All posts tagged social worker

13 Ways to Celebrate Social Worker Month

March is designated Social Work Month.  Social workers are a diverse group but share so much in common.  Social workers share a passion for helping others, fighting against oppression, a belief in the inherent worth of each person and each person’s right to self-determination.  If you know a social worker – wish them well this month.  If you are a social worker – Happy Social Worker month.  Thank you for your contribution to our world!

If you are at a loss on how to recognize Social Work Month – here are 13 ideas to get you celebrating.

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Social Work Private Practice – Be Your Own Boss

Many people go into social work with an eye to eventually provide therapy in their own private practice.  When I went for my MSW, I was working in child welfare and thought I would be a terrible therapist.  I thought therapists were people who were academic and made leaps of intuition that were almost magical.  It turns out therapists are just trained individuals who listen, provide empathy and assist clients with finding solutions to the struggles they encounter.  Social Workers have a unique perspquote-chalk-think-wordsective because we look at the person in the environment – we look at the whole person and the systems within which they interact.  We also are strengths-based practitioners, so we help clients find the positives they can build on.  When I realized that I didn’t have to fit some preconceived mold to be a private practice therapist and identified and valued my own clinical skills – I embraced having a private practice and currently it is my favorite work as a social worker.   If you are thinking of starting your own private practice sometime in the future, here are some things you can work on now during your journey.

 

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Organizational Tips for Social Workers and Students

For many of us, this is a busy time a year.  We have the bustle of life, our families, our job or school and the holidays.  This busy schedule prompted me to think about how, in school, I was told that as a social worker there will always be more work than time.  I bet some of you are looking at possibly going back to school, or starting a new job, or trying not to be overwhelmed with a current job and wonder how do people do it all?

In my career as a supervisor, one area that new workers often seem to be lacking in, is the practicalities of how to organize their time, their tasks and caseloads in a way that works.  In the past, I might suggest to someone I supervise different ways to organize, then I would back off.  I told them they would figure out what works for them.  It turns out I should have been more directive.  I may not have tips that will take all the busy away but I can give you ideas on organizing at work and school.

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The Advocacy of Social Work

One of the unique aspects of social work is that we are not just counselors or therapists, we are also advocates.  We understand that the environments individuals live in have an effect on how their lives may be playing out.  We advocate on both the level of individual client and at the larger macro level.  We are encouraged and even expected – as is written in the Social Worker Code of Ethics– to fight against exploitation and ensure people have access to their basic human rights.  Being involved in social justice issues and policy is all part of being a social worker.  I have always thought it was a bit freeing that not only can I question authority and status quo but that it is expected!

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Social Work: Can I work with a client who is suicidal?

hand reaching out

People are complicated.  As a social worker, you are often working with individuals in immense emotional and often physical pain.  One of the best aspects of being a social worker is when you help someone heal.  Other times, a client can have difficulty moving out of their pain.  It can be scary for a social worker (new or experienced) to have a client indicate they are going to irrevocably harm themselves.  I know a lot of therapists who say they don’t take clients who are at high risk of suicide but anyone you work with may be at risk.   It is essential, to be willing to be aware that suicide might be a risk.

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The Social Work Job Interview

Maybe you just graduated and are looking for your first social work job.  Maybe you are searching out the perfect practices or internship.  Maybe you’d have been doing this social work thing awhile and are looking for greener pastures,  we all go through the interview  process at some time.  I have had many, many, many, many interviews where the outcomes have ranged from ecstatically successful to horrendous.  I have also been interviewing and hiring people for years.  Hopefully, some of my thoughts will help you land your perfect job.

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The Business of Social Work

I worked at a dialysis corporation for a few years in my career.  We occasionally had large group social worker meetings that employees from the corporate office sometimes came to present.  Often when Corporate came, they would talk about finances and insurance billing and the cost of doing business.  Virtually every time, the corporate employee would say something like “as social workers, you all just want to help people and you don’t really understand or care about the money aspect.”  It always felt very condescending like there was some deficiency with social workers because we care about helping individuals and that we all weren’t quite sophisticated enough to understand the reality of business.

