Social Work Skill-Building ‘Telephone’ Dyads

Editor’s Note: The following post is an assignment from the La Salle faculty training course Collaboration Online Plus. In this assignment, course participants are tasked with redesigning an face-to-face lesson for the online environment. Please show support to your fellow Lasallians by leaving your feedback on their ideas in the comments section below this post.


Social Work Skill-Building ‘Telephone’ Dyads*

*The Following Classroom Technique has been adapted from Tips, Techniques, and Ready-to-Use Activities for the Virtual Classroom by Jennifer Hofmann

Skill-building Dyads: Help social work students to further their professional growth by….

1.  Focuses on the fact that social work is a consciously planned and purposeful process.

 2.  Heightens the student’s awareness of content and affect in relation to self and client in conceptualizing the interaction.

 3.  Establishes skills of observation, critical thinking, and self-evaluation as a routine part of social work practice.

 4.  Provides practice in recognizing and communicating information significant to the helping process.

 5. Offers a format for evaluation of the student.

       6. Provides an opportunity for ethical practice consistent with the NASW Code of Ethics.


Each student will be randomly paired with another student to create the dyad. Each partner in the dyad will take a turn as the Client and as the Social Worker.

The remainder of the class members will be Observers.


Synchronous online classroom session:

We will set-up a scenario in which two students are simulating a telephone conversation. Sometimes as a social worker, telephone contact is the only form of contact established with a client.  The two students chosen have already completed a dyad in the traditional in-person classroom.

It is recommended that student’s test their computer software in advance to see if you can hear and/or use your microphone.  Running the Audio Wizard is advised.

‘Telephone’ Dyads:

In the dyad pair, the Social Worker will be conducting a follow-up call with the Client. The Social Worker will start the dyad by saying “Hello __________.  I am calling to follow-up from our session…..”


The Social Worker should stay “on the phone,” with the Client, until both parties feel the conversation is complete or time exhausts.

            Observers should hold their thoughts via the instant message function until the end.

The session between the client and social worker will take approximately 5 – 10 minutes.

Debriefing: *  The students in the dyad will be asked about what worked well and what was difficult.

* Observers can provide feedback via the instant message function or microphone.

*  Observers should maintain etiquette by using the ‘hand raising’ function

*  Instructor will provide feedback on the dyad.


As the Client, the student is responsible to:
Present a situation that is presumably a real life situation.

·         Present a situation that is substantive but not overly complex (survivor of child sexual abuse, dual diagnosis) so that the Social Worker has the opportunity to appropriately intervene.

·         Take care of oneself in the dyad process by revealing only information with which the student is relatively comfortable sharing with the group.

·                        Provide verbal & written feedback to the Social Worker.

As the Social Worker, the student is responsible to:

 ·         Begin the session by setting the tone, asking questions, and seeking to form a good working relationship with the Client.

·         Guide the session.

·         Consider ways to assist the Client.

·         Keep the session to about 5 – 10 minutes (not much longer, not much shorter).

·                     Maintain the Client’s confidentiality.

As the Observer, the student is responsible to:

  • Respectfully “hold the space” for the interaction between the Client & Social Worker.
  • Pay close attention to the interaction between the Client & Social Worker.
  • Consider alternative interventions.
  • Maintain the Client’s confidentiality.
  • Provide verbal & written feedback to the Social Worker.

Very important: 

All group members will presume that the situation presented by the Client is real. Therefore, everything that goes on in the dyads is confidential.  Your Client needs to know that the Social Worker (and Observers) are trustworthy. One of the best ways to assure the Client, is to maintain the Client’s confidentiality.












3 replies on “Social Work Skill-Building ‘Telephone’ Dyads”

  1. What a great idea! I like the idea of role playing within the session a “real life”conversation between social worker and client. As we know, social worker and client interaction can be so contingent on the in vivo relationship built and so much is ascertained by being present with the client. However, we don’t typically get an opportunity to explore what it is like to communicate on the phone before we have to actually try it out with the first client! There are such nuances to discovering our own “phone personality” as professionals, and often times we are not aware of what they are until we have to utilize the phone for important communication. Giving students an opportunity to realistically experience this could be priceless. Would be really interested in knowing how it goes if you actually use it!!

  2. I agree with Adrienne that role playing can be very helpful in developing relationship-building skills for the future. It might be helpful to provide students with a list of sample scenarios in case they choose a topic that is overly complex or they can’t think of something at all. A good follow up assignment might be to record the synchronous session, so that the students involved in the role-playing activity can listen to their own conversation at a later date and do some personal reflection in addition to getting classmates’ feedback. Nice, thorough job on this one!

  3. I really like this idea. In working with interns I often start them off on the phone, obtaining intake information. This is an excellent way to prepare them for the experience. I agree with Nick, it maybe helpful to have a few scenarios available for the students. Nicely done!

Comments are closed.