Who are social workers?
Social work is a profession for those with a strong desire to help improve people’s lives. Social workers assist people by helping them cope with issues in their everyday lives, deal with their relationships, and solve personal and family problems.
Some social workers help clients who face a disability or a life-threatening disease or a social problem, such as inadequate housing, unemployment, or substance abuse. Social workers also assist families that have serious domestic conflicts, sometimes involving child or spousal abuse.
Some social workers conduct research, advocate for improved services, engage in systems design or are involved in planning or policy development. Many social workers specialize in serving a particular population or working in a specific setting.
What do social workers do?
- Social workers help individuals, families, and groups restore or enhance their capacity for social functioning, and work to create societal conditions that support communities in need.
- The practice of social work requires knowledge of human development and behavior, of social, economic and cultural institutions, and of the interaction of all these factors.
- Social workers help people of all backgrounds address their own needs through psychosocial services and advocacy.
- Social workers help people overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges: poverty, discrimination, abuse, addiction, physical illness, divorce, loss, unemployment, educational problems, disability, and mental illness. They help prevent crises and counsel individuals, families, and communities to cope more effectively with the stresses of everyday life.
Who employs social workers?
- Professional social workers are found in every facet of community life—in schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, senior centers, elected office, private practices, prisons, military, corporations, and in numerous public and private agencies that serve individuals and families in need. Many also serve as social and community service directors.
- According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), professional social workers are the nation’s largest group of mental health services providers. There are more clinically trained social workers—over 200,000—than psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric nurses combined. Federal law and the National Institutes of Health recognize social work as one of five core mental health professions.
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employs more than 13,000 professional social workers. It is one of the largest employers of MSWs in the United States.
- More than 40% of all disaster mental health volunteers trained by the American Red Cross are professional social workers.
- There are hundreds of social workers in national, state and local elected office,These include two U.S. senators and four U.S. Representatives. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI), Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37), Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13), Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53), and Rep. Sylvia Garcia (TX-29).
- Today, almost 50 special interest organizations contribute to the vitality and influence of the social work profession. There are social work groups for educators and researchers, as well as organizations for practitioners in health care leadership, nephrology, oncology, child welfare, schools, prisons, courts, and many other settings.