The purpose of case management is to help individuals improve the quality of their lives. Case management is the process by which social service workers assist individuals and their families in connecting with needed resources and navigating social service systems. Case managers also advocate on behalf of clients, helping other providers to understand the clients' needs. A good case manager makes this a collaborative process in which the client's voice and decisions are key. In order to properly execute these services, case managers create a plan that guides them as well as their clients through the process.
Engage with the client and make an initial assessment. Engaging clients can include identifying clients who need case management services. Sometimes this is done for you, if you are working in an agency in which other professionals make referrals for clients for case management services. You may also participate in outreach in order to find clients. For example, case managers working with homeless populations may do street outreach, directly speaking with homeless people and offering them services.
Assess the client's needs. A good assessment includes looking at the client's current functioning. Evaluate the client's biopsychosocial functioning (for instance, mental health diagnosis, family and sociocultural issues), as well as the individual's strengths, and resources.
Create a plan and implement it. Case management has many facets, including plans for counseling and for family interaction, so an organized plan is key to staying on course. Collaborate with the client as you develop the plan. Write specific goals that need to be met, and include any interventions that are needed. For instance, if the client has a mental health diagnosis but is without medication, one intervention will be connecting the client with a psychiatrist. This can work along with a larger goal of helping your client attain a higher level of mental functioning. Write strategies to achieve each goal. For instance, reconnecting with family may be a strategy for increasing the client's social support.
Reassess the plan and evaluate the work that has been done, regularly. Have the initial goals been met? Or do you need to reassess the situation and make new goals? Collect data by asking the client and other providers if they believe the client has met these goals and if not, why. If goals have been met, then this may be the time to discuss discharge or termination with the client. If goals have not been met, then you will need to assess why the first plan did not work and create a new, refined plan.
Tips & Warnings
- Incorporate social, educational and local community resources that can help increase your client's support system and encourage independence.
- You job is not to "manage," the client, but to assist the client in reaching goals and getting needed services. According to the National Association of Social Workers, a case manager is ethically bound to encourage a client's right to self-determination and confidentiality.
- "Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal," Case Managers' Perspectives on What They Need To Do Their Job; Lisa Yagoda, May 2004.
- Social Workers Help Starts Here: Questions and Answers About Case Management
- National Association of Social Workers; Case Management With Older Adults: A Social Work Perspective
- National Association of Social Workers; Social Work & Care Coordination
- National Association of Social Workers, NASW Standards for Social Work Case Management
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images
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