What does a Clinical Social Worker do?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The clinical social worker is a talented and highly trained professional that can work in many different ways to provide care to those in need. It might be easier to ask what these professionals do not do, since jobs in this field can be so diverse. Yet, in broad terms, these social workers can work in a plethora of areas identifying those in need of additional assistance, diagnosing mental health problems that may exist, and possibly finding supportive services that can be utilized to promote recovery of individuals or whole family systems.

Clinical social workers might run group counseling sessions.
Clinical social workers might run group counseling sessions.

It is much easier to explain the training necessary for the clinical social worker. Most of these professionals have completed at least a master’s degree in social work, and the majority also spend at least two years in paid, internship training. At the end of this training, social workers typically take exams and receive a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) designation. Each region may have variations on what is required for licensure.

Some clinical social workers specialize in pediatrics and work with hospitalized children and their families.
Some clinical social workers specialize in pediatrics and work with hospitalized children and their families.

At the point of receiving a license, a clinical social worker may decide to work in many different areas. Some become medical social workers and will perform their jobs in hospitals where they might aid in the care of incoming or outgoing patients, plan discharge strategies, and identify need for additional care inside the hospital or upon discharge. There may be private counseling or families or patients involved with this work also.

Clinical social workers work one-on-one with troubled teens.
Clinical social workers work one-on-one with troubled teens.

Other social workers could work in hospitals of different sorts: perhaps, drug treatment centers or mental institutions. There, they could play vital roles in providing counseling services for patients, helping them to plan support when they exit the hospital, working with family members if needed, and possibly facilitating group counseling. Especially in drug treatment facilities, the role of diagnostician may be important since substance abuse and mental illness are often closely tied. In mental hospitals some social workers may undertake a diagnostic role, but this responsibility could be shared with a number of practitioners on staff.

Clinical social workers may conduct family and couple's therapy.
Clinical social workers may conduct family and couple's therapy.

The clinical social worker is an important employee of many agencies that serve families, like child protective services or family mental health agencies. In this capacity, social workers could assess health and wellness needs of families, make determinations on need for interventions to protect children, and negotiate with other agencies that provide services to children or families in need of them. Similarly, sometimes the social worker is employed by agencies that protect the elderly or provide them with services. Determining who requires such services and working with individual clients may be part of this work.

Many clinical social workers choose to work with people on an individual basis.
Many clinical social workers choose to work with people on an individual basis.

Sometimes a person with this job has a private practice as a psychotherapist. The LCSW designation, in almost all cases, allows for social workers to be therapists. In this capacity, they might work with children, adults, couples or families, and though family systems therapy tends to be identified as the theoretical “therapy school” of LCSWs, there is great variation in the schools of thought that inform the practice of each clinical social worker.

Clinical social workers might spend their time assisting the homeless and other disenfranchised individuals.
Clinical social workers might spend their time assisting the homeless and other disenfranchised individuals.
A clinical social work may be employed by a company that protects or performs services for elderly people.
A clinical social work may be employed by a company that protects or performs services for elderly people.
Some social workers may work in drug treatment centers.
Some social workers may work in drug treatment centers.
Clinical social workers may be employed by hospitals.
Clinical social workers may be employed by hospitals.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon111395

Indeed social workers play a very big role in our societies especially those who handle children. Therefore, they should be respected.

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