Complete Guide to the Best Social Work Assessment Best Practices.


The Best Guide and Tools for Evaluation & Assessment in Social Work

Assessment in social work involves a set of steps designed to evaluate someone’s needs in order to match them with the public support that can help them.

As you can imagine, social work tools and techniques for evaluating individuals can vary according to the type of situation that is being assessed. A social worker will generally take a different approach when evaluating a child for potential educational deficits than they do with someone struggling with substance abuse.

However, the goal with each type of social work assessment is the same, which is to help someone reach their full potential and give them the support they need to work through a certain situation.

social work assessment

Social Work Assessment and Intervention

Social work assessment tools will guide a social worker in assessing multiple aspects of a person’s situation. This includes habits, family dynamics, social/friend relationships, mental and physical health, employment history, and more.

Evaluation in social work is a detailed process because there is generally not one single factor that causes a crisis situation in someone’s life. Often, it’s a combination of environmental, cultural, and individual factors.

Each of these factors has to be assessed and connected so a social worker can get a full picture of someone’s potential strengths and identify a plan to help them overcome their current situation and that will result in a permanent positive change.

With assessment tools in social work, best practices are used from several disciplines to gain a complete picture of a person and their situation.

See Also: Complete Guide to the Best Social Impacts Assessment



What Are the Goals of Social Work?

The stages of the social work process are designed with a simple goal in mind, which is to help people. Social workers are usually on the front line when someone is in a crisis in their life and needs assistance.

The overarching goals of social work include:

  • Helping people achieve the best possible outcome for personal and social well-being
  • Working towards social justice for underserved populations
  • Identifying the personal tools and external resources an individual needs to live a better life

Individual goals for a social work assessment example will be more specific to a person’s immediate situation and needs.

For example, for a domestic violence victim, the goal is to get them to a safe place and connect them to the resources to help them rebuild their life.

For a substance abuse victim, the goal may be to guide them through a successful rehabilitation and give them the mental techniques they need to change destructive, long-term habits.

Social work assessment and intervention are vital to achieving a positive outcome for a person in need and providing support to help them live a happier life.


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How Do You Conduct a Social Work Assessment?

A social work assessment is a report that outlines an individual’s situation and immediate and long-term needs. It also includes some type of intervention recommendation designed to help that individual overcome their immediate challenges.

Assessment in social work consists of sitting down with a person and asking them a series of questions designed to ascertain a number of factors that will guide any intervention plan.

A social work assessment template will have several categories that can be used to assess a person’s current state, weaknesses, strengths, and opportunities.

Social Workers are trained to look for specific red flags and areas of potential so they can steer clients away from destructive forces in their life and towards those that are supportive and positive.

Some of the categories of a person’s life that social work tools and techniques will include are:

  • Family history
  • Cultural values
  • Social circle
  • Education
  • Past trauma
  • Substance use
  • Employment history
  • Skills
  • Leisure activities
  • Motivations
  • Immediate needs
  • Patterns of crisis
  • Attitude about money/finances

Some of the information needed when doing an evaluation in social work can be gathered from government agencies, such as patterns of crisis. However, most of the information will come from an assessment interview with the individual.

Social work assessment tools will include typical questions to ask as well as methods that can be used for self-assessment by the individual. Often a self-assessment can highlight some important data that might not be uncovered otherwise.

During assessment in social work, the social worker will often use one or more assessment methods and tools, depending upon the client type they are working with. These assessment tools in social work help guide the process and zero in on the information needed to create a successful path forward for the client.

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What Assessments Do Social Workers Use?

When looking at more than one social work assessment example, you’re bound to run across different assessment methods that social workers use. These are designed to help make connections between the several variables in a person’s life.

These social work assessment and intervention tools also assist a social worker in their approach with a client. For example, one popular approach is called a Strength-Based Approach and it focuses on a person’s strengths rather than their weaknesses.

The approaches used in social work tools and techniques are a combination of psychology-based techniques and organizational tools to connect multiple factors together. A social work assessment template helps put all those moving pieces into a comprehensive assessment and game plan for support.

Social Work Assessment Tools

Genogram & Ecomap | Family Personal & Social Relationships

A Genogram and Ecomap are tools that help clear up social work assessment questions related to the family and community dynamics of an individual. Both of these social work assessment tools were developed by Dr. Ann Hartman.

The Genogram is a map of the immediate family relationships of an individual. The Ecomap then goes out farther from the family to friends, groups, community services, etc. that impact the individual’s life.

When mapping family and friends, males are represented by a square and females by a circle.

