Human Services Values Resources Discussion 3

Human Services Values Resources
Human Services Values Resources

Human Services Values


Reflect on the human services values described in this unit’s reading in An Introduction to Human Services, addressing the following:

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  • Which human services value is the most difficult for you to practice? Include an example of a situation that encompasses that value and why it would be difficult for you to use it.
  • Which human services value is the most important to you and why?
  • How might your understanding of the values that guide practice help you determine your future professional development needs?

After reading this chapter, you will be able to:

Human Services Values Resources

· • Write a description of the five commonly accepted human service values.

· • List four characteristics or qualities of helpers.

· • Distinguish among the three categories of helpers.

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· • Identify the other helping professionals with whom a human service professional may interact.

· • List the three areas of job responsibilities for human service professionals.

· • Provide examples of the roles included in each of the three areas of professional responsibilities.

Helping means assisting other people to understand, overcome, or cope with problems. The helper is the person who offers this assistance. This chapter’s discussion of the motivations for choosing a helping profession, the values and philosophies of helpers, and the special characteristics and traits helpers have assists in establishing an identity for the helper. We also define helpers as human service professionals, as well as introduce other professionals with whom they may interact. An important key to understanding human service professionals is an awareness of the many roles they engage in as they work with their clients and with other professionals.

In this chapter you will meet two human service professionals, Beth Bruce and Carmen Rodriguez. Beth is a counselor at a mental health center and has previous experience working with the elderly and adolescents. Carmen is a case manager at a state human service agency. She has varied responsibilities related to preparing clients for and finding gainful employment.


Human Services Values Resources

In human services, the helper is an individual who assists others. This very broad definition includes professional helpers with extensive training, such as  psychiatrists  and psychologists, as well as those who have little or no training, such as volunteers and other  nonprofessional helpers . Regardless of the length or intensity of the helper’s training, his or her basic focus is to assist clients with their problems and help them help themselves (Chang, Scott, & Decker, 2013; Okun & Kantrowitz, 2008).

The human service professional is a helper who can be described in many different ways. For example, effective helpers are people whose thinking, emotions, and behaviors are integrated (Cochran & Cochran, 2006). Such a helper, believing that each client is a unique individual different from all other clients, will greet each one by name, with a handshake and a smile. Others view a helping person as an individual whose life experiences most closely match those of the person to be helped. The recovering alcoholic working with substance abusers is an example of this perspective. Still another view of the helper, and the one with which you are most familiar from your reading of this text, is the  generalist  human service professional who brings together knowledge and skills from a variety of disciplines to work with the client as a whole person.

Your understanding of the human service professional will become clearer as this section examines the reasons why individuals choose this type of work, the traits and characteristics they share, and the different categories of their actual job functions.


Human Services Values Resources

Work is an important part of life in the United States. It is a valued activity that provides many individuals with a sense of identity as well as a livelihood. It is also a means for individuals to experience satisfying relationships with others, under agreeable conditions.

Understanding vocational choice is as complex and difficult a process as actually choosing a vocation. Factors that have been found to influence career choice include individuals’ needs, their aptitudes and interests, and their self-concepts. Special personal or social experiences also influence the choice of a career. There have been attempts to establish a relationship between vocational choice and certain factors such as interests, values, and attitudes, but it is generally agreed that no one factor can explain or predict a person’s vocational choice. Donald Super, a leader in vocational development theory, believes that the vocational development process is one of implementing a self-concept. This occurs through the interaction of social and individual factors, the opportunity to try various roles, and the perceived amount of approval from peers and supervisors for the roles assumed. There are many other views of this process, but most theorists agree that vocational choice is a developmental process.

How do people choose helping professions as careers? Among the factors that influence career choice are direct work experience, college courses and instructors, and the involvement of friends, acquaintances, or relatives in helping professions. Money or salary is a small concern compared with the goals and functions of the work itself. In other words, for individuals who choose helping as their life’s work, the kind of work they will do is more important than the pay they will receive.

There are several reasons why people choose the helping professions. It is important to be aware of these motivations because each may have positive and negative aspects. One primary reason why individuals choose helping professions (and the reason that most will admit) is the desire to help others. To feel worthwhile as a result of contributing to another’s growth is exciting; however, helpers must also ask themselves the following questions: To what extent am I meeting my own needs? Even more important, do my needs to feel worthwhile and to be a caring person take precedence over the client’s needs?

Related to this primary motivation is the desire for self-exploration. The wish to find out more about themselves as thinking, feeling individuals leads some people to major in psychology, sociology, or human services. This is a positive factor, because these people will most likely be concerned with gaining insights into their own behaviors and improving their knowledge and skills. After employment, it may become a negative factor if the helper’s needs for self-exploration or self-development take precedence over the clients’ needs. When this happens, either the helper becomes the client and the client the helper, or there are two clients, neither of whose needs are met. This situation can be avoided when the helper is aware that self-exploration is a personal motivation and can be fulfilled more appropriately outside the helping relationship.

Another strong motivation for pursuing a career in helping is the desire to exert control. For those who admit to this motivation, administrative or managerial positions in helping professions are the goal. This desire may become a problem, however, if helpers seek to control or dominate clients with the intent of making them dependent or having them conform to an external standard.

For many people, the experience of being helped provides a strong demonstration of the value of helping. Such people often wish to be like those who helped them when they were clients. This appears to be especially true for the fields of teaching and medicine. Unfortunately, this noble motivation may create unrealistic expectations of what being a helper will be like. For example, unsuccessful clients do not become helpers; rather, those who have had positive helping experiences are the ones who will choose this type of profession. Because they were cooperative and motivated clients, they may expect all clients to be like they were, and they may also expect all helpers to be as competent and caring as their helpers were. Such expectations of both the helper and the client are unrealistic and may leave the helper frustrated and angry.

When asked about making the choices, many helpers describe the process as a journey. Regardless of their primary or secondary motivation, they see individuals and experiences in their lives leading them to become helpers. For some the journey begins early in their lives while others appear to have discovered the field as adults. Consider your own journey to becoming a helper; think about your motivations and the people and experiences that led to your study of the human services. See  Table 6.1 .


Help othersContribute to another’s growth
Self-explorationDiscover more about self
Exert controlGood in administration and organization
Positive role modelsInspired by help from others
Copyright © Cengage Learning®


Values are important to the practice of human services because they are the criteria by which helpers and clients make choices. Every individual has a set of values. Both human service professionals and clients have sets of values. Sometimes they are similar, but often they differ; in some situations, they conflict. Human service professionals should know something about values and how they influence the relationship between the helper and the client.

Where do our values originate? Culture helps establish some values and standards of behavior. As we grow and learn through our different experiences, general guides to behavior emerge. These guides are  values , and they give direction to our behavior. As different experiences lead to different values, individuals do not have the same value systems. Also, as individuals have more life experiences, their values may change. What exactly are values? Values are statements of what is desirable—of the way we would like the world to be. They are not statements of fact.

Values provide a basis for choice. It is important for human service professionals to know what their own values are and how they influence relationships with coworkers and the delivery of services to clients. For example, professionals who value truth will give the client as much feedback as possible from the results of an employment check or a home-visitation report. Because human service delivery is a team effort in many agencies and communities, there have to be some common values that will assist helpers in working together effectively. The following are the most commonly held values in human services: acceptance, tolerance, individuality, self-determination, and confidentiality.

The next paragraph introduces Beth Bruce, a human service professional with a variety of experiences. In this section, her experiences are used to illustrate the values that are important to the human service profession.

Beth Bruce is a human service professional at the Estes Mental Health Center, a comprehensive center serving seven counties. She has been a counselor at Estes for the past eight months and has really enjoyed her first year’s work in mental health. Her first job was as a social service provider in a local nursing home, where she worked for two years. She then worked with adolescents as a teacher and counselor at a local mental health institution before joining the Estes staff.

