What Does A Clinical Social Worker Do?

Clinical social workers are mental health professionals who help patients by diagnosing, preventing and treating behavioral and emotional disorders and various addictions. In addition, they also deal with cases involving developmental disabilities as well as help those suffering from physical injuries and disabilities cope with the impact of their illness to their lives. Just like other social workers, clinical social workers seek to maintain the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual welfare of each person, their families and the communities they belong to.

A common task that all clinical social workers perform on a day-to-day basis is meeting clients. When they see patients for the first time, clinical social workers talk to them to ascertain their problems and be able to arrive at a diagnosis. They ask questions to draw out what the individual is feeling and allow them to verbalize their issues. They may administer tests to measure a person’s psychological, social and spiritual functioning. After ascertaining the cause of their patient’s problems, clinical social workers then make the diagnosis and come up with a treatment plan to address the issue.

A patient’s treatment plan can take many forms. Clinical social workers can recommend counseling and psychotherapy sessions with the patient alone or together with his or her family. Depending on the problem, clinical social workers may prescribe short-term or long-term psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy, among others, to treat the patient.

Clinical social workers also collaborate with other healthcare professionals in treating patients. For example, they may develop treatment plans together with medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and if the patient is a student, with teachers and other school officials, to provide a comprehensive approach in addressing his or her issues. If necessary, they may refer the patient to another mental health professional to handle the main course of therapy. Clinical social workers must see to it that they carefully document each treatment sessions so that they can monitor the progress and make adjustments to the treatment plan when necessary.

Clinical social workers also make sure that their patients are directed to the appropriate agencies and support groups that will help them recover from their conditions. If they are working with the elderly, for example, they may direct them to the appropriate government agency that will help provide them with the services they need. If they are working with recovering addicts, they may direct them to support groups that meet regularly in the community. Clinical social workers may also guide them by enlightening them on how various policies and laws apply to them.

Some clinical social workers, particularly those who also work in the academe, also make doing research a regular part of their work. If there is a particular aspect of human behavior as it relates to their field that they would like to explore, they may gather the information they need by doing surveys, interviewing resource persons and researching previously written literature on the subject. After writing their research and interpreting statistical data, they may publish their findings in academic journals and other publications and talk about it in lectures and meetings.

Career Spotlight: Clinical Social Worker

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