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MSW - What do MSWs do?

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The Social Work Profession

The following information is from the (National Association of Social Workers) NASW :

People looking for a career with meaning, action, diversity, satisfaction, and an abundance of options are often drawn to social work. Social workers are highly trained professionals who care about people, who want to make things better, and who want to relieve suffering. There are over a half million professional social workers in the United States who have all committed their lives to making a difference.

Who are Social Workers?

Social workers help people overcome social and health problems, such as poverty, mental illness, child abuse and neglect, emotional instability, illness, economic uncertainty, domestic violence, homelessness, and drug abuse. They work directly with individuals, couples, families, and groups to identify and overcome these problems. Some social workers also work with communities, organizations, and/or systems to improve services and/or administrate social and health programs.

Social workers are found in many settings, including private practice, mental health, health, schools, community agencies, public welfare, agency administration, and policy and planning. Social work’s approach is unique among the helping professions because it focuses on people’s problems in the context of their social environment. Social workers believe that people are influenced by the strengths and weaknesses of those around them – in their families, communities, workplaces, and organizations.

Social workers apply their professional knowledge and skills to help people make the most effective use of their own abilities. When adequate services do not exist in a community, social workers promote the development of new services and programs.

Common Work Activities

Determining people's social, emotional, and economic problems and needs

  • Providing services to address the needs of people, or referring clients for appropriate professional or community services
  • Developing resources, programs and social policies to address unmet community needs
  • Assessing, diagnosing and/or treating mental health and emotional problems (Clinical Social Work: psychotherapy and counseling)
  • Working to improve social programs and health services through research and by encouraging communities and organizations to be responsive to identified needs
  • Helping people improve personal and/or social functioning by providing or referring for education, training, employment and personal growth services
  • Coordinating and working with governmental, private, civic, religious, business and/or trade organizations to combat social problems through community awareness and response programs
  • Researching, planning and developing social and health policies and programs

Examples of Social Work Jobs

For sheer variety, few occupations can match social work, which offers the broadest range of opportunities and settings. Social work is a broad professional field that encompasses several major areas of work and/or specialization:

  • Social Casework (case management) is basic social work: Assessing needs and applying agency services and resources to address social, health or economic problems, such as in health, community agency and public welfare programs.
  • Medical Social Workers work with the special needs of patients and families in hospitals, long term care facilities, hospice programs, outpatient offices, rehabilitation programs and other health settings.
  • School Social Workers help with emotional, social and economic problems so students can focus on getting an education.
  • Clinical Social Workers are found in private practice or in psychiatric & mental health care settings, where they provide psychotherapy and counseling. They might also work in employee assistance programs within larger companies that have numerous employees.
  • In Administration and Management, social workers oversee the programs and systems that provide social, health and public welfare services. Community Organization social workers work in cooperation with the community to identify needs and to develop or improve services and systems to meet those needs;
  • In Social Policy and Research, Social Workers analyze social problems, design and conduct in depth research studies and develop ways for social programs and systems to overcome those problems.

Social Workers may also specialize in treating specific problems, such as mental health disorders, marriage problems, domestic violence, substance abuse, or living with long term illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. You will find social workers working with special populations of people, such as in aging or gerontology, developmental disabilities, juvenile services and probation, child welfare, or public welfare, to name a few. A social worker may also develop specialized skills in conflict resolution and mediation, violence and victim services, emergency preparedness and disaster relief.

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