Let’s see how human service values relate to Beth Bruce’s experience as a human service professional.

Acceptance  is the ability of the helper to be receptive to another person regardless of dress or behavior. Professionals act on the value of acceptance when they are able to maintain an attitude of goodwill toward clients and others and to refrain from judging them by factors such as the way they live, or whether they have likable personalities. Being accepting also means learning to appreciate a person’s culture and family background.

One of the most important values that Beth Bruce holds is accepting her clients for who they are. She has worked with the elderly, teenagers, and now people with mental illness. These populations are different, but they retain one important quality for her: They are all human beings. Her acceptance of others was put to the test at the nursing home when she encountered a staff who were mainly from Kenya, Ruanda, and Tanzania, all places unfamiliar to her. Sometimes it was difficult for her to understand their lilting accents. What she learned though was that these women were gentle, patient, and natural caretakers who were beloved by the patients.

The second value of human service work is  tolerance : the helper’s ability to be patient and fair toward each client rather than judging, blaming, or punishing the client for prior behavior. A helper who embodies this value will work with the client to plan for the future, rather than continually focusing on the client’s past mistakes.

· Beth works with a friend and coworker who is not very tolerant of people with mental illness. Several times, this coworker’s intolerance of client behavior has caused problems for the client. Just yesterday, a problem arose with Ms. Mendoza, a 26-year-old woman with schizophrenia who is currently receiving day treatment and lives in a group home. She refused to see her parents when they came to see her at the day treatment center. Mr. Martin, Beth’s coworker, forced Ms. Mendoza to see them because he believes that family is very important and that parents have a right to see their children. Now the parents are upset because Ms. Mendoza threw a chair at them.

Ms. Mendoza is upset with Mr. Martin for making her see her parents, and Mr. Martin is angry with his client because he feels he was right to insist that she see them.


Inshallah. Throughout my two tours in Baghdad, Iraq as an Army officer, I heard this Arabic expression more times than I can count from native Iraqi citizens, Arabic contractors, and, eventually, from Army soldiers. Literally translated as “as god wills,” it is used to suggest that something in the future is uncertain, which, in retrospect aptly described the situation in Iraq for both its citizens and the American military forces.

My experiences in Iraq were not unlike those of many of the American soldiers: we spent long hours working (sometimes 18 hours a day) and looked forward to the occasional call home and letters from friends and family. The long months of staff work were often punctuated by memorial services for fellow soldiers who were unlucky enough to encounter enemy fire, improvised explosive devises, or suicide bombers while conducting their daily missions in the field. The daily routine for many officers in my situation was alternately boring, thrilling, and mentally exhausting.

Amidst the daily grind of paperwork, mission tracking, and planning for casualty evacuation, there were moments that I will not soon forget. As my unit’s public affairs officer, I was able to help plan several “special” events for our soldiers. Each month, for example, a handful of soldiers were able to take a much-needed rest from missions and tour the palaces located in the Baghdad International Airport Complex where we were stationed. The highlight of the trip was a stop at the Al-Faw Palace, one of the eight presidential palaces used for hunting and recreation by the Baathist Party members, as well as by Saddam Hussein and his family. The tours provided an opportunity to teach the soldiers about Iraq’s history and its culture, which, hopefully, allowed them to better identify with the Iraqi people that they were there to help.

Medical Capability Missions, or MEDCAPs, were another event that provided me with an opportunity to see Iraq and its citizens in a different light. During my time in Iraq, MEDCAP missions were conducted in conjunction with the Iraqi Army; both American and Iraqi medics and doctors spend a day at a particular site treating local citizens and providing much-needed antibiotics and medical advice. During one such mission, I had the opportunity to serve as a “patient administrator;” my job entailed meeting Iraqi citizens at the entrance to the site, determining (with the help of a translator) their ailment, and assigning them to one of the medical professionals for treatment. I met a wide variety of individuals that day. One woman brought her two-year-old son and requested help on how to get him to stop eating rocks. Families came seeking treatment for shrapnel and gunshot wounds, and children wandered in off the street hoping for a piece of candy from the medics. One family in particular stood out as being particularly unique; both teenage daughters spoke fluent English and were looking forward to attending school in Alaska the following month. Each individual I met helped put a face on the effort we were making to help Iraqi citizens achieve a free and peaceful nation.

Although my experiences in Iraq were often frustrating and exhausting, they were also incredibly rewarding. Few other times in my life have I gotten to be a part of something truly worthwhile and make a lasting impact on the world. The opportunities I had to meet with and work alongside Iraqi citizens helped me to better understand a culture vastly different from my own, and allowed me to use my helping skills in ways that most helping professionals do not have the chance to. Although the future of Iraq and its people truly is inshallah, I look back on my time in the Army and my contributions to the Iraqi people with pride and with the hope that one day they too will enjoy many of the freedoms that Americans experience on a daily basis.

Source: Amanda Nalls (2010). Used with permission.

Individuality  is expressed in the qualities or characteristics that make each person unique, distinctive from all other people. Lifestyle, assets, problems, previous life experiences, and feelings are some areas that make this person different. Recognizing and treating each person individually rather than stereotypically is how helpers put this value into practice.

When Beth first started working with the elderly, she had had little contact with older individuals. What she knew about them she had learned from her grandparents. She thought of the elderly as lively and quick-witted like her grandmother or quiet and shy, living in the past, like her grandfather. During her first months at the nursing home, the clients she encountered continually surprised her. They represented a broad range of human attitudes, behaviors, and experiences. She learned to distinguish between the generalizations she had made about the elderly and the information she now possessed based on her experiences at the nursing home.

Deciding for oneself on a course of action or the resolution to a problem is  self-determination . The helper allows clients to make up their own minds regarding a decision to be made or an action to be taken. The helper facilitates this action by objectively assisting clients to investigate alternatives and by remembering that the decision is theirs. In some cases, clients are limited by their situations or their choices. For example, a prison inmate may have restricted alternatives from which to choose recreational activities; however, it is the inmate’s right to choose from the available alternatives.

When Beth worked with teenagers, she was constantly aware that their use of social media was important to them. Even though she frequently cautioned them about its abuses, she realized they needed to take responsibility for their sites and their postings.

The last human service value is  confidentiality . This is the helper’s assurance to clients that the helper will not discuss their cases with other people—that what they discuss between them will not be the subject of conversation with the helper’s friends, family, or other clients. The exception to this is the sharing of information with supervisors or in staff meetings where the client’s best interests are being served.

Lucas, a 15-year-old with whom Beth worked at the mental health center, confessed to her that he has been smoking marijuana just about every day and is afraid he can’t quit. Beth reminded him of their very first meeting when they discussed confidentiality and its limits. So she said their next meeting would involve both Lucas and his parents. She would also share with them the reason for the meeting.

You should consider the following questions as you think about the meaning of these values in your own life and practice.

What kinds of client behaviors would be the most difficult for you to accept? How would you meet the challenge of working with these clients?

When was the last time you felt uncomfortable sharing information about another person? How did you resolve the situation?

As you think about these five values in relation to yourself as a future human service professional, consider the possibility of working with many different clients. As you think about the following list of clients, place a check beside those clients who would be difficult for you to work with. Which values might present problems or conflicts for you? Try to respond honestly, not what you think would be socially or professionally desirable.

· 1. __________ A man with religious beliefs that cause him to refuse treatment for a life-threatening illness.

· 2. __________ A same-sex couple who want to resolve some conflicts they are having in their relationship.

· 3. __________ A man who wants to leave his wife and two children in order to have sexual adventures with other women.

· 4. __________ A young woman who wants an abortion but is seeking your help in making the decision.

· 5. __________ A person who has severe burn scars on the face, shoulders, arms, and hands.

· 6. __________ A man or woman from a culture where the male is dominant and the female is submissive.

· 7. __________ A person who does not want to work.

· 8. __________ A man who strongly believes the only way to bring up his children is by punishing them severely.

