Theses Doctoral

Contract Negotiation in the Initial Stage of Casework Service

Rhodes, Sonya L.

This is an exploratory study designed to examine the contracting process with respect to specific variables thought to be related to contract negotiation. Research questions pertaining to contract negotiation include a focus on those issues which are vulnerable to disagreement between paired caseworkers and clients. The study is deigned to find associations between the following variables and high and low contract status between actual casework-client pairs: (1) Client Perception of the Relationship; (2) Verbal Participation in the Contracting Process; (3) Relationship Communication and (4) Background Characteristics of Workers and Clients. The study sample is comprised of fifteen client-worker pairs drawn from a Veterans Administration outpatient medical and psychiatric clinic. Two main sources of data are used: (1) Worker and Client Questionnaires distributed to clients and workers after the first three casework interviews and (2) Audiotape recordings of the first three interviews which were subject to content and process analysis of communication. Findings concerning contract status show a statistically significant correlation between agreement on worker role and other dimensions of the contract (client needs and tasks), suggesting that an understanding of the worker's tasks are pivotal to successful contract negotiation. However, the client's needs and tasks are underdeveloped aspects of contract negotiations and do not develop in relation to one another. Though in this study worker and client consensus on expectations of each other was fairly high, disagreement, when it occurred, was generally in the direction of clients wanting to lean more on the workers for concrete help and workers wanting clients to take more initiative and be more introspective. At the same time, the preferred role positions of the majority of clients (10 out of 15) was for equal status with their workers, and an overwhelming majority of workers (14 out of 15) favored hierarchical position of authority. These findings suggest an inherent contradiction between consciously held expectations and unarticulated role positions, which do not reconcile each other and thus prevent workers and clients from working collaboratively. Findings on Client Perception of the Relationship were not significant, suggesting that whether the client perceives the worker as caring, genuine and/or empathic is independent of contract status. Findings on Verbal Participation indicate that workers carry major responsibility for contracting, that clients follow workers in the rhythm and pacing of contracting and that most contracting activity occurs in the first interview. Findings on the Relationship Communication Variable showed a statistically significant association between successful contract negotiation, and role negotiation, with reciprocity of role position achieved in high contract pairs. Moreover, workers tend to prefer relationship positions indicating a hierarchical position of authority; worker-client pairs who achieved role reciprocity were characterized by worker-up client-down role complementarity. Findings on Background Characteristics were found to be independent of contract status.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
Whiteman, Martin
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 22, 2015