Single Interaction Model (SIM)

Hazel L. Reid and Alison J. Fielding 2007

 

What is SIM?

Please don’t feel you have to look for any deeper meaning behind the title as I did before exploring. The title of this model is as straightforward as the main premise this model is built around: assuming you have only one intervention with the client. It’s a client-centred approach.

  • First an admission you should take into account: I haven’t based this page on the book the model is handled in; ‘Providing Support to Young People, A Guide to Interviewing in Helping Relationships‘ or ‘Introduction to Career Counselling & Coaching. Please see the Links and References section at the bottom for the proper reference. I have based this review around the different sources about SIM I have found on the web. The resources I have used are listed in the reference section and if you feel you have something to contribute, please let me know! Why did I do this? I’m very tempted to buy this book, but at the same time, I have a very long wish list for books which I just can’t afford. The model is one chapter in the book and if you are setting out in career guidance and if you can, I can fully recommend reading the full book, alongside Creative Career Coaching and quite a few other works. As per usual, this is not an advert!

SIMs genetics

Looking at SIM, it has clear links with Egan’s well-know Skilled Helper Model. Unlike Egan’s model, this model is based on the single interaction it assumes you have with the client. For many of us, that’s reality in our professional lives. Three reasons of why there may be only one opportunity for you to have an intervention with a client could be:

  • There may be a lack of understanding of what career guidance entails, how much time it takes and what good career guidance is. This can develop in an unwillingness of the funding body to allow more than one intervention per client.
  • In other cases there is a blatant disinterest by the funding organisation to offer good career guidance. What is offered is there to tick the Ofsted or Gatsby box, at least at the face of it. I can only leave it up to the individual career professional to decide whether it’s worth engaging in that kind of work.It can be an excellent challenge to ‘change the ship around’ but it can also lead to loss of reputation.
  • Sometimes, the funding organisation is very willing and keen to offer the best career guidance possible, but the financial means or other resources are lacking.

Those of us working in schools will recognised at least one of these, if not two or all three. Only today I read a post on LinkedIn about half hour appointments, which can be the result of any of the 3 situations explained above. I would strongly argue that even SIM is not going to be able to help you offer high quality career guidance in those circumstances. Half an hour is just too short, though it can function well as part of a ‘checking’ exercise or to get an overview of a cohort with more in depth and longer career interventions later.

Obviously, it’s not always the guidance environment that prompts us to use SIM or offer one appointment. Sometimes the reasons for this may lie by the client; for example they can be moving away, or just need the one appointment and they are really motivated… Sometimes the reason is with us; we are leaving a position or school, it’s the end of the school year and the client is not visiting our school next year… The model always makes me think of solution based, short term approaches and can be an excellent choice in the case of some of the examples I just mentioned.

If you are interested in a more in depth comparison between Egan’s Model and SIM, you could explore ‘Introduction to Career Counselling & Coaching’ by Hazel Reid. Reference included further down.

What does it look like in practice?

Single Interaction Model SIMAs you can see, for those of you familiar with other models based on Egan’s work, this may look fairly familiar. I would almost say SIM looks deceptively simple, but just like DOTS and other models it takes practice to get it to work well in your skillset. Notice the blue section at the bottom and the two ‘stops’ either end; this is about just the one intervention.

Critique

Let’s first start assessing this model and offer some analysis surrounding it, rather than offer a critique of the model itself. You’ll hopefully see that one flows into the other.

Similar to Egan’s model, this is a three stage model. Three stage models in career guidance are nothing new of course, and they make sense. It’s also in essence, and by definition, a linear model. The model doesn’t propose follow up because of its premise of just the one appointment. This again, can be where it differs from Egan’s model, where there is an implicit assumption that the last step can lead on to a revisit by the client, starting another intervention with three steps, similar to the Transtheoretical Model or Stages of Change Model.

Egan’s model also allows the flexibility to break up the 3 steps over more than one appointment where needed. What this can mean in practice is that with some clients, the first intervention can entirely be taken up with exploring the client’s present situation, or not even that. Some clients may need the first appointment to help them gain trust, motivation, or an understanding of what we can offer. With this model, this is clearly and obviously not the case. This is, for want of a better expression, a ‘hitting the ground running’ model for the client, with our help and support.

Consequently, taking the 3 reasons for one appointment into account and given choice, this model is strongest where clients are already fairly motivated to engage, confident talking with us and where they are less likely to have backgrounds that necessitate more than one intervention. The danger is that we run the risk of selling the client who ‘needs more’ short and send them away with only part of what they need at the end of the one intervention.

How can we get around this? Concentrating on school work, one suggestion could be by either the school or us offering more cost effective preparatory work. This is invariably ‘group work’ in the broadest sense, which could be:

  • an options assembly
  • options workshops, career planning workshops, etc…
  • career lessons offered by teachers. This is where we can work with the teacher offering the career curriculum to tie our interventions in with what they offer.
  • information per email or posters, so we can hopefully and possibly gain time we can use for guidance work within the intervention

All of these points are not related to the model as such, but to the situation surrounding our work. The model offers a strong solution to a situation, as long as we keep an eye on why we are using the model and the downsides of that (mainly institutional) context of not offering more than one appointment.

This may make it sound like SIM can only be a tool for us to use in a difficult or unsatisfactory situation, but obviously this isn’t always the case. There may be very valid reasons why we choose to use SIM, as outlined above.

One thought for those starting out in the profession and bumping into this model, maybe even trying it out ‘in the field’. This is a client-centred model and for those just setting out in career guidance, having only one appointment with a client can be quite stressful as you may feel you need to ‘cram a lot in’. The danger of SIM is that practice can drift into directive work within the time frame because you feel the pressure. It’s very important to be aware, while using this model, that this model is facilitating and to ensure that at all times, the client is at the centre of the intervention and client ownership of goals, points of discussion and exploration is the goal of your work to ensure and increase motivation. Giving the client instructions or telling the client the way forward will inhibit client-ownership of outcomes and will in the worst case cause the client not to follow up on anything discussed in the intervention. This is especially important to realise and guard against in this model I feel.

What are your feelings and ideas surrounding this model and the context(s) in which it can be used?

  • Is it a model you are bound to find useful in your professional context?
  • Are any of the reasons I mentioned why this model may be applied or useful applicable to where you work? If so, how does it impact on you?
  • How does using this model, as well as the context, affect the clients you work with, the outcomes they are looking for etc…?
  • Which clients may find this model helpful, or less helpful. Can you think of some examples?
  • In what other ways does this model differ From Egan’s model and can the critique about his model be applied here as well?
  • As per usual; how does this model far against to Brown’s tool?

Links and References