· 9. __________ A woman who wants to leave her husband and children in order to have a career and independence but is afraid to do it.

· 10. __________ A person who is so physically attractive that you cannot concentrate on what the person is saying.

· 11. __________ A person who speaks no English and makes no effort to do so.

Values are the groundwork for creating a philosophy of helping, which in turn provides a basis for working with people. A philosophy of helping embodies beliefs about human nature, the nature of change, and the process of helping. As individuals grow and develop and as their values change, their helping philosophy and style also develop. An example is the way Beth Bruce’s values translate into her philosophy of helping, which influences her human service practice.

Beth believes that all human beings are good and that all behavior is directed to the good. She thinks that violence to others, cruelty, and self-abuse are all behaviors that the perpetrators consider to be positive ways to meet their personal needs. She also believes that people have the capacity to change, if only they believe they can change. Hence, the helper’s responsibility is to develop clients’ belief in themselves and help provide alternatives for change, practical assistance, and support. Because of these views, Beth has high hopes for her clients, and she believes that her major responsibility is to educate and motivate them. She is frustrated when she works with clients who have tried to hurt others, and she is puzzled when those clients do not want to change. In spite of her frustration, she has maintained her belief in the goodness of human beings.


To be an effective helper demands the use of the helper’s whole self, not just the professional segment alone. This requirement creates difficulty when one tries to generalize about the values and characteristics that helpers ought to have. Ideas differ widely about what helpers should be like and what they bring to their work with others. In this section, you will read about some of these ideas. You will also be encouraged to think about the qualities you possess that might be important to your work as a helping professional, as well as qualities you may want to develop more fully to increase your effectiveness.  Box 6.2  outlines how a mental health professional thinks about helping and the helping process.


Working in community mental health provides me with opportunities to interact with clients in their home environment. Seeing my clients where they live helps me gain perspective on how their daily life affects their overall sense of well-being. As a mental health professional, I believe that the “systems” we find ourselves in have an impact on how we view the world around us. From a systems perspective, I can understand how the external environment my clients experience affects their level of stress, their basic needs, and their emotional state.

In addition to understanding each client in his or her own unique system, I have found that the most important aspect of helping is the relationship. Each of us is a social creature, and we need connection with others. For my clients who are chronically and persistently mentally ill, being calm, consistent, and somewhat transparent has been therapeutically valuable. By approaching each relationship from a nonjudgmental perspective, I give my clients the opportunity to teach me how to best help them. In order for a person to take risks towards change, there must be a firm foundation (i.e., relationship) on which to land.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from working in community mental health is that I cannot expect people to change or grow at a rate or in the way I would like for them to change or grow. Learning how to keep my own values in check has allowed me to become a better helper. I constantly strive to understand each client in his or her system, and provide a solid place in which risk-taking can occur. However, I cannot take risks for my clients; I can only support their growth.

Source: Ellen Carruth, PhD, Mental Health Crisis Specialist, Seattle, WA. Used with permission from the author.

Individuals learn attitudes and behaviors as they respond to their circumstances. Some responses may even be unconscious. Through the learning process, a person internalizes these attitudes and behaviors and they become a pattern in his or her life. A major influence on how an individual reacts to these needs is culture. Families, schools, and peers are among the agents who communicate ways of behaving and help determine what an individual considers to be acceptable and unacceptable behavior in different situations. An increasing body of research supports the concept that the personal characteristics of helpers are largely responsible for the success or failure of their helping. In fact, numerous studies concluded that these personal characteristics are as significant in helping as the methods helpers use (Corey, 2012).

A number of researchers have examined these characteristics, and we studied this work to identify the traits that seem to be universal in effective helpers. The helping person should be able to hear the client and then use his or her knowledge, skills, values, and experience to provide help. To do this, the helper should be self-aware, objective, professionally competent, and actively involved in the enabling process. In a review of a number of research studies, Okun and Kantrowitz (2008) concluded that certain qualities, behaviors, and knowledge on the part of the helper most influence the behaviors, attitudes, and feelings of clients. Self-awareness, honesty, congruence, the ability to communicate, knowledge, and ethical integrity are also included in their list.

Effective helpers have definite traits. One way to discuss what these traits are is to use a framework that suggests two sets of attitudes: one related to self and the other to how one treats another person (Brammer & MacDonald, 2003). Personal congruence, empathy, cultural sensitivity, genuineness, respect, and communication are considered important traits.


AcceptanceMaintain goodwill and refrain from judging
ToleranceBe patient and fair
Respect for individualityRespect differences, avoid stereotypes
Self-determinationHelp clients make decisions
ConfidentialityWill not disclose client information
Copyright © Cengage Learning®

All the characteristics mentioned are important ones for helpers. Many other perspectives can be studied, but this brief discussion shows that certain characteristics tend to be common to most studies. In preparing this text, we have reviewed a number of perspectives. Our guiding question was “What characteristics are important for the beginning human service professional?” We identified the following qualities as important: self-awareness, the ability to communicate, empathy, professional commitment, and flexibility. Each of these is discussed in depth to help you understand what the quality is and why it is important for entry-level practice.


Most authorities in the helping professions agree that helpers must know who they are because this self-knowledge affects what they do. Developing  self-awareness  is a lifelong process of learning about oneself by continually examining one’s beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors. Recognizing stereotypes, biases, and cultural and gender differences are part of the self-awareness process. So is our desire for acceptance and client success; “needing” our clients to like us and to do well may be a sign of trouble, however. Self-awareness, then, is a particularly critical process for helpers because it assists them in understanding and changing their attitudes and feelings that may hinder helping. The importance of self-acceptance is underscored by the helper’s use of self in the helping process.

Beth Bruce’s awareness of self expanded greatly when she began to work in the field full time. As she began to learn about the culture and beliefs of others, she developed a keener sense of who she was. It seemed that as she developed the patience to work with her first clients, she also became more patient with herself.


Helpers’ effectiveness depends in part on their ability to communicate to the client an understanding of the client’s feelings and behaviors (Okun & Kantrowitz, 2008). Listening, a critical helping skill, is the beginning of helping and is necessary for establishing trust, building rapport, and identifying the problem. Careful listening means being “tuned in” to all the nuances of the client’s message, including verbal and nonverbal aspects of what is said as well as what is not said. Such focused listening enables the helper to respond with thoughts and feelings to the client’s whole message.

Beth Bruce’s ability to communicate was challenged when she began her work with adolescents at the hospital. These young people were aggressive, belligerent, and violent. She worked hard to listen, gain their trust, and provide them honest, constructive feedback. One of the most important skills Beth learned was to listen to the client’s entire statement before formulating a response.


Self-awarenessHelper understands self
Ability to communicateBeing “tuned in” to client’s message
EmpathyUnderstand experience from client’s perspective
Responsibility and commitmentDevoted to well-being of others
FlexibilityAbility to shift one’s perspective
Copyright © Cengage Learning®


Empathy  is acceptance of another person. This quality allows the helper to see a situation or experience a feeling from the client’s perspective. This may be easier for helpers who have had experiences similar to those of their clients. For example, this may explain the understanding that recovering alcoholics have for other alcoholics, widows for the recently bereaved, and parolees for the incarcerated. It does not mean, however, that helpers whose experiences are different cannot express the unconditional acceptance of the client that is a characteristic of empathy.

When Beth worked with her elderly clients, they used to tell her, “You will not really understand until you are older.” Beth used her communication skills to reflect feelings and content of her clients in order to demonstrate her understanding of their plight.


Feeling a responsibility or commitment to improve the well-being of others is an important attribute of human service professionals. This includes attending to the needs of clients first and foremost. It also means a commitment to delivering high-quality services that reflect evidence-based practice. In other words, human service professionals act in the best interests of clients and do so to the best of their ability. One way that helpers do this is by following a code of ethics or a set of ethical standards that guide professional behavior or conduct. Among other things, codes of ethics in the helping professions spell out what the client has a right to expect from the helper. Honesty may be one expectation of the client—a belief that the professional will be honest in answering questions or in practicing only what he or she is trained to do.

