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A SWOT analysis is one of the most used and effective business tools available. The acronym stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It is a structured planning method commonly employed to improve a project or business venture. It can also be employed in a helping relationship with minor adjustments. The strengths and weaknesses on the SWOT diagram are similar to the proximal protective and risk factors respectively. The opportunities and threats can be substituted with the distal protective and risk factors.

The basic idea of a SWOT analysis is to:

  1. Reinforce the strengths (proximal protective factors).
  2. Avoid, eliminate, or manage the weaknesses (proximal risk factors).
  3. Compensate for the threats (distal risk factors).
  4. Utilize the opportunities (distal protective factors).
  5. Turn the weaknesses (proximal risk factors) into strengths (proximal protective factors).
  6. Develop the threats (distal risk factors) into opportunities (distal protective factors).

Thereby one strengthens the supportive factors while getting rid of the negative influence of the risk factors. Factors should also include those that apply to the person doing the helping and her/his relationship with the recipient.

Exercise – You Own SWOT Analysis!

Take enough time to complete the SWOT diagram provided below. Consider one quadrant at a time and list two to three most prominent factors in each. Be honest and open-minded in the process. Ask the questions:

  1. What immediate habits, behaviors, etc. stands most in the way of helping the other person improve? (Weaknesses)
  2. What underlying barriers are there that would hinder positive change? (Threats)
  3. Which strengths do you and your partner, family member, or friend possess that can make an immediate positive difference? (Strengths)
  4. What underlying aids or buttresses are present that could support positive change? (Opportunities)

Using the worksheet below, take enough time, and list two to three factors per quadrant. Foremost, think of the person who you are helping but also consider yourself and the relationship between you.

Download and print the blank SWOT diagram here: SWOT Diagram

Use the previous examples as a guideline and fill in the four blocks in the SWOT diagram. Remember that strengths and weaknesses are habits, behavior, and environmental aspects that have a direct influence on the mental illness and recovery, is essentially shorter-term, and easier to address. Opportunities and threats are underlying factors that are more inherent to a person and his or her personality, preferences, intrinsic abilities, background, and disposition.

Now that you have listed at least two to three factors in each of the quadrants, it is time to formulate action plans to strengthen the supportive factors (strengths and opportunities) and manage the risk factors (weaknesses and threats).


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