Different types of lines between the connections are used to designate a relationship that is:

  • Strong/positive (solid line)
  • Weak/tenuous (dashed line)
  • Stressful (solid line with horizontal lines like train tracks)

AGS - Genogram/Ecomap

Genograms and eco maps are used in the early stages of the social work process to get a full picture of the relationships in an individual’s life.

Self-Assessment Template | Individual Insight

A self-assessment template is a tool used at various stages of the social work process. It gives the individual insight into their strengths and challenge areas.

This type of social work assessment example can help a person put their challenges into perspective because it encourages them to categorize several areas of their life. When compared to past self-assessments, it can show them how they’ve grown.

This assessment in social work has the following categories that a client fills in:

  • Personal responsibilities
  • Financial responsibilities
  • Spirituality
  • Needs
  • Skills
  • Leisure Activities
  • Motivations
  • Values
  • Interests
  • Goals & priorities
  • Health

Culturagrams | Examines 10 Cultural Parameters

This is one of the assessment tools in social work that is used only in certain circumstances. The Culturagram is typically used with immigrant families or refugees to understand the cultural aspects of their lives and situation.

It includes social work assessment questions that have to do with 10 cultural parameters. These include:

  • Contact with culture and religious institutions holidays, food, and clothing
  • Health beliefs
  • Impact of trauma and crisis events
  • Language spoken at home and in the community
  • Legal status
  • Oppression, discrimination, bias, and racism
  • Reason for relocation
  • Time in community
  • Values about education and work
  • Values about family

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Gad-7 | Anxiety Assessment

Another of the social work tools that can be used as necessary in an assessment is the GAD-7. This tool is designed as a rapid screening of a clinically significant anxiety disorder, such as General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder (PD), Specific Phobia (SP), or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The GAD-7 consists of a list of seven questions related to anxiety. During this evaluation in social work, the individual will answer on a scale of frequency how often a particular anxiety-related event or feeling occurs.

Systems | Situation, Safety, Survival Needs, Supports, Short-Term Work

The Systems method is an effective social work assessment template because it guides a social worker through the key areas of a client’s life they need to evaluate for their assessment.

This type of social work assessment and intervention uses five different “S” words that represent important components of an individual’s life. Asking questions in these areas can help a social worker put together an intervention plan to help the client through their more urgent problems.

  • Situation: What is the situation that brought the client in?
  • Safety: Is safety an issue? Is the client in a crisis situation that requires immediate help?
  • Survival needs/other needs: Does the client have basic living needs being met?
  • Supports/strengths: What supports are already in place? Has client had this challenge before and received help?
  • Short-term or crisis: How immediate is the client’s need?

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Stages of Social Work Process

The social work tools and techniques that go into an assessment are one stage of the stages of the social work process. When assisting a client and putting them on a path toward problem resolution, there are steps that are taken to execute a plan based upon the social work assessment.

Interview & Engagement

The initial interaction with a client is when the assessment in social work begins. This initial engagement may be when a client first walks in for help, and it can last a few minutes or longer, depending upon the time available.

If there is time, the social worker may ask initial questions to understand the person’s situation or might give them a self-assessment questionnaire to bring back to a subsequent meeting.

After the initial interaction, the social worker will generally schedule a formal meeting where they can conduct a more thorough assessment using social work assessment tools.

Assessment & Data Collection

When the client returns for their meeting, this stage is where the bulk of the data collection happens. A social worker may use one or more of the assessment tools in social work to gather details about the individual, their situation, their needs, supports, and so on.

This information will cover everything from their current health and well-being to any immediate needs they have to their general mental state.

The goal of the social work assessment questions that are asked during this meeting is to have enough information to create a viable intervention and support plan.

Create Plan & Goals

The next stage when doing an evaluation in social work is to review all the data collected from the individual themselves, the interview with the individual, and any other outside sources.

The social worker will often use a social work assessment template for data input so they can chart correlations that can help in creating a comprehensive plan for the client. They will look for strengths and positive forces in the client’s life that can be drivers for change.

The plan will include goals and milestones to be achieved that shows the intervention is going in the right direction and the change will be sustained.

A social work assessment example for someone fleeing a bad domestic situation may include a goal of opening a new bank account in their name. Another might include obtaining affordable housing through a community resource.

The plan is the path forward to a better life for the impacted client and will be dependent upon the needs of that individual and guided by the social work assessment and intervention identified.

Intervention & Monitoring

Once the plan and goals are developed with the help of social work assessment tools, the client will be presented with the plan and the social worker will attempt to get them on board with the intervention and game plan.

Monitoring is important during the implementation to ensure that the plan is going according to design and that any necessary adjustments are made. The goals are designed to serve as markers that someone is going in the right direction.