Beth has been troubled by ethical dilemmas throughout her work experience. Fortunately her values have guided her practice and her supervisors have praised her responsible actions. Several examples of ethical codes and standards are presented in  Chapter 9 .


Flexibility  is a multifaceted trait that allows human service professionals to shift their perspectives on the nature of helping, their view of the client and the client’s problems, and their preferred interventions. Professionals are willing to reconsider, modify, or abandon their approaches to helping when they encounter difficult or unusual situations. Continually seeking new ways of understanding or other options for providing support to the client, helpers who are flexible understand the complexities of human service work. Sometimes it is challenging for new professionals to be flexible in their approaches to work responsibilities because of their limited experience and inability to consider alternatives. Flexibility is an increasingly important characteristic as human service professionals work with individuals representing different ethnic and cultural groups.

Just as self-awareness helped Beth Bruce be more aware of herself, as she worked with others from different cultures, she has increased her knowledge and understanding of other cultural norms. Her work with African Americans, Cubans, Haitians, and a new wave of Russian émigrés continually expands her perspectives on family, gender roles, the role of spirituality in individual health and development, and the meaning of work. She keeps an open mind in each encounter as she listens for cultural values that differ from her own.


Besides understanding who the human service professional is in terms of characteristics and values, the student of human services should also know the professional categories that describe such helpers. The human service profession includes several levels of helpers who may be classified in a variety of ways. Two considerations present in most categorizations are educational preparation or training, and competence. Specialists, human service professionals, and nonprofessionals are discussed next.


Generally, individuals who provide human services fall into one of three categories that are defined by preparation, what they know how to do, or both. Specialists are helpers who are characterized by certification from professional groups, licenses by governing bodies, and degrees from educational institutions. Examples of professionals in this category are social workers, nurses, ministers, and counselors. The second group consists of  human service professionals  who perform some of the traditional counseling functions but also engage in broader roles, such as those of advocate and mobilizer. Peers and volunteers are a third broad group that encompasses those with little or no training in helping as well as those with extensive training. Often training and orientation is offered to prepare these individuals for their responsibilities working with clients and providing indirect administrative services. These three categories are discussed in the next sections.


Human service professionals are generalists who have education and training at the undergraduate level and job titles such as psychiatric technician or aide, social and community service manager, youth street-outreach worker, day care staff, probation officer, case manager, and church staff. They possess the knowledge, values, and skills to perform a number of job functions in most human service settings. Because of their generalist orientation and preparation, human service professionals understand how their functions fit with client goals and agency goals. For example, a helper trained to conduct interviews, write social histories, and develop a treatment plan should be able to perform those responsibilities with a client who is elderly, young children, or those who have mental disabilities or emotional disorders.

In a move toward professionalization, the National Organization for Human Services in collaboration with the Council for Standards in Human Service Education and the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE) offer a certification in human services called the Human Service-Board Certified Practitioner ( HS-BCP ). Certification indicates that the individual meets 11 core human service content areas. To learn more about certification, go to the CCE website.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012–2013 edition, includes a range of entries that describe human service professionals. Among them are counselors, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, social and human service assistants, and social workers. According to the descriptions of these occupations, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, substance abuse counselors, social and human service assistants, and social workers fit within the definition of those performing human service work (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012).

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, those who work in the field of corrections usually have a bachelor’s degree in social work, criminal justice, or a related field. The primary job responsibilities include working in probation, in parole, or at correctional institutions. When describing the field of social and human service assistants, the Occupational Outlook Handbook states, “Social and human service assistants help people get through difficult times or get additional support. They have a wide array of job titles, including human service worker, case work aide, and family service assistant” (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). The Occupational Outlook Handbook suggests that these professionals work under the supervision of other helping professionals such as nurses, physical therapists, psychologists, and others. The jobs vary, as do the responsibilities and type of supervision. Job opportunities in these two categories are growing rapidly.

The category titled “social workers” also describes opportunities for both social workers and human service professionals, especially those graduating from four-year human service programs. Those in direct service “help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives while clinical social workers diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues” (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). The various areas of responsibility include counseling, child welfare, family services, child or adult protective services, mental health, substance abuse, criminal justice, occupational counseling, and work with the aging. Job opportunities for social workers and professionals from related fields will increase through the next decade.


As a human service professional, you will be working with a variety of other professional helpers who have specialized training and experience. This category includes individuals who have graduate-level training in helping theory and skills and who often have supervised clinical experience; however, the training and credentials of these individuals may vary. This section, adapted from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012–2013 edition, identifies the nature of the work and the training of these individuals so that you will be familiar with them.


Physicians  perform medical examinations, diagnose illnesses, treat injured or diseased people, and advise patients on maintaining good health. They may be general practitioners or specialists in a particular field of medicine. Physicians are required by all states to be licensed. It usually takes about 11 years to become a physician: four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, and three years of residency. Those who choose to specialize usually spend three to five years in training and another two years in preparation for practice in a specialty area.

One example of a specialist with whom you will likely be in contact is a psychiatrist. Concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness, psychiatrists may be found in private offices and institutional settings, courtrooms, community-center care facilities, and specialized medical areas such as coronary and intensive care units. They frequently act as consultants to other agencies. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have an additional five years or more of psychiatric training and experience and are qualified to use the full range of medical techniques in treating clients. These include drugs, shock therapy, and surgery, in addition to counseling and behavior modification techniques.


Although their training and the kinds of treatment they use are different,  psychologists  are sometimes confused with psychiatrists. Psychologists study the human mind and human behavior, including physical, cognitive, emotional, and social aspects. An individual may specialize in any of several areas within psychology, including clinical, counseling, developmental, industrial organizational, school, and social psychology. Each specialty focuses on a different aspect of human behavior. For example, the developmental psychologist is concerned with the behavioral changes people experience as they progress through life. Clinical psychologists, on the other hand, may work in hospitals, clinics, or private practice to help individuals with cognitive or emotional issues adjust to life, and to help medical and surgical patients deal with their illnesses and injuries. They may use interviews, diagnostic tests, and psychotherapy in their work.

Psychologists may practice with a master’s degree or a doctoral degree. A master’s degree prepares the person to administer and interpret tests, conduct research, and counsel patients. The doctoral degree usually requires five to seven years of graduate study and is often required for employment as a psychologist. A doctorate in psychology and two years of professional experience are generally required for licensure or certification; although requirements may vary from state to state, certification is necessary for private practice.


The focus of  social workers  is helping individuals, families, and groups cope with a wide variety of problems. The nature of the problem and the time and resources available determine the methods used, which may include counseling, advocacy, and referral. Social workers also function at the community level to combat social problems. For example, they may coordinate existing programs, organize fund-raising, and develop new community services. Social workers may also specialize in various areas. Medical social workers are trained to help patients and their families cope with problems that accompany illness or rehabilitation. Those who specialize in family services counsel individuals to strengthen personal and family relationships. Corrections and child welfare are other popular areas of study and employment. School social workers work with parents, guardians, teachers, and other school officials to ensure students reach their academic and personal potential.

Preparation for the field of social work occurs at two levels. The baccalaureate level (BSW) is the minimum requirement, followed by the master’s degree in social work (MSW), which is usually required for positions in mental health and for administrative or research positions. Training generally includes courses of study focusing on social work practice, social welfare policies, human behavior, and the social environment. Supervised field experiences are also necessary.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) awards certification in the form of the title ACSW, which stands for the Academy of Certified Social Workers. All states and the District of Columbia have some licensure, certification, or registration requirement, although regulations vary.


