The traditional behavioral health system has historically been focused on deficits and disorders. Most assessments were “assessments of problems and difficulties” e.g. do you have problems with alcohol or other drugs? Have you ever been in care? This approach has begun to change and behavioral health service providers now recognize that trying to “fix” a person is limiting and ineffective in sustaining long-term change.
Taking a strengths-based approach to the promotion of recovery involves looking at people with substance use and mental health conditions with fresh eyes and noticing qualities which were previously seen as less significant to the recovery journey. Having a strengths-based perspective does not deny that serious actions, symptoms, and problems exist. These things do exist, but they are not the whole story. The strengths-based practitioner accepts this reality and offers compassionate empathetic support while being watchful and mindful of other positive qualities that exist alongside or within the human suffering.
Video – The Strengths-Based Approach: Experiencing Success in Meaningful Ways (2:33 minutes)
The shift from deficits to strengths is more challenging than it might first seem. It can be argued that many people simply do not have a way to describe strengths and abilities. Here are some examples of how a problem-focused perspective can be changed to a strengths-based perspective.
|Client misses appointments||Person attends some appointments|
|Client is homeless||Person has street survival skills|
|Client mixes with bad peer group||Person has social skills|
|Client is an alcoholic||Person uses alcohol to cope but has periods of abstinence|
|Client is in perpetual crisis||Person continues to exist despite the stress|
|Client is dysfunctional||Person is overwhelmed and is in need of support|
|Client resists agency intervention||Person prefers using natural or alternative supports|
|Client is co-dependent||Person has a close mutually supportive relationship|
|Client is paranoid||Person is afraid and the fear may be justified|
Module 4 Activity: Practicing Strengths-Based Language
Instructions: Now it’s your turn to practice rewording common phrases related to clients into strengths-based language. Download the handout at the link below and complete the activity. Check your answers against the answer key. Note: This activity is for reflection only and does not need to be submitted along with your workbook.