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Social Workers- Taking a closer look at this high-demand field
By Bonnie Walker, allied health world contributing writer
Published: September, 7 2010
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As a practice and discipline, social work is dedicated to the improvement of individual quality of life and the betterment of communities through the advancement of social welfare and social justice. These common goals are achieved through different means, so with formal training and the right social work degree, graduates may pursue the specialty that is best suited to their personality and skill set. Many social workers engage in individual and/or group psychotherapy for the purpose of helping people change self-destructive behaviors and address unresolved conflicts in their relationships with family, friends, and others. As counselors, social workers may also educate citizens about resources in the community that will help them improve the circumstances of their lives. These resources may include different forms of public assistance, public programs, and community support groups. In addition to providing psychotherapy, social workers also administer governmental programs pertaining to public health and welfare.
Other social workers engage in community organizing or perform research into areas of public policy in order to effect change in society at the macro level. No matter what professional role social workers choose for themselves, their priority is always to improve social conditions within a community so as to better equip it's citizens with the tools they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, both emotionally and physically, while encouraging them to meet their own social and personal needs.
Social work is an interdisciplinary field that draws upon aspects of psychology, sociology, and medicine. Most social workers also have knowledge and interest in the fields of politics, philosophy, and economics. The degree to which these various disciplines impact the daily work of a social worker will vary depending on the social worker's theoretical orientation and the setting in which he or she works.
What conditions does a social worker treat?
As psychotherapists, counselors, and educators, social workers are equipped to treat individuals suffering from a wide variety of psychological disturbances and psychiatric conditions and to provide assistance and support to those struggling with disability or disease. Some social work jobs involve applied therapy for mentally ill individuals suffering from conditions including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They may counsel couples and families who are experiencing personal conflict. Social workers specializing in the field of addiction help individuals suffering from the consequences of alcohol and substance abuse. In school settings, social workers may work with children with learning disabilities and behavioral disorders in an effort to boost students' academic progress and enhance their overall educational experience.
In the course of providing individual and group counseling, social workers engage in client intake and assessment, develop treatment plans, and identify helpful community resources and social services. The focus is on helping patients identify and understand their own problems and develop strategies for marshaling available personal and social resources to solve those problems.
Where do social workers work?
Social workers work in a number of settings. Social workers who spend most of their time providing direct psychotherapy and individual counseling often work in private practice, either as solo practitioners or as part of a group medical or counseling office. Other employers of social workers include hospitals, nursing homes, mental health facilities, social service organizations, government agencies, and public and private schools. Social workers who concentrate on public policy research may work for universities, medical research facilities, public health organizations, and governmental or non-governmental think tanks.
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