One of the largest categories of professional helpers is  counselors . Although their exact duties depend on the individuals or groups with whom they work and the agencies or settings in which they are employed, counselors help people deal with a variety of problems, including personal, social, educational, and career concerns. Examples of the different types of counselors are school and college counselors, rehabilitation counselors, employment counselors, marriage and family therapists, and mental health counselors. Employment for counselors is expected to increase by 37% between 2010 and 2020 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). Two types of counselors with whom you may interact as a human service professional are mental health counselors and rehabilitation counselors.

The mental health counselor works with individuals who are dealing with problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, family conflicts, suicidal thoughts and feelings, stress, depression, problems with self-esteem, issues associated with aging, job and career concerns, educational decisions, and issues of mental and emotional health. Their work is not limited to individuals, however; it may involve the family of the individual. These counselors often work closely with other specialists such as psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, and psychiatric nurses.

The rehabilitation counselor helps people deal with the personal, social, and vocational effects of their disabilities. Disabilities may be social, mental, emotional, or physical, calling for the services of counseling, evaluation, medical care, occupational training, and job placement. Rehabilitation counselors also work with the family of the individual when necessary and frequently with other professionals such as physicians, psychologists, and occupational therapists.

Positions as a counselor usually require a master’s degree in a counseling discipline or a related area. This preparation frequently includes a year or two of graduate study and a supervised counseling experience. Licensure and certification are available; requirements vary, depending on the specialty. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) are two national certifying bodies. There are also certifying boards in each of the 50 states.

Human service professionals could assume the responsibilities of social workers or counselors, or be given this title, even though they might not be specifically certified as such. The variation in the needs of agencies and the competencies of individual helpers makes it difficult to establish rigid categories for function or title. However, having the title or performing the job of a mental health counselor is definitely not the same as being nationally certified. Some states and agencies will only hire helpers with national certification, whereas other sites have more flexible hiring categories.


Community caretakers, natural helpers, and volunteers are examples of nonprofessional helpers who provide basic human service functions. You may, in fact, be a member of one of the following groups or be a recipient of their services.

Community caretakers , such as police and clergy, provide essential community service. Professionals in their own fields, they are involved in some aspects of human service work. For example, many of the clergy counsel members of the congregation and others from the community. Police officers work with victims of crime or abuse in many instances.

Hairdressers and bartenders are examples of natural helpers. Their primary job function is to cut hair or to mix drinks, but in performing these tasks, they find themselves listening, responding, and discussing alternatives to problem situations in which their customers may find themselves.


PhysiciansLicensed medical professionals who provide general medical services or specialty services
PsychologistsStudy human behavior to understand individual thoughts and actions
SocialWorkers Help individuals, families, and groups cope with problems
CounselorsHelp people deal with a variety of issues
Copyright © Cengage Learning®

Another category of nonprofessionals who are helping human services respond to today’s challenges is  self-help groups . These are laypeople from all walks of life who come together to create a mutual support system to meet their own needs. Members share a common problem, they consider themselves peers, and they organize separately from human service organizations. The purposes of such groups include helping with chronic problems or general problems in living, raising consciousness, securing political rights, and providing support for behavioral changes. Over half a million groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are currently providing support for people with similar problems.

Volunteers , another example of nonprofessionals in human services, are people who give their time and talents free of charge, have a sense of social responsibility, and have little concern for monetary gain. People volunteer for many reasons, among them to work with people, to meet people, to gain job references, or to help others. In 2011, 63.4 million Americans or 26.3% of the adult population age 16 and older contributed 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service worth $173 billion, using Independent Sector’s 2011 estimate of the dollar value of a volunteer hour ($21.79). “To find information like this, perform an Internet search for ‘volunteer hour value.’” Often, during a time of economic recession, volunteering declines. The fact that rates have held steady during the recent economic downturn is a positive sign. Nonprofit organizations striving to meet the needs of individuals and families across the country are also affected economically but find some relief in using more volunteers to achieve their goals.

Another impetus for the increase in volunteerism is the passage of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act signed by President Obama on April 21, 2009. Its purpose is to encourage Americans from grade school students to retirees to volunteer by dedicating over $5.7 billion over five years to this cause. The act also vastly expands AmeriCorps from 75,000 volunteers to 250,000 (AmeriCorps, 2012; Milligan, 2009). These volunteers receive a living allowance of approximately $12,000 for 10 to 12 months of work during which they staff programs for low-income groups, veterans, the environment, health care, and education.

The nonprofessionals described here have been welcomed by professionals. Perhaps the most immediate reason for their acceptance is that all agencies face financial constraints at one time or another, and this can lead to a shortage of professionally trained helpers. Additionally, some agencies may have an uneven distribution of human service professionals with respect to race, social class, and place of birth; nonprofessionals may fill these gaps.


At this point in  Chapter 6 , you have some idea about the identity of the human service professional and the relationship of this individual with other helping professionals and nonprofessionals. An examination of their roles further defines the human service professional.

The many human service roles to be introduced provide the framework for the helping process. In performing the various roles, the human service professional is continuously focused on the client; this client focus provides the common thread to connect the roles. Although the roles of human service professionals are constantly evolving, the helper remains a Jack (or Jill) of all trades, or, in human service terms, a generalist. The generalist knows a wide range of skills, strategies, and client groups and is able to work effectively in a number of different settings. Engaging in a variety of roles enables the human service professional to meet many client needs. What exactly do these helpers do?

Many professionals have attempted to answer this question. The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) conducted a study in the late 1960s to define the roles and functions of human service professionals. As a result of this analysis, SREB identified 13 roles that human service workers could engage in to meet the needs of their clients, agencies, or communities (Southern Regional Education Board, 1969). These 13 roles include administrator, advocate, assistant to specialist, behavior changer, broker, caregiver, community planner, consultant, data manager, evaluator, mobilizer, outreach worker, and teacher or educator.

In a more recent study, the U.S. Department of Education funded the Community Support Skills Standards Project to define the skills that human service personnel need to work in the field. The result of the work was a set of 12 competency areas of work in human services. These emerged from a job analysis and are reflected in the project’s report as competency areas. The areas are as follows: participant empowerment; communication; assessment; community and service networking; facilitation of services; community living skills and supports; education, training, and self-development; advocacy; vocational, educational, and career support; crisis intervention; organizational participation; and documentation (Community Support Skill Standards Project, 2012). Each competency area has several skill standard statements that describe job function in that area.

The National Organization for Human Services, in concert with the Council for Standards in Human Service Education, also defines the human service professional and summarizes the work of these helpers. In a document that defines the human service worker, commitment to others in need is emphasized. The document states:

“Human services worker” is a generic term for people who hold professional and paraprofessional jobs in such diverse settings as group homes and halfway houses; correctional, mental retardation, and community mental health centers; family, child, and youth service agencies; and programs concerned with alcoholism, drug abuse, family violence, and aging. Depending on the employment setting and the kinds of clients served there, job titles and duties vary a great deal. The primary purpose of the human service worker is to assist individuals and communities to function as effectively as possible in the major domains of living (National Organization for Human Services, 2012).

To better understand the varied roles that are assumed by the human service professional, we used the results of these studies to categorize three areas of responsibility: providing direct service, performing administrative work, and working with the community. In the following sections, we examine these three categories and the roles that represent each area of responsibility. (See  Table 6.5 .)


Providing Direct ServicePerforming Administrative WorkWorking with the Community
Cultural BrokerCultural BrokerCultural Broker
Behavior changerBrokerAdvocate
CaregiverData managerCommunity and service networker
CommunicatorEvaluatorCommunity planner
Crisis intervenerFacilitator of servicesConsultant
Participant empowererPlannerMobilizer
Teacher/educatorReport and grant proposal writerOutreach worker
 Resource allocator 
Copyright © Cengage Learning®


Providing direct service to clients is a responsibility with which many beginning professionals are familiar. This work represents the development of the helping relationship and the work that helpers do in their face-to-face encounters with their clients. Many roles, such as behavior changer, caregiver, communicator, crisis intervener, participant empowerer, and teacher or educator, are included in the category of direct services. The following illustrate many of these roles and how human service professionals perform them.

