Why Hire a Social Worker?

I admit that I’m feeling “rah, rah, rah” about social work this month.  After all, this week is social work week and I’m admittedly proud of my profession.

I’ve written a little bit about the Registered Clinical Social Worker (RCSW) designation and I’m very happy to have a listing on Find a Social Worker in British Columbia.

Social Work: Huh?

When I thought about it it seemed high time to write about the merits of the profession, since social work is frequently misunderstood and sometimes maligned.  In fact, I’d say that this reputation is understandable, as there are people who have unfortunately had negative experiences with social workers. I sometimes hear about such situations and feel the need to apologize, and usually do, even when it’s not personal to me.  It’s because social workers are in a position of trust and when trust has been broken, harm is often the result.

Sometimes social workers themselves contribute to the public’s failure to understand the profession and what social workers do.  In the counselling field, for example, many social workers who practice counselling keep their social work background hidden or on the down low, captured only in the letters behind their names, letters like BSW, MSW, RSW or RCSW. They may refer to themselves as counsellors, therapists, psychotherapists, clinicians, coaches or mental health practitioners. And yes, social workers do in fact practice counselling, psychotherapy, etc. and using these terms helps the public understand in a more specific way about the service that is being offered.  And yet, the mystery of the profession continues.

It’s a Wide, Wide Social Work World

Part of social work’s identity crisis is that the scope of the profession is vast.  Social workers cover a lot of ground, working in a variety of settings including prisons, schools, agencies, hospitals and counselling offices; the range of work can vary extensively, anything from providing individual therapy to working on policy change, legislation and social justice.  We’re a diverse bunch.  My focus in this article are professional social workers who are also counsellors and psychotherapists.

Feelin’ Good

Despite the lack of clarity that often accompanies the profession, social work has a definite upside, that often starts from day one.  Many people enter the field out of a genuine desire to help others.  And when this desire is genuine, good things can happen.

I’d like to talk about some of those good things.  Stop here if you don’t want to hear about them.  I feel no compulsion or internal pressure to sell the profession. This is purely an unbridled expression about what I love about my field. 

Here Are A Few of My Favourite Things

Social workers can do therapy – A shock to some, both the public and even some mental health professionals and an understatement too.  According to the BC Association of Social Workers, registered social workers are one of the largest providers of mental health services in North America and much of this is provided by social workers trained at the graduate level, the Master of Social Work degree being particularly common.

Further, since 2006, the BC College of Social Workers started started registering clinical social workers; there are rigorous standards that social workers applying for this designation must meet.

Social Workers Value the Whole Person and their Potential – Social workers abide by a client-honouring code of ethics, with a core principle being “respect for inherent dignity and worth of persons.”

Social Workers are Committed to Social Justice and Anti-Oppressive Practice – A number of clients seek out social workers for this reason, choosing to work with a counselling professional whose clinical work is informed by a wider social purpose and who is committed to honouring the diversity amongst their clientele.

Social Work is a Legislated Health Profession – The terms of our profession are legislated and stipulated in the British Columbia Social Workers Act, which is governed by the BC College of Social Workers, whose mandate it is to protect the public.

We Care about Your Place in the World – Sometimes referred to in profession-speak as “the person-environment fit”, social workers assess how well you are functioning in the world around you and help you to identify tangible options which can maximize this fit.

Happy Social Work Week 2014! Thanks for reading!