What Do Social Workers Do?

What Do Social Workers Do?

Happy Social Work Month to all my fellow social workers!

Since March is National Social Work Month, it’s a great time to explore the question of what is a social worker? What do social workers really do? It’s a surprisingly difficult question. Social workers do such varied work, that it might be faster to tell you what social workers don’t do!

Social Workers are professionals dedicated to empowering the
disenfranchised and advocating for the vulnerable. Social workers feed the
hungry, house the homeless, comfort the grieving, lift up the hopeless.
Social workers lobby for laws, create programs, and raise money to serve
those in need. Social Workers are agents of positive change in the lives of
individuals, families, and communities.

I became a social worker because both of my parents instilled in me “social work values”  – inclusion, social justice, helping the less fortunate, respect for all people. When I was a kid, my mom went back to school to get her MSW. So, she was a big influence on my decision to pursue my MSW. However, my dad (who was a pastor) also models tremendous service to others through volunteer work he does with the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity.

Social worker has been a very fulfilling career. I am extremely happy with my decision to become a social worker. It’s excellent training for anyone interested in human services and  the mental health field. It is versatile; I’ve worked in a school, outpatient mental health, wrap around services for adolescents, homeless shelters.  And there are many more populations and settings that employ social workers!

Currently I work part-time in private practice as a therapist, coach, and clinical supervisor. Running a private practice and being an entrepreneur is hard work, but also wonderful. Agency work gave me a necessary foundation of clinical skills. I think it’s essential learning. But now, I love the freedom of working with the clients that I enjoy and can most effectively help. I can provide them with the quality of services they need and deserve without all the red tape.

And I also work part-time as a clinical supervisor, field instructor, and internship coordinator at a non-profit agency. For many years I’ve enjoyed supervising and training new social workers entering the field. This involves teaching, mentoring, and supervising. It is always tremendously satisfying to see my interns graduate, move through their career, meet new challenges, and serve others through the diverse opportunities social work offers.

More recently I’ve also started writing on a regular basis about mental health and wellness topics. I write a regular blog for PsychCentral called Happily Imperfect, as well as freelance pieces as I have time.

I was recently quoted in this post on Rasmussen College’s blog: Counselor, Activist, Advocate: What is a Social Worker, Exactly?. Please check it out to find out more about what it means to be a social worker.

Why did you become a social worker? What do you love about your work? If you need some support with your social work career, please be in touch. I love to coach social workers!

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Thanks so much for stopping by and reading. Please join me over on Facebook and Twitter for more info on tips related to being a successful social worker.

Sharon Martin has a passion for clinical supervision, mentoring new social workers, blogging, and reading all things social work related. She is a California Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 20 years in the field. Sharon has worked extensively in Bay Area non-profits and successfully runs a private counseling practice in San Jose. Sharon writes regularly for PsychCentral and the Good Men Project. She's also the author of Setting Boundaries Without Guilt: A Workbook to Move You From Doormat to Empowerment.

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