Body positioning and room design


Body language is a form of nonverbal communication that accompanies speech. Common forms of body language are eye contact, posture, facial expression, and fine and gross movement. Social workers must understand how these seemingly simple, sometimes unconscious, body language responses may have a lasting effect by encouraging or discouraging a client. Body language with a negative connotation can create barriers and dissuade a client from establishing and developing the helping relationship. In contrast, when the social worker’s body language conveys interest and empathy, the client is more likely to feel comfortable and receptive to assistance.

Because nonverbal communication can hinder a successful client relationship, social workers need to understand the way in which they present themselves. This extends to what is presented via the environment, as well—social workers must also consider the interview room’s layout and the tone it conveys.

In this Discussion, you explore body language and the helping relationship by assessing a social work scenario.

watch the video Southside Community Services: Mrs. Bargas, Episode 2.

  • Identify one to two points you would change in each of the following aspects of the video scenario:
    • Seating arrangements of the social worker and client
    • Room design and decor
    • Body positions of the social worker and client
  • Explain why you would make these changes and how these changes might improve the interviewing process.
  • Describe the overall energy in the room and how the office design and social worker’s body language help to create this type of energy.


Cummins, L., K., & Sevel, J., A. (2017). Social work skills for beginning direct practice: Text, workbook, and interactive web based case studies (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

  • Chapter 5, “Basic Skills for Direct Practice” (pp. 87-96)Cummins, L., K., & Sevel, J., A. (2017). Social work skills for beginning direct practice: Text, workbook, and interactive web based case studies (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

 Walden University, LLC. (Producer). (2016). Southside Community Services: Mrs. Bargas, episode 2 [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author. 

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