When I tell people I’m a social worker I almost always get the same responses. Usually, it’s someone assuming that I take people’s kids away. And while there are some social workers who work in the child welfare system, not every social worker does this! The second response is generally something like “oh, how rewarding” or “you’re so selfless.” Yes, it’s rewarding. No, I’m not selfless. I ENJOY what I do!
As I’ve said in other posts, the best thing about being a social worker is that you can do just about anything you want. You can find a job working almost entirely “in the field” aka not in an office setting. You can work in people’s homes, nursing homes, do street outreach, etc. OR you can work entirely in an office setting. There are plenty of options available for people. Social work is not one size fits all!
The other great thing is that there are SO MANY types of client populations we can work with. Sometimes we work with a specific population like children with autism. Other times we work with a more broad, open-ended population like in a private practice with adults. We can also focus on specific disorders such as substance abuse, severe mental health, PTSD, trauma, etc. The list could go on and on.
Let’s talk a little about a few different types of social workers that are out there. Please note, I am not going to get even CLOSE to listing all the different types of social worker jobs!
This is the job that people who know nothing about social work assume we all do. Child welfare social workers work tirelessly to ensure that children are safe and secure in their homes. Their main job is to protect children from instances of abuse and/or neglect. This can include, but is not limited to, children who are physically, emotionally, or psychologically abused, children whose medical needs are not being met, children let unattended for long periods of time (when not age appropriate), and children whose parents use or abuse illicit drugs and/or alcohol.
Child welfare social workers work with both the children and families to establish a plan. Sometimes the child must be removed from the house until the caregivers can establish a safe environment for the child to return to. The social worker is there through the entire process, creating a case plan for the caregivers to follow and ensuring proper temporary placement for the child.
Child welfare social workers can experience a lot of stress as they often have large caseloads and a high turnover rate. Also, most times the caregivers do not want to receive services so they can be resistant to suggestions the social worker makes. However, it can also be rewarding. The goal of the child welfare system as a whole is to fix the problems so that the family can be together. This is not always possible, but it is the goal of the child welfare system. Watching a family heal and getting to be a part of that process is extremely valuable.
This is near and dear to my heart. I love love LOVE working with this population. Social workers in this area can work with many types of populations from children to adults to the geriatric population. They can also work in many settings from in home settings where you go to your client’s houses, to schools, offices, jails, and residential programs.
There is a wide variety of things you can do with this population including group and individual counseling with a focus on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI) techniques.
Social workers who work with clients who misuse substances can expect to work with dual-diagnosis clients (people with both substance use disorders and mental health disorders). They also sometimes work with individuals who do not want treatment so they may have to work with clients who are not quite ready for treatment.
Working with this population can be really fun (okay, I may be a little biased). You really get to see the “ah-hah” moments sometimes as light bulbs start going off in your clients heads. This is especially exciting when you see this happen for a client who was very resistant when you first started meeting with them!
It can also be hard. Relapse is oftentimes a part of recovery and remembering that you plant the seeds but they have to water them is so important! Sometimes we don’t realize that we actually made an impact until much further in the future (or sometimes we never realize just how important we were to our clients!)
Some social workers work in a school setting. Their role is to help coordinate things with the child in school, their parents, and the school staff. They can help coordinate services, such as working with special education students, as well as help provide emotional support to the children at the school.
School social workers can help work with children and provide therapy during the schoolday without the child having to leave school for a session which is great! These social workers can help students with mental health concerns, behavioral problems, and academic support. They also can consult with teachers, parents, and administrators at the school to provide comprehensive support for the child.
Working in schools can be challenging. Oftentimes, school social workers are called when there are allegations of abuse or when children appear to be struggling in school. Social workers can step in and assess children for various mental health concerns and establish positive relationships with the children at the school. Social workers in this setting often love their job because they love working with kids every day.
Medical social workers can work in a variety of settings. They can work in nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities, residential treatment centers, hospice, etc. One of their main goals is to coordinate for the clients needs to ensure they are being met whether it is a physical or emotional need.
Medical social workers often see clients at some of the scariest or worst times of their lives. Think about it- who wants to be in the hospital? I know I don’t. Medical social workers must work with a team of doctors, nurses, and other professionals to coordinate care for their clients. This may mean finding a nursing home to discharge the client to from the hospital or finding a residential drug treatment center for a client who overdosed.
Medical social workers are faced with many barriers to overcome. They have to be quick thinking and creative to make sure that their clients are taken care of. Sometimes they have to advocate for clients to make sure that they will be set up for success upon discharge from the medical facility.
Social workers in this field can work in an array of different settings. Much like with substance abusing clients, mental health social workers can work in homes, schools, jails, offices, and residential programs. These can range from short-term, crisis stabilization units to long term programs or facilities.
Mental health social workers can work with clients with all sorts of mental health disorders from anxiety, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, Bipolar, etc. They work with helping clients establish routines to cope with their mental health and how to develop coping skills to thrive in evey day life.
Depending on the type of client the social worker is working with, they may focus on things like basic life skills (i.e. proper cleaning techniques, medication compliance, etc) or more advanced things like trying different coping skills or teaching clients about their disorders.
Working with this population can be challenging but rewarding. It is easy to get frustrated when clients aren’t following their treatment plan. You also get to see clients make incredible strides in understanding and managing their mental health.
What Can We Do? More Like What CAN’T We Do?
As you can see, there are many types of social worker jobs available. We can do just about anything. Don’t be scared to branch out and try working with new populations, you never know which you’ll absolutely love!
Did I miss any of the main types of jobs? What type of job do you have? Tell me in the comments below!