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Introducing social work: a starter kit
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7 Resistance to social work involvement

This is a photograph of a young man standing next to a brick wall.
Figure 9

Many people using social work services would prefer not to have to use them, and some service users are compelled by law to experience contact and interventions that they may perceive as being serious and unwarranted intrusions into their lives. Also, social workers will often have to tell people things they don’t want to hear, taking into account competing needs, interests and resources in the service users’ environment. It is essential therefore that social workers anticipate resistance and develop and practise communication strategies for clearly hearing and understanding the various sources and reasons for resistance. They must develop flexible approaches for managing these, and wherever possible, to the service users’ advantage.

On occasions, resistance can spill over into aggression. For example, when the resistant person does not feel listened to or is frightened. Susanne Koprowska (2014, pp. 174–5) clarifies that hostility and aggression include: shouting; swearing, using abusive language, verbally or physically threatening behaviour, physical assaults, invading personal space, or preventing someone from leaving. Ford et al. (2010) point out that some authors or organisations would define these behaviours as forms of violence.