Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Not Applicable

Advisor Role

Not Applicable


This multiperspectual study was undertaken to explore and describe the complexity of the helping / healing process in a community-based counselling centre. The standard for evaluation was client satisfaction. Client and worker participants’ perspectives were sought in an exploration of whether and / or how the client as an individual, the worker both as an individual and as a staff member, the therapeutic relationship, and the organizational setting impacted client satisfaction.

Former clients of the agency (N=400) were asked to complete Greenfield, Attkisson, and Pascoe’s (©2005) Service Satisfaction Scale (SSS-30). Respondents (N=73) were profiled using descriptive statistics which led the researcher to a further sample of client participants who agreed to follow-up interviews. Overall, twenty-two former clients made up the client participants’ voices captured in the in-depth qualitative study (N=22). Simultaneously, worker participants were asked to take part in focus groups to lend their perspectives on their work and on client satisfaction (N=7).

Grounded theorizing characterized the qualitative portion of the study. The analogy of the dance was developed to frame participants’ experiences exploring the process of reaching out and asking for help, what was brought to the dance, the dance itself, the dance floor as context and what elements contributed to extremely satisfied dancers. Constructs related to client participant identity, social taboos, and risks of rewounding emerged. Clear negotiation and communication, the development of a trusting and meaningful connection, working through missteps, intentional endings, and the quality of the counselling experience were found to be important contributors to satisfaction. Worker participants made connections between organizational and supervisory provisions and client satisfaction. Intangible provisions such as validation, support and positive feedback, interested and involved leadership, autonomy, and the promotion of self-care were named and explored. Concrete provisions including training, time and staffing, regulation in caseload, flexibility in scheduling, and adequate remuneration were also recognized for their influence on client satisfaction. Organizational context, climate, and culture were identified as important for both client and worker participants in this study of satisfaction. The ability to grow beyond life challenges also proved relevant to the discussion.

Models for empowering and disempowering contexts emerged and were constructed to frame the discussion. The sent message, I value you and the internalized message, I feel valued were explored in the context of evaluations. Recommendations were made regarding evaluation of practice and about what social workers and their organizations need to consider in light of the study. Further research is suggested to explore relevance and applicability to other contexts.

Convocation Year


Included in

Social Work Commons