Workplace communication occurs in many ways; with clients, workers tend most commonly to have face-to-face contact or telephone contact. This contact can occur in both a formal and an informal context, depending on the particular situation or need at the time.
Much of the worker–client contact will be within an informal context – a home visit to see how they are managing, a chat in the office about a new program they might be interested in, a phone call to check that they are coming to a meeting at the centre or just shared communication about how their day is going.
However, occasionally the particular situation requires a formal context.
A client is requesting a service and you are asked to do the initial interview. You need to develop a case plan with the client, write it up, and and secure the client's consent to the plan. A formal interview is necessary to undertake case planning.
You have received an allegation about a young person under your supervision who has not complied with his Community Service order. You need to interview him formally to gather relevant evidence.
Formal interviews usually follow a more structured process than informal interviews. The following section will assist you to learn the skills for these types of interviews.
Intake and case planning
When a client accesses a service for the first time, an initial intake interview is usually conducted by a staff member; sometimes this may be a supervisor or a rostered intake officer.
This initial interview is used to assess the client's eligibility to access the service, as well as to make a preliminary assessment of the client's specific needs and areas in which your organisation can assist the client. From this early contact, an initial case plan is developed in consultation with the client and a relationship begins to develop between the worker and the client.
Most organisations have a standardised intake form for gathering information.
If you are conducting an intake interview with a client, the types of information that you may need could include the following:
- general personal details
- personal history
- behavioural/physical/medical information
- key parties or significant others involved
- details of incidents that might impact on eligibility
- current interventions and reasons for those interventions
- the client's perception of their involvement with your organisation
- history of involvement of other people and agencies with the clients
- social factors that impact on the client
- feedback regarding current interventions by other agencies.
For interviewing to be successful, the structures (how the interview will take place), time frames (when) and protocols (what) need to be established upfront and mutually agreed upon by all participants.
Preparing for the interview
Regardless of the setting or purpose of the interview, there are common steps in any interview, including the preparation, introduction, body of interview, recording and closure of the interview and assessment.
You need to inform your client of your role when you first introduce yourself. Display any identification required by your agency and explain why you are involved in this particular situation.
- Establish boundaries between you and the client.
- Clearly define the limits of what you can and cannot do.
- Clarify expectations the client has of you.
- Note statutory obligations and requirements.