The Language we Speak

AJ Soto, Practitioner

I recently attended “Disrupting the Poverty Cycle”, a conference held in Boston. Being there took me into a whole new world.  When listening to speakers who do comprehensive case management, they used the words like coaching or mentoring to describe themselves, titles that I have not used.

Have I been using the wrong words, I asked myself?  Case manager is what comes to mind when I introduce myself. This made me think that I need to put myself in our client’s mindset and how it sounds when I am addressing myself as a case manager on their behalf:

“Hi I am John’s case manager and, we are here to help him get back into the workforce.”

Or instead:

“Hi I am John’s mentor, and we are here to help him get back into the workforce.”

Which statements helps to preserve an individual’s dignity?  It is quite clear when you read the statements alou.

I went further and looked at our interpretation of case management at Career Path Services

“Case Management is the process used to move your participant towards greater self-sufficiency. The process includes a variety of strategies, techniques and resources designed to build on your participant’s strengths and overcome barriers. The process should be a shared partnership between you and your participant; both share in the responsibility of producing change.” 

Mentoring, as defined by Wikipedia offers a similar, but personal strategy:

“Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less”

There is nothing wrong with using the word case management, but we must be careful in its application.  By changing our words, we give more meaning to an individual’s dignity of work and encourage positive employment outcomes. By simply considering the consequences of our words, we can elevate those we serve to overcome their employment barriers.

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