Local News Update

Sarah Zollmer

My career: Social Work

Social workers help people cope with challenges in every stage of their lives. There are two main types of social workers: direct-service social workers who help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives, and clinical social workers, who diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. They help with a wide range of situations, such as adopting a child or being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Social workers work with many populations, including children, people with disabilities, and people with addictions.

Clinical social workers treat and diagnose mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. Listed below are the things clinical social workers work help with.

  • Diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders, including anxiety and depression
  • Provide individual, group, family, and couples therapy
  • Assess clients’ histories, backgrounds, and situations to understand their needs, as well as their strengths and weaknesses
  • Develop a treatment plan with the client, doctors, and other healthcare professionals
  • Encourage clients to discuss their emotions and experiences to develop a better understanding of themselves and their relationships
  • Help clients adjust to changes in their life, such as a divorce or being laid-off
  • Work with clients to develop strategies to change behavior or cope with difficult situations
  • Refer clients to other resources or services, such as support groups or other mental health professionals
  • Evaluate their clients’ progress and, if necessary, adjust the treatment plan

Social workers generally work full time. However, they may sometimes work evenings and weekends to see clients or attend meetings.

Working Locations for social workers are

  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Nursing homes
  • Community mental health clinics
  • Private practices
  • State and local governments
  • Schools
  • Colleges and universities
  • Substance abuse clinics
  • Military bases and hospitals

The median annual wage of social workers was $42,480 in May 2010. However,
$38,600 for clinical social workers. A bachelor’s degree is required for most direct-service social work positions, but some positions and settings require a master’s degree. Clinical social workers must have a master’s degree. Li-censure varies by state. Clinical social workers must be licensed. Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago offers a really good program for this career.

The four main skill categories required to be a clinical social worker are assessment, treatment planning, intervention and outcome evaluation.

To be a good social worker, you must be compassionate and have a true desire to work with people, sometimes in very unsavory situations. You have to be willing to go out of your comfort zone and set your own needs on the back burner. If you don't know your counseling styles or you don't feel comfortable using them, then you should probably try to find another way to help people. You have to be self-confident, or clients won't be confident in your abilities. Having a good poker face is necessary. Clients say and do some shocking things, and you have to be able to roll with it just as though they'd told you their aunt grows daisies instead of, for example, that they were raped by their father until they were twelve. Finally, you must be willing to grow and to admit that you'll never know everything. That's why the Board requires social workers to take continuing education.

Employment of social workers is expected to grow by 25 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will be due to an increase in demand for health care and social services but will vary by specialty.