Journal for Contemporary Human Services 84.3: 441–448.

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                                                                    Discusses restorative justice in general and its compatibility with social work values. Emphasizes family group conferencing as one restorative justice model for work with families in child welfare settings to resolve placement decisions for children.

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                                                                    Mental Health

                                                                    The theme of empowering people with mental illness is present in all these works. The recovery model embraces this theme with its emphasis on clients leading productive and meaningful lives and clients assuming the role of active consumers of services. Scotland, et al. 2008 discusses the recovery model as applied to people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Linhorst 2006 addresses the theme of empowerment by showing how people with severe mental disorders can be involved in their treatment planning and service delivery, as well as research and policy that pertain to this population. O’Hanlon and Rowan 2003 offers hope for change to both the provider and the client by using solution-focused principles and techniques with this population. Rapp, an influential writer on the strengths-based perspective in social work, applies strengths-based principles to the provision of case-management services for severe mental illness (Rapp 1997). While case management has served as a cornerstone for the community-based care of people with schizophrenia, it may actually lead to more hospitalization and worse outcomes than routine care. The exception is a specific approach to case management called assertive community treatment (ACT), which is characterized by assertive engagement, “in vivo” delivery of services, a multidisciplinary team approach, staff continuity over time, low staff-to-client ratios, and frequent client contacts. The Assertive Community Treatment Association website provides further information, resources, and training.

                                                                    • Assertive Community Treatment Association.

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                                                                      As opposed to regular case management, this website is associated with reduced hospitalization and improved outcomes. Contains information, resources, and training.

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                                                                      • Linhorst, D. 2006. Empowering people with severe mental illness: A practical guide. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                        Comprehensively explores the levels of coercion associated with the legal and treatment systems for people with mental illness, and offers principles of empowerment for treatment planning, service delivery, access to housing and employment, organizational decision making, research, and policy change

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                                                                        • O’Hanlon, B., and T. Rowan. 2003. Solution-oriented therapy for chronic and severe mental illness. New York: W.W. Norton.

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                                                                          Long on case studies, this book decries labeling and instead focuses on helping the client with a chronic and severe mental illness make small and specific improvements using solution-focused principles and techniques.

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                                                                          • Rapp, C. A. 1997. The strengths model: Case management with people suffering from severe and persistent mental illness. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                            An influential writing on the strengths-based perspective in social work, specifically addressing case management with people with severe mental illness.

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                                                                            • Stotland, N. L., M. G. Mattson, and S. Bergeson. 2008. The recovery concept: Clinician and consumer perspectives. Journal of Psychiatric Practice 14, Suppl. 2: 45–54.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1097/01.pra.0000320126.76552.9cE-mail Citation »

                                                                              Discusses the recovery model as it applies to people diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

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