While breaking down the role of a social worker into one of the five major responsibilities below seems to simplify the work at hand, they are richly different activities for each client and every social worker. There is no “one size fits all” plan for therapy — no two treatment plans or clients are the same. These steps in mental health care each serve a critical purpose, and only a social worker with the right qualifications and a degree in mental health care can provide them.
1. Assess Your Client
Assessment involves getting to know your client on a multidimensional level to determine the most effective way to work towards positive change. In this stage, you’ll gather information about the client’s situation within their individual, organizational, and societal systems, allowing you to learn the details of their family and medical histories, friendships, schools, jobs, and issues they’ve had in each system. Assessment allows you to understand how your client sees their situation, which areas they wish to address, and what strengths they bring to therapy. When the assessment is complete, you’ll have a stronger idea of how to develop an effective treatment plan with your client.
Personality Traits — You’re: Perceptive, Objective, Analytical
2. Create and Implement A Treatment Plan
Once you’ve assessed your client, it’s time to work on a treatment plan that will empower them to overcome, recover from, or adjust to their situation. At this stage, one of your primary duties will be to listen to your client to jointly define the goals and criteria that establish wellness for your client. Treatment plans generally include continued one-on-one individual therapy sessions to help your client move towards their desired goal and could include group or family sessions geared toward a specific challenge they’re dealing with. Flexibility in treatment plans is necessary. As goals are met, new problems become known, or crises erupt. Your duties can also include referring clients to other resources and professionals with diverse qualifications, such as support group services and medical professionals.
Personality Traits — You’re: Patient, Empathic, Flexible
3. Secure and Refer Needed Resources
Creating and implementing a treatment plan involves more than just “talk therapy.” Clients often benefit when connected to community resources and government agencies such as food banks, health care and unemployment services, and benefits programs such as food stamp programs. Social workers may also refer clients to medical professionals for further treatment, support groups specifically geared to their client’s issue, job-placement recruiters, and child-care resources to help them successfully meet their wellness initiatives.
Personality Traits — You’re: Organized, Connected, A Strong Advocate
4. Evaluate and Monitor Improvement
Once treatment is underway, you’ll continuously evaluate whether your client is moving towards their goals according to the criteria established when you created their treatment plan. The objectives are to determine how you can continue supporting your client and if your current methods effectively serve their purpose. For instance, sometimes the treatment plan needs to be changed according to new problems or information presented during treatment, if goals have been met, or if a crisis erupted along the way. The key is to remain flexible in helping your clients move towards their goals in the most effective way.
Personality Traits — You’re: Perceptive, Flexible, Analytical
5. Serve as a Client’s Advocate
Being a client’s advocate often beckons social workers to make this work their life’s purpose. Whether they think of advocacy on a micro, mezzo, or macro level — being an advocate for an individual, advocating within organizations and communities, or engaging in advocacy at the policy/research level — they have a strong calling to make the world a better place by representing those who cannot effectively represent themselves. Social workers stand for another person on an individual level, often in complex situations. For instance, their duties may include providing necessary interventions when a child is in an abusive home and working with the family, police, and DCFS to provide immediate and continued safety for the child. On the mezzo and macro levels, social workers function within groups, within community organizations, and amongst policymakers to develop or improve programs, services, policies, and social conditions that will benefit individuals and the field of social work at local, state, and national levels.
Personality Traits — You’re: Courageous, Impactful, Persistent
An Overview of the Social Work Profession
Social work is a gratifying profession that allows you to say at the end of each day, “I made a difference in someone’s life.” Though it’s demanding work, over 600,000 people chose to dedicate their lives and careers to this field, and its rapid 12% growth rate between 2020 and 2030 means many more will do so.1 On a daily basis as a social worker, you’ll be challenged as you help people navigate a wide range of positive and negative stressors, such as supporting parents with the emotional challenges of adopting a child, helping a professional navigate a new career, or working with someone who’s trying to exit an abusive relationship, overcome an addiction, or contemplating divorce. For each client, the tasks you’ll complete in the course of your work with them will fall into most, if not all, of the five categories — assessment, treatment, securing resources, monitoring improvement, and being an advocate — though their experience within those tasks, and yours, will be completely individualized.
Make More Than a Difference
Gain the qualifications to find success as an effective clinical social worker. Learn more about Widener University’s online Master of Social Work (MSW) program, call 844-386-7321 or complete the request more information form and a program manager will contact you right away.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm.