Interview with a fellow student



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The interview that I carried out was quite informal and semi structured, as the client was able to expand on questions, but the interview was task orientated with key themes. As the interviewer, I had a purpose to find out how that person’s identity had impacted on their life. I had the responsibility for ensuring that time and attention were given to the client so that the purpose of the interview was achieved. There were rules appropriate to the interview, the client and myself each had defined roles. The interview had a selected time and place, and was recorded on video.

The environment was cold, noisy and extremely small. As we were refined to a very small area the interviewee may have felt that her personal space was being invaded which could have been intimidating and affected the communication, as people are more likely to be truthful if comfortable. As the interviewer, I had a professional obligation to start and end the interview. I welcomed and introduced myself in a friendly manner. I choose not to shake hands or make any other forms of physical contact throughout the interview as I felt it would make the interview to formal and it did not feel appropriate.

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How I engaged at the start of the interview was very Important as a bad first impression could of influenced the interaction. I briefly explained my role, the purpose of the interview and the level of confidentiality. I should have been more informative at the start of the interview in relation to why the interview was taking place, how long it was going to last and I could have carried out social chat, which may have put the client more at ease. I mostly controlled how the communication developed and dictated where the conversation was going to go next. Communication and listening skills are vital to the success of an interview.

Kadushin suggests that listening should take up at least two thirds of the interview. Throughout the interview I tried to listen with undivided attention without interrupting and with an open mind. During the interview I could have used a prepared checklist containing issues that needed to be discussed, but I chose to gather information in a less organised way, that is referred to as a reflective approach, which is more likely to be empathic and let the interviewer “enter imaginatively into the inner life of someone else” (Kadushin 1990 pg51 cited in Trevithick 2000 pg74.

Open questions are useful to gather information, determine problems and the interviewee can respond freely. Closed questions narrow the focus of discussion and also help to gather information but restrict the answer. I started the interview with a non-threatening question that the client could answer with ease. According to Kadushin this was a good start as the question could be develop upon. The choice of questions I used could have been more sensitively approached, such as “You mentioned that your partner had died, would you mind going into a little more detail about how that happened?

” (Interview 2003). I should have approached this delicate issue much more cautiously and perhaps taken a more empathic level of understanding. Some of my questions involved a reflection of what the client had said previously which encouraged the interviewee to elaborate and gave me the opportunity to clarify what had been said. When reflecting on the interview I realised I had spoken in a formal manner. I felt that I was polite and friendly throughout.

Good communication skills also involve “our use of tone, timing, body language and choosing of words that can convey our care and concern, knowledge and experience” (Trevithick 2000 pg71). I faced the client squarely but I had crossed legs through out the interview, in the future I should try to adopt an open posture as “crossed arms and crossed legs can be signs of lessened involvement with our availability to others” (Egan 1998 pg63). I leant slightly forward at appropriate times, such as when the client was discussing the death of loved ones.

I maintained good eye contact throughout the interview, which hopefully displayed interest and attention to the client. Although I was a little nervous I tried to look quite relaxed in order to help put the client at ease. Experiences are exclusive to individuals but through my own experiences I can try and understand others better. Expressing empathy is a really important skill to use when interviewing which involves “attempting to understand thoughts, feelings and experiences from another person’s point of view in order to understand how they might be feeling” (Trevithick 2000 pg82).

During the interview the client once used humour to address painful issues and feelings, she was discussing a particular time period in her life when she was involved in several car accidents, experienced the loss of her mother and sister and separated with her ex-husband. The interviewee made a small laugh as she recalled these experiences as it seamed to be one upset after another. This may have been out of embarrassment but it seemed to me that she was just trying to lighten the mood. I recognised and acknowledged her feelings by demonstrated support through expressions, both verbally and nonverbally of concern, sympathy and encouragement.

According to Kadushin this signals “active approval of the clients qualities and achievements” (Kadushin and Kadushin 1997 pg233) and the display of support will reduce the clients anxieties. For an interview or interaction to be successful especially when discussing sensitive issues, trust and confidence have to be established quickly, this lowers the client’s defences. I feel that I did encourage trust, as the interviewee was able to talk honestly and openly about very difficult experiences.