During the monitoring process, other assessment tools in social work can be brought in to help gauge the individual’s progress and keep them on the right track.

assessment in social work

Social Work Assessment Tools

Final Evaluation & Termination

Once the intervention plan is complete, there is a final evaluation in social work done to assess the client’s progress and whether they have reached the end of the plan successfully.

If successful, the ongoing intervention activities can be terminated as the person is now able to carry on without the additional assistance.

If the final evaluation shows that the goals of the intervention plan have not been met, then another social work assessment example may need to be done to determine if there is a viable path forward to assist the client.

Follow Up

Ongoing “touch base” contact for follow up is a good practice if possible. In this way, the social worker proactively checks to ensure the positive changes brought about after the assessment in social work are still in place and that the individual has not slid back into a negative situation.

If any issues are found during follow up, then another assessment using social work tools can be done, and the data from the prior assessment will be included.


Social Work Assessment Questions

The social work assessment questions used for a particular client will depend upon the person’s age, situation, and type of evaluation being done.

If someone has a health-related issue, then questions and assessment tools in social work will revolve around health and well-being subjects. If the individual is in need of basic needs assistance (food, shelter), then the questions will differ and be related to those urgent necessities.

Open-Ended vs Closed-Ended Questions

When doing an evaluation in social work, you want to gather as much information from the subject as possible. How you phrase social work assessment questions is important because if they’re worded the right way, they invite a fuller answer than just “yes” or “no.”

This is why most social work tools recommend using open-ended questions, which invite more feedback.

A close-ended question is one that you can answer with a yes or no, where an open-ended question requires more elaboration to answer.

Social Work Assessment Example Questions:

  • Closed-ended: Are you feeling better today?
  • Open-ended: How are you feeling today?

We’ve categorized potential questions to use with social work assessment tools based upon the five key categories of the System model, which also includes strength-based questions.

You can download a PPT and PDF of these questions below to use for an assessment in social work.

social work assessment questions

Download Social Work Assessment Questions PPT

Download Social Work Assessment Questions PDF


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Social Work Assessment Template

There are several variables to consider when doing an assessment in social work, from emotional considerations to physical needs.

Having a social work assessment template can help standardize assessments as much as possible by ensuring key data is correlated into a comprehensive report.

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Conclusion | #1 Guide to Assessment Tools in Social Work

Most of the social work assessment tools used for evaluating clients are based upon industry practices for approaches, questions, and mapping of the social environment around an individual.

It’s vital to learn the positive and negative forces that impact a person’s crisis situation and to explore strengths along with challenges.

Some assessment tools in social work can be used for many different types of clients, such as the self-assessment questionnaire. While other tools are distinct to a specific situation, such as the GAD-7 for anxiety assessment.

Social work assessment and intervention can be as unique as each individual, but they all start from a baseline of best practices and experience that social workers and their social work tools are designed to provide.


Social Work Assessment Guide FAQ

How do you conduct a social work assessment?

A social work assessment is a report that outlines an individual’s situation and immediate and long-term needs. It also includes some type of intervention recommendation designed to help that individual overcome their immediate challenges.

Assessment in social work consists of sitting down with a person and asking them a series of questions designed to ascertain a number of factors that will guide any intervention plan.

What assessments do social workers use?

The approaches used in social work tools and techniques are a combination of psychology-based techniques and organizational tools to connect multiple factors together. A social work assessment template helps put all those moving pieces into a comprehensive assessment and game plan for support.

Social work assessment tools include:
• Genogram & Ecomap
• Self-Assessment Template
• Culturagrams
• Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Gad-7
• Systems (Situation, Safety, Survival Needs, Supports, Short-Term Work)

What are social work skills?

There are several important skills that a social worker needs to have. These include a combination of formal academic training and psychological and emotional skills.

Typical social work skills include:
• Empathy
• Organizational skills
• Decision-making ability
• Critical thinking
• Excellent communication
• Ability to set boundaries
• Active listening
• Time management

What are the goals of social work?

The stages of the social work process are designed with a simple goal in mind, which is to help people. Social workers are usually on the front line when someone is in a crisis in their life and needs assistance.

The overarching goals of social work include:
• Helping people achieve the best possible outcome for personal and social well-being
• Working towards social justice for underserved populations
• Identifying the personal tools and external resources an individual needs to live a better life


Authors: Ogbe Airiodion (Senior Change Management Lead) and Francesca Crolley (AGS Cloud Content Producer)
Content on Airiodion Global Services (AGS)'s Airiodion.com website is copyrighted. Questions? Contact Airiodion Global Services (AGS) .

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