Oftentimes, one tends to associate the social work profession with child protection issues only. Many do not realize how many varying roles a social worker can have, and the different fields a social worker can provide support in. Social work settings can range from general fields, such as Community Support to more specialized fields such as Mental Health and Addiction.
So what is social work exactly?
Simply put, Social Work is a profession in which trained professionals are dedicated to help people going through vulnerable phases and, through challenges they face in everyday life. A social worker uses a set of skills, acquired through training, to work with individuals, couples, families and communities with the aim of providing support, advocacy and empowerment. Essentially, social work is about building a trusting and supportive relationship with the client with the goal to deliver support and necessary positive changes in the client’s life.
What does a social worker do?
The social worker is skilled and experienced in providing the required support to guide the client through the problem they might be experiencing. The support can be both practical and emotional, depending on the nature of the problem. For instance, let’s say someone is experiencing a lot of stress due to work. The stress is extreme to the extent that they are experiencing anxiety and their day to day function is being affected. Here, the social worker will explore with the client what the source of the stress is and, while providing emotional support, the social worker also provides practical ways how to deal with the anxiety, such as breathing and grounding exercises, mindfulness and other coping techniques. Throughout, the social worker can also empower the client to either communicate their difficulties with management or to look for another employment opportunity. The aforementioned action plan would be agreed upon by the client. This is a necessary step as the social worker works hand in hand with the client and only at their pace whilst promoting client self determination.
Like any other profession, a social worker has a code of ethics to abide by which states that “social work is committed to the following core values: human rights and human dignity, social justice and service. These values determine the principles to which each social worker should aspire.” (Social Work Code of Ethics, p.8, 2018)
Who seeks a social worker?
Basically, anyone can seek the support of a social worker. The following list is not exhaustive and it includes a wide variety of populations such as;
- Children and adolescents
- Individuals with medical needs
- Individuals with a disability
- Individuals experiencing mental health issues
- Individuals struggling with addiction
- Couples experiencing conflict and communication difficulties
- Parents wishing to improve their parenting and communication skills
- Elderly and ageing persons
- Survivors of domestic and gender based violence
- Individuals struggling with their budgeting
- Individuals wishing to improve their time-management
- Anyone who is going through a challenging time and requires emotional and practical support
Where can you find a social worker?
Often, a social worker is attached to a service provided within governmental agencies, health care services, church entities and/or NGOs. However, for those who would prefer to access the services of a social worker independently, the option of a private practice social worker is also available.
MASW (2018) Social Work Code of Ethics: Values and principles for the social work profession. Retrieved from https://masw.org.mt/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Social-Work-Code-of-Ethics-2018-SWPB-and-MASW.pdf