3 JULY 2000

Strength-based assessment

“We have a choice about how we wish to view the people with whom we work. We can either view them as manifestations of pathology and deficit or we can view them as representing a degree of competence and skill. We cannot do both. Further, if we choose to view them in terms of pathology, then the focus on problems that this perspective requires makes it much more difficult for us to recognize their strengths and resources ... if we choose to view them as competent and resourceful, then our focus on strengths is more likely to obscure their deficits from our view.”      — MICHAEL DURRANT, 1993


From Suzanne Rudolph and Michael Epstein *

A strength-based assessment approach provides several advantages for practitioners and the individuals they serve. First, focusing on strengths allows practitioners to involve children and their families in service planning in a positive way by underscoring what is going well in a child's life. Second, strength-based assessment provides a method for documenting a child's strengths and competencies and offers a way for establishing positive expectations for the child. Third, through strength-based assessment family members are empowered to take responsibility for the decisions that will affect their child's life (Johnson & Friedman, 1991; Saleebey, 1992).

Strength-based assessment is founded on four important assumptions:

  1. Every child, regardless of his or her personal and family situation, has strengths that are unique to the individual.
  2. Children are influenced and motivated by the way significant people in their lives respond to them.
  3. Rather than viewing a child who does not demonstrate a strength as deficient, it is assumed the child has not had the opportunities that are essential to learning, developing, and mastering the skill.
  4. When treatment and service planning are based on strengths rather than deficits and pathologies, children and families are more likely to become involved in the therapeutic process and to use their strengths and resources.

* Read the article: 
Rudolph, S.M. and Epstein, M.H. (2000). Empowering children and families through strength-based assessment. Reclaiming Children and Youth, Vol.8 No.4 pp 207-209, 232

Saleebey, D. (1992). The strengths perspective in social work practice. New York: Longman


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