Behavior changer—carries out a range of activities planned primarily to change clients’ behavior, ranging from coaching and counseling to casework, psychotherapy, and behavior therapy.

Sun Lee Kim is a substance abuse counselor at a drug and alcohol inpatient clinic at a local hospital. Sun Lee, one of the staff group leaders, facilitates a reality therapy group each day. The purpose of this group is to encourage participants to change their communication behavior, first in the group and later in the wider context of the facility. Peer support and pressure are used to facilitate this behavior change.

Caregiver—provides services for people who need ongoing support of some kind, such as financial assistance, day care, social support, and 24-hour care.

Jim Gray works in foster care. His major responsibility is to provide support to families with foster children. One of his favorite activities is to visit foster homes to determine the success of the foster care situation and provide emotional and practical assistance to the families. In addition to his visits, he also maintains contact by calling or texting.

Communicator—is able to express and exchange ideas and establish relationships with a variety of individuals and groups, including clients, families, colleagues, administrators, and the public.

Dal Lam works with AIDS patients in a self-help center established by a regional hospital in a rural desert area. His responsibilities require him to communicate orally and in writing with different populations. He prefers face-to-face meetings with individuals who test HIV positive and those with AIDS. E-mails are often most effective with medical staff and insurance providers. His prevention work takes him to the elementary schools, local high schools, civic meetings, and churches.

Crisis intervener—provides services for individuals, families, and communities who are experiencing a disruption in their lives with which they cannot cope. This intervention is short term, focused, and concrete.

Christy Holston works in a sexual-assault crisis center and is a victim advocate. She receives four or five new clients a week, mostly women, who are dealing with issues of sexual assault, attempted rape, or rape. Some of her clients call through the hotline immediately after being assaulted, others are referred through the emergency room at the hospital, and others call to ask for help many years after the crisis.

Participant empowerer—shares with clients the responsibility for the helping relationship and the development and implementation of a plan of action. This helper ultimately encourages clients to care for themselves.

Judy Collins is a case manager for young adults who are developmentally disabled. In the First Steps program, she works with clients to move from group-home living to apartment living. She coordinates daily living training, vocational assessment and training, and first employment. Her clients participate fully in the case management process and are called “co-case managers.” There is a graduation ceremony when these clients become their own “case managers.”

Teacher or educator—performs a range of instructional activities, from simple coaching to teaching highly technical content, directed at individuals or groups.

Dr. Washington Lee, a physician, and Ned Wanek, a human service professional, work in a family planning clinic. They spend two mornings a week teaching classes to women and men about the reproductive system and alternative methods of family planning. In addition, they counsel individuals, provide physical exams, plan educational media, and talk to schools and community groups about family planning.


Performing administrative work is another important responsibility for many human service professionals. In addition to providing direct services to clients, many helpers are involved in managerial activities as they supervise or oversee processes or projects. As they work with clients, they assume administrative responsibilities such as planning, linking clients to services, allocating resources, and evaluating. The specific administrative roles are broker, data manager, evaluator, facilitator of services, planner, report and grant writer, and resource allocator.

Broker—helps people get to the existing services and helps make the services more accessible to clients.

Maria Giovanni’s caseload at the Office for Student Services consists primarily of students with physical disabilities. One of her functions is to make sure these students have their classes scheduled in accessible buildings on campus and are able to get around campus to their classes and school events. To achieve this goal, Maria may have to help students reschedule classes or arrange for parking. She is also “on call” to assist these students in getting other services they might need.

Data manager—gathers, tabulates, analyzes, and synthesizes data and evaluates programs and plans.

Roosevelt Thompson is part of the staff of a local day care center. Although he assists the child care staff when needed, his actual responsibilities are business oriented. The day care center is privately owned but partially funded by the city. Its clients include children referred to the center from the courts for temporary care as well as children of working parents. His concern is to see that the center maintains an appropriate balance between referred and regular paying clients to maintain its financial stability. He continually gathers information, inputs data, and projects the financial needs of the day care center.

Evaluator—assesses client or community needs and problems, whether medical, psychiatric, social, or educational. Assesses standards of care that reflect evidence-based practice.

Karen Tubbs leads a community planning organization established to assess the community’s needs in the event of a national disaster. In her coastal region, disaster means the threat of damaging winds, rain, and numerous hurricanes. Its meetings are part of a complex process of planning for and developing resources to begin providing human services should a hurricane strike their region. She and her team study the protocols used in other regions of the world and determine what planning and service delivery actions were most effective.

Facilitator of services—brokers (links the client to services) and then monitors the progress the client makes with the various helping professionals. This helper also uses the problem-solving process when services are deficient or inappropriate.

Louisa Gonzales works in a group home for young children who need a short-term safe haven. During the time the children are in the home, Louisa spends many hours coordinating their care with schools, child-care agencies, the health department, and the welfare department. Many times, without her services, these children would get lost in the system and would receive substandard care.

Planner—engages in making plans with both short-term and long-term clients in order to define accurately their problems and needs, develops strategies to meet the needs, and monitors the helping process. Planners also help develop programs and services to meet client needs.

Ruth Strauss works with families who are planning for the long-term care of aging parents. This requires careful attention to the needs and priorities of all involved. She has better luck with her families when she uses a very structured planning and decision-making model. With this model, everyone in the family has a clear understanding of the problems and the goals and can monitor the success of the plan. She also serves on a program development team that creates new programs for families.

Report (documentation) and grant proposal writer—records the activities of the agency work. This can include intake interview reports, social histories, detailed treatment plans, daily entries into case notes, requests for resources, rationale and justification for treatment for managed care, and periodic reports for managed care. The role of writer also involves preparing proposals for funding from local, state, and federal agencies and organizations.

Lisa Wilhiem is a social worker in a local hospital emergency room. She is the intermediary for clients who will potentially need longer-term care. It is her responsibility to coordinate the initial requests for services to the managed care organizations or insurance companies via e-mail. Although she spends several hours of her day with patients and the medical care staff, a majority of her time is spent at her computer documenting how the patient entered the health care system and what the current needs of the patient are. She is currently applying for two federal grants and one state grant that support innovative intake and discharge processes for emergency room care.

Resource allocator—makes recommendations on how resources are to be spent to support the needs of the client. These recommendations are made once priorities are set and prices for services are determined.

Hoover Center, a psychiatric facility for adolescents, is developing a new program that will individualize the treatment of its clients. In the past, there was a standard treatment for all clients regardless of their problems. Because of the pressures from managed care and the limited resources available for the Center, the decision has been made to ask each client’s case manager to establish priorities and determine how the resources per client are to be spent. The case manager will submit a plan that will be approved by the supervisor and then submitted to the managed care organization for review and final approval.


Many professionals are also very involved with their community as they develop collegial networks and work on behalf of their clients to create and improve services within the local area and beyond. The roles of advocate, community and service networker, community planner, consultant, mobilizer, and outreach worker are those which the helper assumes responsibility in the community context.

Advocate—pleads and fights for services, policies, rules, regulations, and laws on behalf of clients.

José Cervantes is a lawyer for a legal aid clinic in an urban area. His clients, referred by the courts, are individuals who need legal services but cannot pay for them. Most of his cases involve marital separation, divorce, custody of children, and spouse and child support. Besides handling individual cases, José works with politicians, judges, and other lawyers to develop a legal system that is sensitive to the needs of his clients.

Community and service networker—works actively to connect with other helpers and agencies to plan for providing better services to the community and to clients, share information, support education and training efforts, and facilitate linking clients to the services they need.

Ian DeBusk has been working for the public schools for the past 20 years. Early in his career he worked with in-school suspension programs, and today he supervises school counselors in 15 high schools, 12 middle schools, and 32 elementary schools. One of his responsibilities is to help his counselors find the services their students need. He has established two listservs. One is for the school counselors he supervises and a second one is for his network of colleagues in the criminal justice system, child welfare services, health department, and vocational rehabilitation agency, to name just a few. These two listservs help him connect and remain current.

