It is the assessment phase of case work which gives realistic basis for differentiation – individualized knowledge about the person in their social context. Social diagnosis (assessment) is the attempt to arrive at an exact definition as far as possible of the social
situation and personality of a given client. It is a search for the cause of the problem which brings the client to the worker for help. It is an effort to deduce from the material available, seen against the background of what the worker knows of human behaviour
and social realities, what the client’s problem is, what factors contribute in alleviating the problem, what changes can be brought to occur which will reduce or eradicate his/ her problem and what steps the case worker can take to forward these objectives.
Hence, diagnosis is defined as:
1. an explanation formulated in the light of known facts (both tangible facts and psychological facts)
2. an explanation made in the knowledge of other possible explanations and
3. subject to change or revision whenever subsequent material warrants a different
a) The content of social diagnosis (assessment) in case work process falls into the
triangular pattern. It consists of:
1. The nature of the problem brought and the goals sought by the client, in
2. The nature of the person who bears the problem (his social and psychological
situation and functioning) and who seeks (or needs) help with his problem, in relation to;
3. The nature and purpose of the agency and the kind of help it can offer and/or
b) Types of Social diagnosis
Perlman has described three types of diagnosis that is carried on in social case work
process. These are:
- dynamic diagnosis,
- clinical diagnosis,
- etiological diagnosis.
Dynamic diagnosis gives an understanding of the current problem of the client and the
forces currently operating within the client, within the social environment and between
his environment. It gives the answers of the question- what is the trouble? What
psychological, physical and social factors are contributing to it? What solution is sought?
What are the means available within the client, his/her environment? What are organized
services and resources by which problem may be affected? The nature of such diagnosis
is changeable because it is the beginning phase of social case work practice.
In clinical diagnosis, the case worker attempts to classify the client by nature of his
sickness / problem. He identifies certain forms and qualities of client’s personality and
malfunctioning in his behaviour. The clinical diagnosis describes both the nature of the
problem and its relation to the client and the helping means and goals. Such type of
diagnosis is useful only when it becomes apparent that a disorder of personality accompanies the social disorder, creating and complicating it.
Etiological diagnosis is concerned with the explanation of the beginning of the life history
of the problem of the client, basically the problem that lies in the client’s personality make up or functioning. The history of his development as a problem encountering, problem-solving human being may provide the case worker with an understanding of what his client suffers from and what is the extent of his coping ability likely to be.
Etiological diagnosis is more useful in explaining or rigid reactions. When inspite of fact that the client’s present problem are in the centre of attention, the client’s response are
not in accordance with, the past history and its appraisal in the light of client’s current capacities, goals and problems are used for the intervention. This type of diagnosis contributes to understanding the nature of the problem to be dealt with, the person
who has the problem, and the ways and means that can be anticipated as helpful.
c) Steps in diagnosis (Assessment)
The following steps are taken while diagnosing a problem
1. The worker begins to focus on problematic behaviours. He begins with the survey of both functional and disfunctional behaviours in his environment. He clarifies various complains and problems in terms of excesses and deficits. He evaluates the client’s personal strengths as well as of his environment.
2. He targets the specified behaviours. This involves an attempt of breaking down complex behaviours into their component parts.
3. Baseline data are collected to specify those events that appear to be currently controlling the problematic behaviours.
4. The collected information is summarized in an attempt to anticipate any major problem in intervention and as a way of beginning to establish objective for intervention.
5. Selecting priorities for intervention is the final step of the diagnosis. Concentration on one problem at one time makes intervention process more manageable and allows both client and worker to channel their energies into one area. It is the best way of handling and proper use of available resources.