“When action meets compassion, lives change.”
March is National Social Work Month, which means it’s a special time at Arise Counseling & Therapy. The team here at Arise currently consists of six women, all of whom are social workers. As March is quickly coming to an end, I wanted to spend some time shedding light on who social workers are and what we do.
According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), social work is a helping profession with the mission to enhance human well-being and help meet the needs of all people. Social work is different from other professions because we focus on individuals and their environments; we believe that a person is heavily influenced by their environment, so we observe and assess all of the systems that a person experiences to better help them. This may look like helping a client cope with their reality, as well as empowering them to change that reality if necessary. Social work is also the only helping profession that requires advocacy for social justice as part of its code of ethics; this is why we strive to help meet the needs of all people, with special consideration for those who are vulnerable, oppressed, or living in poverty. The NASW states that there are more than 600,000 clinically trained social workers in the United States; this is more than clinically trained psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric nurses combined. 60% of mental health professionals are clinically trained social workers; there are a lot of us out there!
Social workers help individuals, families, and communities of all ages and backgrounds, in hundreds of different ways. People often think of child welfare or therapy when they hear social work. While many social workers work in these fields, we can also do so much more. Social workers can be found in hospitals helping people cope with chronic illness, in schools preventing students from dropping out, at nonprofit organizations as executive directors, and even as members of Congress advocating for improved services. The field of social work is as diverse as the individuals, families and communities that we serve. Some of the specific types of social work include:
Advocacy & Community Organization: this may look like responding to the many forces that create inequality in our society. Social work advocates fight for the rights of all people to create social justice.
Aging: social workers working with older adults link them to services and resources to help them live more independently and with dignity.
Mental Health & Clinical Social Work: like I previously stated, clinical social workers are one of the nation’s largest groups of mental health professionals. These mental health providers provide services in rural and urban settings.
Politics: an increase in social workers are holding elective offices from school boards all the way up to the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.
Research: social workers in research provide the evidence-based framework for effective practice.
School Social Work: school social workers assist with mental health or behavioral support, academic support, as well as provide individual or group counseling/therapy.
These examples are just a fraction of the areas that you can see social workers in. Other types of social work include: administration and management, child welfare, developmental disabilities, health care, international social work, justice and corrections, substance abuse social work, policy and planning, public welfare, etc.
The theme of this year’s annual celebration of National Social Work Month is “Social Workers are Essential.” This theme was selected by the NASW to highlight the contributions made by social workers in our society, especially this past year during the Coronavirus pandemic. Social workers make up a unique profession that is committed to challenging social justice and empowering people to “live their best lives.” Social workers, be proud of what you’re doing and the profession you chose in order to make a difference. If you know a social worker, thank them for their commitment to changing people’s lives.
“Social Work is all about leaning into the discomfort of ambiguity and uncertainty, and holding an empathetic space so people can find their own way.” -Brené Brown