Community planner—works with community boards and committees to ensure that community services promote mental health and self-actualization, or at least minimize emotional stress on people.

Hector Gomez is director of the local department of human services. As director, part of his responsibility is to provide leadership in human services to the city and county. He spends many evenings attending board meetings with other members of the community discussing funding and future planning for human services.

Consultant—works with other professionals and agencies regarding their handling of problems, needs, and programs.

Three members of a pediatric language lab serving young children with communication disorders have formed a consulting service as part of their job responsibilities with the lab. The focus of the service is to educate teachers and day care staff about communication disorders and help them work with children in their own facilities. The consulting activity will enable the lab to expand the impact of its services.

Mobilizer or community organizer—helps to get new resources for clients and communities.

Just last week James Shabbaz, a psychiatric social worker at a research hospital, discovered that the funding for the newly formed hospice service was not being renewed. The support services provided to family members of dying patients will be difficult to replace. James has decided to schedule a meeting with hospital staff and members of local churches to assist him in thinking about alternative support for these family members.

Outreach worker—reaches out to identify people with problems, refers them to appropriate services, and follows up to make sure they continue to their maximum rehabilitation.

Greg Jones from the local mental health center travels into rural sections of a three-county area to follow up on patients who have been released from the regional mental health facility. His primary responsibilities are to provide supportive counseling, assess current progress, and make appropriate referrals. He also alerts them to services and agencies using Facebook and Twitter.

Each job in the human service field represents a unique combination of roles and responsibilities. The following list shows the way in which roles and responsibilities can be configured.


· • Broker

· • Data manager

· • Evaluator

· • Facilitator of services

· • Report (documentation) and grant proposal writer


· • Broker

· • Data manager

· • Planner

· • Report (documentation) and grant proposal writer


· • Behavior changer

· • Caregiver

· • Crisis intervener

· • Data manager

· • Evaluator

· • Facilitator of services

· • Report (documentation) and grant proposal writer

· • Resource allocator


· • Advocate

· • Behavior changer

· • Communicator

· • Report (documentation) writer

· • Teacher or educator


· • Communicator

· • Community and service networker

· • Community planner

· • Mobilizer or community organizer

· • Outreach worker


All human service professionals assume the role as a  cultural broker  whether they provide direct service, assume a leadership role, or focus on community-based issues. In this role, according to the National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) (2012), the cultural broker commits to help clients negotiate the cultural divide that influences access and effective use of services. NCCC outlines the following competencies necessary for professionals to perform the role of cultural broker.

· • Assess and understand their own cultural identities and value systems;

· • Recognize the values that guide and mold attitudes and behaviors;

· • Understand a community’s traditional health (mental health) beliefs, values, and practices and changes that occur through acculturation;

· • Communicate in a cross-cultural context;

· • Interpret or translate information;

· • Advocate with and on behalf of children, youth, and families;

· • Negotiate health, mental health, and other service delivery systems; and

· • Manage and mediate conflict (National Center for Cultural Competence, 2012).

The National Center for Cultural Competence provides this example of a human service professional, Ms. Helen Dao, serving in the role of cultural broker.

One of the providers serving a child with severe epilepsy and her family expressed frustration that the family had not followed up on scheduled appointments and evaluations recommended by the care team. When working with the family Ms. Dao learned that they were concerned about out-of-home care and that the appointments were all associated with residential placement. It was simply unacceptable, not at all in keeping with the family’s values, to have the member cared for outside the family circle in a nursing home or other facility. The family chose not to inform the provider of their belief system because they did not want to be disrespectful. Ms. Dao was instrumental in this situation because she was able to bridge the gap between both the provider and the family by 1) clarifying the reasons why the appointments were needed and missed; 2) setting an example of how patients and providers can have a dialogue to discover their respective beliefs and practices that are immersed in culture; 3) identifying cultural beliefs and practices about respecting professionals who are in positions of authority; and 4) mediating a compromise between the family’s values and practices vs. recommendations by the medical community. (NCCC, 2012)

In summary, as you learn more about human services and meet human service professionals, try to determine the roles they are performing and the responsibilities they assume as they work with clients, their colleagues, and the community.


Helpers may generally be categorized as having either frontline or administrative responsibilities. Using only these two categories may oversimplify the actual responsibilities of a given helper, but the categorization is useful when you are visualizing what human service professionals actually do. The schedules that follow outline the typical day of a  frontline helper  and that of an  administrator .


· 8:00 a.m. Use this time to finish what needs to be completed from the previous day if planned activities were interrupted by an emergency with a client. Check both voice and e-mail messages. Read the progress notes in the case files. See clients at about 8:30 a.m.—set up the appointments a day in advance. See each client two or three times each week, depending on their schedules. Be prepared for a crisis and a new client.

10:00 a.m. Go to court for orders of protection. This can last all day, depending on how many cases are on the docket. Go to court with a client for her hearing or to file for an order of protection.

11:00 a.m. If back from court, see clients or do paperwork. Return telephone calls and e-mails.

12:00 noon. Go to the dining room to eat with clients.

1:00 p.m. Run errands with clients; go to their homes for clothing or important documents. Get a police escort for entering the home.

3:00 p.m. Attend staff meetings once a week (usually lasting a couple of hours). During these meetings, discuss each case and service issues.

5:00 p.m. Update case notes. Set up appointments for the next day. Make telephone calls and check e-mails.


· 8:00 a.m. Attend morning meetings to coordinate staff activities. Prioritize week’s projects.

9:00 a.m. Check client vacancies; plan for number of admissions. Make telephone calls. Check e-mails. Gather information, review referrals, and schedule meetings and follow-up activities.

10:00 a.m. Meet with families, phone hospitals for possible admissions, meet with clients.

11:00 a.m. Meet with head administrator. Make plans, revise schedule for afternoon. Check telephone calls and e-mails. 12:00 noon. Eat at desk or with clients. Catch up on mail, read reports, write letters.

1:00 p.m. Discharge planning for clients. Meet with part-time staff. Reprioritize based on morning’s activities.

2:00 p.m. Meet with other professionals, such as bookkeepers and nurses; contact services outside agency for information, planning, and referrals.

3:00 p.m. Complete referral book and complaint log. Make sure all tasks and written correspondence are completed. Be available to see clients and families. Follow up on a crisis encounter by a case manager. Client is in jail.


Check out the following terms on the Web to find out more about helper roles.

· volunteer

human service professional



social worker

case manager

4:00 p.m. Answer telephone calls. Check e-mails. Finish reports due that day. Visit with clients and families.

5:00 p.m. Complete paperwork. Plan for the next day. Answer telephone calls, call people at home. Check e-mails.

7:00 p.m. Evening visit with family or client in hospital, read mail, work on big projects to improve services, attend professional meetings.

As you can see by reading these examples, both professionals perform more than one role. Although frontline helpers and administrators sometimes have similar responsibilities, each has a different focus. The frontline helper focuses on caring for the client; the administrator’s primary focus is on planning and organizing services. Both have valuable responsibilities in human service delivery and share the ultimate goal of helping clients.


See this text’s website at  for video exercises. Choose  Chapter 6 , then Videos.

Mike is a clinician at a community mental health center. He works primarily with children and adolescents. In this segment, Mike describes his typical day at work. After listening to Mike, answer the following questions.


Compare Mike’s morning and afternoon. How are they alike and different?


How does Mike handle documentation?


What challenges does Mike encounter throughout the day?

In the next segment, Deirdre, who directs a residential mental health program, describes her typical Monday.

· 1.   Identify the people Deirdre interacts with during the day.

· 2.   Describe Deirdre’s administrative responsibilities.

· 3.   What challenges does she encounter in a typical day?

As you think about both of these segments, answer the following questions.


How do the days of a clinician or frontline human service professional and an administrator differ? How are they similar?