Power sharing enhances empowerment, independence and self-determination, I personally did not feel that I held any power or authority over the client but I was the one asking the questions so I must have done to a certain extent. The use of more open questions would have meant that power was shared more equally. As mentioned previously there was a significant age difference between the client and I, so this may have reversed power roles. Barriers to effective communication include noise and disturbances. During the interview there was a constant noise from outside the room and the door was opened slightly from outside.

This was off putting for me so I expect it was also for the client who was talking at the time, I slowly closed the door again and leant slightly towards the clients to demonstrate that I was still listening. The environment where the interview took place did not optimise the communication like it should have done. Another block to communication may have been the issue of confidentiality. At the beginning of the interview I told the interviewee that the content of the interview was confidential to a certain extent, but there would be others who would have access to the video on which the interview was recorded.

I tried to over come the differences in identity between the interviewee and myself by being respectful and mature in order to try and address the issue of the age gap between us. With age there is an assumption of knowledge and experience. It was important for me to create a good relationship with the client so that I did not come across or appear patronising. The relationship is “the communication bridge between people” (Kadushin 1990 pg36 cited in Trevithick 2000 pg77).

Although I can not relate to the clients experiences, I did try and show understanding as I can imagine what the interviewee must of gone through and I expect that she will never get over such loss but perhaps come to terms with it more. I chose not to discuss experiences of my own, as they were not appropriate. Good planning and preparation are the keys to a successful interview. I did not carry out any note taking during the interview, as it may have been distracting and self-defeating in the sense that it could have caused periods of silence and I would of not been able to listen constantly.

I feel that I did not get the best data possible within the situation, if there had been more time and my questioning skills were better developed I feel that I would have been able to carry out a more professional interview. To end the interview I asked the client if there was anything further that she would like to talk about and then thanked the interviewee for her time. At this point I should have recapped what had been covered in the interview, during the interview I should have also summarised key points that we had covered.

I was a little uncomfortable that the interview was being recorded, so that it could be examined, which could mean that my “skills are not yet fully acquired because they are not reliable, resilient and enduring under pressure, once we have acquired certain skills they can be adapted to fit different settings and circumstances. To do this well involves linking theory to practice, particularly our understanding of human behaviour and the uniqueness of every human being and experience” (Parsloe 1998 pg8 cited in Trevithick 2000 pg 72). Conclusion. An interview is a process.

“The social work interview differs from other types of interviews in that it is concerned with problems in social functioning” (Kadushin and Kadushin 1997 pg23). The purpose of the interview was to look at how someone’s identity has impacted on their life and how the Impact of discrimination has influenced aspects of their identity. Engaging with services users helps to address problems that the client may be facing and helps the client overcome such difficulties by accessing appropriate services. “Social workers spend more time interviewing than in any other single activity.

Interviewing skills are the primary skills on which all other aspects of social work depend” (Kadushin and Kadushin 1997 pg22). The social work interview involves the use of counselling skills to a certain extent. I tried to incorporate such skills during the interview process. Counselling is the development of “a warm, empathetic and understanding relationship with those who are experiencing emotional and social stress, giving them time, listening to their troubles and responding to them” (Scrutton 1989 pg6 cited in Seden 1999 pg 110). The ability to be empathic is one of the most important skills when interviewing.

According to Kadushin the elements that made the interview different from other forms and types of communication were the allocation of roles and tasks, as these are the characteristics of an interview as conversations do not involve structured roles between the participants. “Conversations are spontaneous and unplanned; interviews are planned to achieve some purpose. Conversations occur naturally, but interviews are formally arranged” (Kadushin and Kadushin 1997 pg23). Participant’s backgrounds can influence and determine the communication that takes place within an interview.

“Interviews, but not conversations, frequently occur between people who differ in regard to background, experience and lifestyle” (Kadushin and Kadushin 1997 pg23). This is why it is so important for me to recognise and understand my own identity and how my value base has developed, before I can go on to try and understands others.

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