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Open-Ended Questions

Open-Ended Questions

Definition: Open ended questions enable the social worker to ask a question that prompts the client to elaborate more on the problem. An open-ended question gives the client the opportunity to discuss key aspects of the problem in depth.

Helps to:

Appropriate to use when:

Inappropriate use:


In video example #1: Karen pushes Mike to step beyond himself and to provide a detailed picture of what he thinks a “problem drinker” looks like.This provides some emotional distance for him, lessening his defensiveness about the role of alcohol in his life. This strategy gives Karen a clear understanding of what it means to have an alcohol problem from Mike’s perspective.

In video example #2:Nicole invites Mrs. Anderson to elaborate on her situation, by asking the how things have been going.Now Mrs. Anderson has the opportunity to “vent” and get things out in the open.Nicole has a better understanding of the day-to-day circumstances.She begins to assess the toll it is taking on Mrs. Anderson and how this might impact Maria’s well-being.

In video example #3: Nicole is helping Maria to prepare for what might occur between her and her mother.Encouraging Maria to visualize and imagine what she might say to her mother provides the opportunity to practice and anticipate the “what next”.Maria will feel more prepared for the visit if she has a plan of action in place, regardless of whether Crystal follows through with the visit.

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