Compare their activities and responsibilities.


Which role most appeals to you? Why?


The following case study provides an example of a human service professional who is involved with many of the issues encountered by helpers. As you read the case study, consider the helper’s motivations, roles, values, and characteristics. Are there any potential sources of frustration for the helper? What are her expectations?

Carmen Rodriguez has worked as a case manager for a state agency in the American Southwest for the past four years. She considers herself a human service professional; with most of her clients, the focus of her work is much broader than just vocational counseling. She describes her job as follows.


· I have been a case manager for the past four years. In my position, I work with clients to assist them in preparing for and finding gainful employment, housing, and support. Often, clients have needs beyond those that the agency provides. As a case manager, part of my responsibility is to help with those needs as well.

One of the aspects of my work that I like a lot is the variety of clients I encounter. They are of different ages and from varied backgrounds. I work with many Mexican Americans and Native Americans. My clients are both males and females, and they have various problems. Rarely do I see a client who only needs housing or only needs a job. Usually I work with a client everyday for a period of six to eight weeks. Because of this close contact, I feel that I get to know my clients well.

Clients come first with me. I constantly think about what I can do for them, and I want to help them in any way I can. Sometimes their circumstances seem so poor, but I know that if I work hard enough I can make their lives better.

Another rewarding part of my job is working with other professionals. We are all committed to meeting client needs, although at times we are limited by the purposes of our various agencies. We’ve found that we are much more successful working together. Listservs are a valuable support tool. In fact, ten of us from different agencies meet monthly for lunch to talk about our work and find out about other services that may be available. It’s also a good time to find out about new legislation and regulations and the ways agencies are dealing with funding problems or new grants. Our group includes social workers, counselors, psychologists, and occasionally a physician or a psychiatrist. Often, these are the very professionals and agencies to which I refer clients for services that I’m unable to provide.

I guess it’s pretty obvious how I feel about my work. It’s rewarding and challenging, and I feel as if I learn something new each day. It may seem as if it’s the perfect job, but it really isn’t. There are some negative aspects to it, and probably the most frustrating is that in a bureaucracy things never seem to move as quickly as I want them to. For example, there is quite a bit of paperwork. Even with computers and servers, to receive an authorization for services requires going through several channels. This sometimes takes days, and since I work with the client on a daily basis, I get as impatient as the client.

The other aspect of my job that I sometimes find frustrating is that clients often do not do what I would like them to do. When you work with people, it’s important to realize that you don’t tell them what to do. Actually, we try to teach them to take responsibility for their actions, and this involves making decisions for themselves. When they make a decision that is not in their best interest or may lead to problems or failure, it’s very difficult for me not to intervene. I want so much for my clients to succeed, but I’ve learned that they are independent individuals who must live their own lives. In spite of the frustrations, I hope to keep this job for several years. It offers many opportunities for professional growth and gives me a chance to make a difference.

Apply what you have read in this chapter by answering the following questions about Carmen Rodriguez.

What motivates Carmen Rodriquez in her work?

What do you think Carmen’s philosophy is? What are her values?

Identify the professionals with whom Carmen works.

What human services roles does Carmen play?




community caretakers



cultural broker



frontline helper


human service professionals



Nonprofessional Helpers






self-help groups

social workers





· 1. Helping means assisting people to understand, overcome, or cope with problems. A helper is one who offers such assistance.

· 2. The primary reason why individuals choose helping professions (and the reason most will admit) is the desire to help others. Related to this is the desire for self-exploration.

· 3. Values are important to the practice of human services, because they are the criteria by which human service professionals and clients make choices.

· 4. Acceptance, tolerance, individuality, self-determination, and confidentiality are important values for human service professionals.

· 5. Characteristics that are important for the entry-level human service professional are self-awareness, the ability to communicate, empathy, professional commitment, and flexibility.

· 6. One way of categorizing helping professionals is a three-level system: specialists, human service professionals, and nonprofessionals.

· 7. Human service professionals work with specialists, including physicians, psychologists, social workers, and counselors.

· 8. The broad range of job titles, duties, client groups, and employment settings in human services supports the generic focus of the profession.

· 9. Roles and responsibilities of human service professionals can be grouped into three categories: providing direct service, performing administrative work, and working with the community. Human service professionals assume the role of cultural broker as they perform the roles in all three categories.

· 10. Frontline helpers and administrators are two more categories of human service professionals that describe the complexities of their roles.


Describe the motivations for choosing a helping profession.

How do values and a philosophy of helping relate to motivations for choosing a helping profession?

List the helper characteristics that are important for the human service professional.

What are the similarities and differences among human service professionals, physicians, psychologists, social workers, and counselors?

How does the Occupational Outlook Handbook’s entry on human service workers help you define them?

What are the three primary areas of job responsibilities for human service professionals?


There are several resources you can tap to learn more about human service professionals. Check them out!

Additional Resources: Focus on Helpers

· Blumberg, T. A. (2004). No time for lunch: Memoirs of an inner city psychologist. New York: Devora Publishing.

· As a school psychologist for the Baltimore City Public Schools for almost 25 years, the author has worked with a cross-section of children—those who endured physical abuse, those who chose elective mutism, those who lived in fear, and those who created fear.

· Corey, M. S., & Corey, G. (2010). Becoming a helper. Belmont, CA: Brooks Cole.

· An overview of the helping process coupled with the skills and knowledge necessary to be a successful helping professional makes this a valuable resource for anyone considering a career in human services.

· Emener, W. G., Richard, M. A., & Bosworth, J. J. (Eds.). (2009). A guidebook to human service professions: Helping college students explore opportunities in the human service field. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

· This book reviews 18 professions for those individuals who want to help others. Case management, clinical psychology, rehabilitation counseling, gerontology, and marriage and family therapy are included as well as discussions about motivations, ethics, and professionalism.

· Grobman, L. M. (2005). More days in the lives of social workers: 35 professionals tell “real-life” stories from social work practice. Harrisburg, PA: White Hat Communications.

· First-person narratives illustrate the variety of roles of social workers.

· Jacob, J. (2007). Our school: The inspiring story of two teachers, one big idea, and the charter school that beat the odds. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

· The account of an inner city school in San Jose, California, that adopted a new approach to charter school education. The book captures the struggles, inspiration, and gutsy determination of teachers, students, and parents.

Case Study

If you’d like to know more about the work of a human service professional, read a firsthand account of a week in the life of a probation officer in Introduction to Human Services: Cases and Applications, the companion text to Introduction to Human Services. Allison has a human service degree and works in an intensive supervision program. This means that she works some evenings and conducts random home visits and curfew checks. As you read about Allison and her work, you will better understand how many of the concepts introduced in this chapter occur in the “real world.”


AmeriCorps. (2012). Retrieved from

Brammer, L. M., & MacDonald, G. (2003). The helping relationship: Process and skills. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Occupational outlook handbook (2012-2013 ed.). Retrieved from

Chang, V. N., Scott, S. T., & Decker, C. L. (2013). Developing helping skills: A step by step approach. Pacific Grove, CA: Cengage.

Cochran, J. L., & Cochran, N. (2006). The heart of counseling: A guide to developing therapeutic relationships. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole/Thomson.

Community Support Skill Standards Project. (2012). Retrieved from

Corey, G. (2012). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (9th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Cengage.

Milligan, S. (2009, April 22). President signs $5.7 billion measure to boost volunteerism. New York: New York Times Company. Retrieved from National Center for Cultural Competence. (2012).

National Center for Cultural Competence: Promising Practices. Retrieved from

National Organization for Human Services. (2012). The human service worker: A generic job description.Retrieved from  http://www.nationalhuman

Okun, B. F., & Kantrowitz, R. E. (2008). Effective helping: Interviewing and counseling techniques (7th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Southern Regional Education Board. (1969). Roles and functions for different levels of mental health workers. Atlanta, GA: Author.

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