— Heidi Sfiligoj, News Staff
For three years, the National Social Worker Finder has been helping consumers, hospitals, schools, physicians and others locate social workers.
The Finder is part of NASW's Public Education Campaign and is promoted on the HelpStartsHere.org Website. It was launched in September 2005 as a public service so that people could find licensed social workers to meet their needs and to show the breadth and depth of experience social workers offer. It was created by HelpNet Inc. in partnership with NASW. HelpNet, founded by Bill Blout, a licensed social worker and NASW member, had developed the HelpPRO Therapist Finder in 1995, which served as the model for the new tool.
More than 5,000 social workers are now listed in the Finder and usage of the site has steadily increased. In 2008, the top 10 most searched problem areas were aging, depression, couple/marital, substance addictions, anxiety/panic disorders, grief/loss, family dysfunction, trauma/post traumatic stress disorder, child abuse and neglect, and adoption/foster care. Other areas that were commonly searched were behavioral problems, eating disorders, interpersonal relationships, physical illness/impairment and women's issues.
"Using the Finder allows people to generate a list of best matches to their needs," said Blout. "The program actually sorts the results list so that the best matches are at the top. We recommend selecting two or three best matches and then calling them with questions to get a better 'feel' for the therapist."
According to Blout, at least one-third of those using the Social Worker Finder work in agencies and health and human service organizations and are searching on behalf of others. The remaining users are consumers at home or in educational, governmental and business settings. On average, 12,000 searches are conducted each month.
Social workers can list their office and contact information, qualifications, fees and payment options, problems served, age groups and populations served, treatment methods and theoretical approaches, religious and multicultural experience, and professional associations. People can find a social worker with specific expertise by choosing from a drop-down list of 59 problem areas. Additionally, they can search by area range or ZIP code, age group, special population, insurance or payment option, credential, degree, gender, certification and language.
Social workers listed in the Finder receive targeted, appropriate referrals for therapy services and support groups. They also support the NASW Help Starts Here Campaign by educating the public on the wide range of social work services available.
The annual fee to list in the Finder is $75, but the discount price for NASW members is $30. There is no fee for members credentialed as Qualified Clinical Social Workers (QCSW). NASW is also offering a special promotion during Social Work Month in March. The first 1,000 NASW members to create a new Social Worker Finder listing will receive a free year, as will members who sign up to volunteer with Give an Hour to provide free mental health services for veterans and their families.
For many people, the Social Worker Finder is the first step in seeking help.
"The Finder is really an outreach tool," said Blout. "It is especially helpful for people who are unable to directly approach a therapist. One story I will never forget was a woman who had suffered many years with an eating disorder. She was ashamed to tell anyone, let alone ask for help. She used the Finder to find a terrific therapist who convinced her to get hospitalized immediately. She says the service saved her life."
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