The Task Centred Book - Social Work Practice - Click HERE

Theories of Social Work Practice: The Task-Centred Model - Click HERE

The task-centered model is a short-term, problem-solving approach to social work practice. It is a major approach in clinical social work

The model consists of three phases.

Initial phase

 The initial phase normally takes from one to two interviews although some cases may require more. It ends with setting up initial tasks.


Middle Phase

 The middle phase starts with the next session. Changes in the problems and the outcome of the tasks are reviewed at the beginning of the interview. If tasks have been accomplished, new tasks are developed. If tasks have not been attained, an effort is made to identify obstacles to task accomplishment. Some obstacles may be resolved in the session, others may require tasks in their own right. Still others might prove insurmountable, in which case a different task strategy may be adopted.


Termination Phase

Although only one session (the final one) is devoted to termination, the process of terminating is actually begun in the initial phase when the duration of treatment is set. Reminders of number of sessions left as well as discussion of modifications of the original limits keep termination alive throughout the course of service. The final session is designed to emphasize what clients have learned and accomplished.

The task-centered approach is addressed to the resolution of psychosocial problems. These are problems that arise in people's interactions with their environments. They are defined by people's internal discomforts that relate to events in their external worlds


Explanation of Role, Purpose, and Treatment Procedures

Treatment begins with an explanation of role, purpose, and treatment procedures that will be used. An explanation of the treatment approach is given as a basis for involving the client as a collaborator. Part of explaining the treatment approach includes providing the client with an overview of the phases of the model and of the activities that are central to the treatment process.

Time Limits

The task-centered model uses a time limits of 6 to 12




Identifying Problems and Assessment

Whether the problem is brought up in an initial interview or further along in the case, practitioners attempt to determine how clients perceive their difficulties, to elicit relevant information about them, and to formulate problems in a way that clients find understandable and acceptable. There are basically three routes for problem identification. The most common is through client initiation. Clients express complaints which are then explored. A second route is interactive. Problems emerge through a dialogue between the practitioner and client in which neither is a clear initiator. In the third route to problem identification the practitioner is clearly the initiator.

Psychosocial problems are imbedded in a context that influences and is influenced by the problem. Although the primary purpose of the model is to resolve target problems, significant and enduring change in these problems is usually not possible unless accompanied by some degree of contextual change. An important secondary purpose of the model is to bring about contextual change as a means of preventing recurrence of problems and of strengthening the functioning of the client system.

Problem exploration covers certain essentials: a factual description of typical occurrences of the problem; frequency of occurrence; the seriousness with which the client views it; its apparent origins; what clients have done to alleviate it, and how well these efforts have worked.

Selecting Target Problems

Next, target problems are selected. Target Problems are those concerns that the practitioner and client explicitly agree will become the focus of their work together. These problems are based on what the client wants as these are examined and expressed in the initial encounters with the practitioner

Prioritizing Target Problems

After the client's problems are identified, they are ranked in order of importance to the client. This ranking is usually the basis for deciding in which order the target problems will be addressed.


Exploring Target Problems and Developing Problem Specification

Following problem identification and initial exploration, the practitioner attempts to formulating the problem. Usually practitioners initiate the process by stating the central concerns clients have expressed. This formulation is not a simple summary, however. Practitioners attempt to frame the problem in a way most likely to foster constructive problem-solving actions on the client's part while still reflecting the client's own concerns. To set the stage for client tasks, the problem statement should reflect how clients might act differently to obtain what they want.

Setting Goals

Finally, goals may be included as part of the problem formulation, depending on the nature of the problem and the client's readiness to engage in a goal-setting process. In general, the purpose of the problem formulation is to capture the clients' major concerns in a way to set the stage for them to begin to take remedial action.

Using Contracts

The client's acceptance of the final problem statement leads to a contract that will guide subsequent work. Both practitioner and client agree to work toward solution of the problem(s) as formulated.

II. Middle Phase - Task Planning and Implementation


Tasks involve the client in self-directed problem solving activity. Even if tasks are structured by the practitioner, clients should have some decision-making role in carrying them out or the tasks should lead, as in learning skills, to progressively greater client control over their implementation. At the very least, clients should be aware of the purpose of the task and how it will supposedly affect the problem to prepare the way for their doing it on their own. An ultimate goal in the use of tasks is client empowerment--to enable clients to design and effect their own problem-solving actions.





Termination Session

Termination in the task-centered model begins in the first session, when client and practitioner set time limits for the intervention. Throughout the treatment process the practitioners regularly reminds the client of the time limits and the number of sessions left additional progress. If an extension is made, practitioner and client contract on a small number of additional sessions, usually no more than four interviews. It should also be noted that such extensions occur in less than one fifth of the cases in most settings.

Review of Accomplishments and Problem-Solving Skills

Any accomplishments made by the client are particularly stressed in the termination session. This emphasizing of the client's accomplishment serves as a reinforcer. In another final termination session activity, the practitioner assists the clients in identifying the problem-solving skills they have acquired during the treatment process. An effort is made to help clients generalize these problem-solving skills, so they can apply them to future problems they may encounter



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