What does a social worker actually do?
- There are a variety of options for those in the social work field. Social workers can be involved in research, grant writing, teaching, providing mental health therapy and/or as case managers linking individuals to resources and opportunities for change and growth. At the end of the day, we as social workers are best known for providing therapeutic support and linking people to resources that facilitate the growth they may be working on while in counseling.
Where did you go to school? Why there?
- I completed my Master’s in Social Work (MSW) program at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. They have one of the better clinical social work programs and that was the direction I was interested in. Clinical social work focuses primarily on training students to provide mental health therapy. Clinical programs have an emphasis on teaching numerous theoretical approaches that can be used when supporting individuals in sifting through the challenges they come to therapy for. Everyone has different needs when they come into a therapy room; for example, some prefer a direct, behavioral approach and others prefer approaches that focus on empathy and exploration. A clinical social work program teaches theoretical approaches so a clinician can have a toolbox of resources to support a client with whatever approach is the best fit in the moment.
Do social workers solve problems and if so what type of problems do you solve?
- Social workers engage in a variety of areas of expertise and interest. I’ll reflect on my area of expertise, counseling. The short answer to that question is, yes, we help people sort through and solve their own problems. I imagine therapy to be like two people completing a puzzle together. Sometimes, we just need a place to lay out all the pieces, try a few out, get some feedback and together put all the pieces together. Some problems, or “puzzles,” may require a little more feedback and nudging than others, but at the end of the day, it’s nice to see a completed puzzle, or at least a puzzle in forward progression; meaning, it isn’t my goal to solve someone’s problems, but to support them in a process of self-discovery by using a variety of theoretical perspectives that work best for the individual.
Since the government wants to get rid of Obamacare, there are a lot of changes when it comes to health care. Does this affect mental healthcare as well? How?
- It absolutely has us all concerned. If the new administration’s desired changes go through many individuals with disabilities will lose health coverage without a viable replacement. This would in turn effect how those with the most need receive services. In our code of ethics we have a section that states we do not abandon our clients; therefore, if there was a dramatic removal of health insurance for people many ethical social workers would be unpaid for the services they continue to provide until viable supports for the clients were found. Uprooting Obamacare would have a domino effect on the other insurance providers as well, the damage could spread quickly. That said, it is important to remember that social workers are known for advocating for clients and it is essential we remember to advocate for ourselves and our profession by getting involved and making our voices heard. Which is exactly what so many of us are doing!!
In many countries “social worker” is a protected title. You cannot call yourself a social worker without the right degree. How is this in the USA?
- Our title is something that takes many years of hard work. A person should not be claiming they are a Licensed Clinical Social Worker or a Social Work Intern without having received the proper training which is typically obtaining the required supervision hours and passing the licensing exam for their state. Every state’s licensing requirements may vary. In California, in order to qualify for the licensing exam a person must have a master’s degree from an accredited university, complete additional required coursework and complete 3,200 supervised hours of field experience. On average this process can take a person 4-5 years to complete.
What do you do if a client has no social network and does not the ability to solve their problems?
- There are times when a client may have needs that go beyond what a social worker may be able to provide. We are a collaborative field and frequently reach out to other providers such as doctors, psychiatrists, alcohol and drug counselors, occupational therapists, behavior analysts etc. to connect our clients to additional resources if therapy is not the best fit for them.
What’s your end game? What do you hope to accomplish during the full span of your career?
- I don’t have a grand finale in mind at the end of my career. My career is validating in the small changes and spurts of growth you see in a person day to day. That’s why I do what I do.
For more info on the mental health click here: Social Workers