What is Social Work?
- Helping the person navigate the legal system to resolve a legal issue
- Communicating with other health care professionals, such as school counselors or primary care physicians, on the person’s behalf
- Connecting people to organizations in the community for additional services or assistance: for example, helping someone get assistance to pay their rent
- Advocating for social justice and change with nonprofit organizations, legislatures and other governmental bodies
- Providing individual or family counseling services
- Diagnosing and treating the person for behavioral, emotional or mental health issues—if you’re a licensed clinical social worker
What is a Social Worker?
Why Become a Social Worker?
- A Sense of Fulfillment
Having a career in social work means you help people overcome challenges in their lives. As such, social workers feel a deep sense of personal achievement. In fact, social work supervisors landed on Forbes’ list of top 10 most meaningful careers .
- Social Workers are in Demand
A rising need for social workers is occurring not just in the United States, but around the world. This is in part due to studies that link government spending on social work to healthier, safer communities.
- Social Work is Shifting Focus
Another reason to join the profession is that social work is undergoing positive changes. In the traditional framework, social workers offer tools and guidance to help solve problems. However, social work is now shifting to take a preventive approach. Rather than waiting for a problem to arise, social workers work proactively, equipping people with skills and counseling to navigate problems.
Educational Pathways in Social Work
Seven Principles of Social Work
- Acceptance: This is a core principle of social work because it requires that a social worker accepts their client as is. As Biestek noted: “Acceptance does not mean approval. The object of acceptance is not ‘the good’ but ’the real.’” Once a client feels this acceptance, it will be easier to open up to the social worker.
- Individualization: This principle that every person is unique keeps social workers from generalizing and making assumptions based on past clients or groups of people.
- Self-determination: Clients have the right to make their own decisions. The social worker should not impose their choices on a client or pressure them to come to a certain decision.
- Non-judgmental attitude: A social worker is to remain unbiased, recognize that each human being has dignity and worth and is neither good nor bad. “Blame and praise may have the same effect on a client: to hide a part of himself so as not to be judged,” Biestek said.
- Confidentiality: You’ve probably heard of doctor-patient confidentiality. Social workers also protect their clients by ensuring information shared remains confidential. This is crucial to develop trust and encourage the client to speak freely.
- Controlled emotional involvement: While a social worker should be dedicated to their clients, they must maintain an objective emotional involvement. This way, they can respond appropriately to the emotions shared by the client.
- Purposeful expression of feelings: Being a social worker requires a great deal of emotional intelligence, recognizing the client’s need to freely express their feelings.
What are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Social Worker?
Different Types of Social Workers
- Community social workers: These workers strive to heal and fix communities. They assess problems and work to implement systems that solve them.
- Criminal justice social workers: These social workers advocate for those in the criminal justice system and their family members. They can connect those charged with crimes and their families with resources.
- Medical social workers: Health care social workers offer services to patients needing emotional, financial and other types of support. They can help patients and their families form post-discharge plans and connect them with community resources. They can also provide counseling as patients weigh medical options.
- Military and veteran social workers: Working with those serving in the military is another option for social workers. They counsel clients and support their families. They also help clients transition to civilian life.
- Child and family social workers: These social workers help children in unstable homes and those who have undergone trauma. Child Protective Services check in on 3.2 million children each year to help ensure their well-being.
- Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)
- Master Social Worker (LMSW)
- Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
What Skills do Social Workers Need?
- Emotional intelligence (E.Q.): E.Q. is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Social workers must be self-aware and able to decipher the emotions of those they are helping.
- Listening: To truly help a person with their problems, social workers must be active listeners. When clients feel they are being heard, they are much more likely to share and develop trust with a social worker.
- Tolerance: Being tolerant of all clients and treating them with respect is critical.
- Communication: Social workers have difficult conversations with their clients and, in some cases, the families of their clients. Being able to communicate clearly and effectively is an especially important skill for social workers.
- Strength: Social work is emotionally taxing, with painful and heartbreaking situations. Social workers strive to heal and help others. This requires resilience and strength.