Social Workers are actually extremely proficient at understanding how systems work and that nothing exists in a vacuum.  When we look at the big picture it is easy to see how there is a business aspect to social work.  Not only is money involved in how we can provide our services, we will work for businesses – our own or someone else’s.  This will necessitate understanding business or management information.

Chances are – if you are good at your job – you will be asked to take on more responsibilities – probably become someone who manages people. The thing, though, just because you are a good social worker does not mean you automatically have the skills to be a good leader or manager.  Your social work skills help you but there is a whole new world to learn.  Maybe you dream of owning your own private practice.  In both of these scenarios, you will have to develop skills that hone your business sense.  If you know you want to own your own business or become a manager or director of some type, you may want to look at school programs that also have social service slanted business classes.  (Some schools even have MSW/MBA programs.)  Many MSW programs do not have classes on social service management.  My MSW program only had one class focusing on the business aspect of social work.

Although I absolutely love the clinical aspect of my job, I think I am happiest with managing a staff at my current corporate job and also immensely enjoy running my private practice.   The business aspect of social work is my favorite.  Below is a mishmash of my thoughts on the business part of social work.

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Social Work Practice and Spirituality

As the New Year begins, many of us look to the hopeful possibilities of the future.  The New Year can be a catalyst to start over and grasp the future that will serve us best.   I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I was thinking about what I could focus on in my clinical practice, in order for me to be a better social work practitioner.  I was looking not to be a better employee or business owner but a better social worker.

I decided to focus on doing a better job of bringing spirituality into my social work practice.  Even though social workers are trained to look at the whole person, for some reason, it seems like a lot of social workers have difficulty including spirituality in their services.  Clinicians do a great job with the mind and body part of a person but falter a bit at spirituality.

Social workers are often confident with working with a diverse population so why is religious or spiritual preference any different?  Maybe a social worker is worried about offending their client.  They may be comfortable asking personal questions about their client’s sex life but spiritual life – not so much.  Sometimes social workers are so cognizant of not proselytizing or pushing their own beliefs on their client, that they just avoid asking the questions.   One I’ve been guilty of in the past is to avoid the question because I don’t want the client to feel like I’m judging them if they say they don’t have any spiritual practices.   Some social workers may just feel like they don’t have the knowledge of the individual’s religion or spirituality to provide guidance.

The field of social work has been getting better, overall, including spirituality.  Virtually any assessment tool that you find today will have questions on people’s spirituality.  Time and experience have taught social work that a person’s spiritual beliefs not only help them feel whole but can be a strength.  A person’s spiritual beliefs may give them hope or confidence for the future.  A person’s spiritual beliefs might give them a sense of belonging or connection to the community.

Conversely, sometimes there may be shame involved with religious beliefs or other barriers.  A person’s identity and history is wrapped up in their spiritual beliefs.  If we fail to ask about someone’s spirituality we are missing a part of them we may be able to help heal.

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Assisting Individuals with a diagnosis of Mental Illness

As a social worker, you often work with vulnerable and struggling clients.  One such group, you may work with are individuals diagnosed with a mental illness.  Mental Illness does not discriminate.  Any population you work with, will likely have some people living their life with mental illness.  Sometimes because of media portrayals and other misconceptions, working with people diagnosed with mental illness can be scary or daunting.

There are many types of mental illness. The DSM-V (where the criteria for different mental health diagnoses is listed) has about 991 pages.

Below are some basic definitions of common diagnosis you might come across.

One definition of Mental Illness I like is from the Mayo Clinic

Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions —disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors. Many people have mental health concerns from time to time.

                                        (www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental…/definition/con-20033813)

 

I like this definition because it normalizes mental health issues.  Mental health conditions run on a continuum.  Just like people, mental illness is complicated and some people struggle with more difficult issues than others.

Specific Diagnosis Definitions (Also using the definitions from the Mayo Clinic.)

  • Major depressive disorder — prolonged and persistent periods of extreme sadness
  • Schizophrenia is a severe brain disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior. Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia isn’t a split personality or multiple personality. The word “schizophrenia” does mean “split mind,” but it refers to a disruption of the usual balance of emotions and thinking.                                                                                           (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/basics/definition/con-20021077)

Those are just some of the diagnoses you may come across in your work.  Let me share some tips for a social worker to remember when working with this population.

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