What Are The Different Types Of Social Workers?

"When I told my dad that I wanted to be a social worker like my aunt, he asked me what type of social worker I wanted to be. I just told him that I wanted to be a social worker. He said that I needed to determine a focus because social workers work with different clients. Can you please give me more information on this? What are the different types of social workers?"

asked by Belle C. from Annapolis, Maryland

There are basically five main types of social workers, categorized based on the clients they work with. They are: 1) Child and family social workers, 2) Clinical social workers, 3) School social workers, 4) Healthcare social workers and 5) Mental health and substance abuse social workers.

The focus of child and family social workers is obviously the child and the family. In particularly, they safeguard children who are in vulnerable situations, such as those who are abused or neglected by their parents. These social workers also help families faced by financial difficulties by helping them apply for services like food stamps or childcare that would help alleviate their situation. They also help couples who want to put their child up for adoption or find foster families for children who need them. They also help reunite families.

Clinical social workers mainly have their own private practice where they help diagnose and treat anxiety, depression and other mental, behavioral and emotional disorders. They may work together with child and family social workers in providing care to families that are in the midst of family difficulties like divorce and death of a loved one. Clinical social workers are licensed to provide therapy in various settings, helping individuals, couples, families or groups establish coping strategies for the problems they are currently facing. If necessary, they refer clients to support groups or other mental health practitioners for further treatment. They may also collaborate with other healthcare professionals to help a client.

Social workers who work towards improving the performance of students in school are called school social workers. They collaborate with teachers, parents and school administrators in coming up with solutions to help improve the academic performance and social development of children. School social workers usually come to the scene when a student frequently shows aggression and bullying towards others or are frequently absent from school. Students are usually encouraged to attend sessions with their parents.

Healthcare social workers work with people who are facing an illness. They help patients comprehend their diagnosis and support them as they try to make the needed changes to their way of life or even the house they live in so they can better manage their condition. They also work with doctors and members of the healthcare team by letting them understand how disease and illness will impact the emotional and mental health of patients.

Healthcare social workers are further subdivided into three kinds—geriatric social workers, hospice and palliative care social workers and medical social workers. Geriatric social workers focus on helping senior citizens and their families while hospice and palliative care social workers focus their care on those suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses. Medical social workers are assigned in hospitals. Their role is to connect patients and their families with resources in the hospital as well as that of their community.

The fifth type of social worker is devoted to those suffering from mental health and addictions. Mental health and substance abuse social workers help clients cope with their illness by connecting them to support groups and other programs related to their condition.

Career Spotlight: Social Worker

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