What is Social Work?
The Social work profession is difficult to define because it is extremely broad. There is a plethora of pathways that a social worker could take; child, family, and school social work, military and veterans, medical and health, psychiatric, mental health, substance abuse and so many more. Broadly speaking, social work is a profession that helps advocate for others. Social workers help give a voice to those who can't find theirs and help people gain access to resources that they need. Despite the numerous pathways that social work can be broken up into, each one encompasses a wide range of techniques, practices, and most importantly, values that are used to serve those in need.
Advocating for those in need requires a strong set of values. Social workers should practice and uphold these values throughout their practice, no matter what pathway they take. One of the values is empathy. It is important for Social workers to be able to understand and feel what the people they are serving are experiencing. It allows the professional to put themselves in the client's shoes and explore the different aspects or systems that are involved, which will be explained further later. This leads into another value of using a strength-based approach to help families overcome different challenges. No matter the case, one can find a strength in regard to the situation. Another important value that Social workers should uphold is knowing their limits and abilities as a professional. A professional should ask for a second opinion when they are unsure of something and practice within the scope of their skills and knowledge. Lastly, the professional should value social equality and justice by upholding equal rights, opportunities and laws. To promote the value of social justice, social workers must be taught to translate their actions into advocacy and practice that promote opportunity for all populations, especially for the clients they are serving. (Ely, Flaherty, Hansford, Meyer-Adams, 2017). Each client that is served, no matter their background, should be treated just as everyone else. These values are strong and seem hard to uphold. Thankfully, social workers are given an abundance of education and training on how to abide by these values in their day to day practice.
Each client that is served, is going to come from a different background that influences their way of life. It is important to take into consideration the diversity of backgrounds when working with a client, which is why social workers need knowledge about different theories. One of the theories that social workers should learn about is systems theory.
According to Canda, Chatterjee, and Robbins (2012):
Systems-based theories lend themselves to a wide variety of practice methodstheories suggest that intervention may be focused at any or all systems levels, and intervention strategies must be diverse enough to encompass a broad range of individual and environmental change. (p. 49).
Social workers assess the information that the client provides to determine a plan to work towards a solution to change one or more aspects of their environment. The systems theory lays a foundation of knowledge that social workers must acquire to provide best practice. To become a social worker, there are specific educational requirements that must be met before one can begin their practice. Since most social workers provide some sort of service to the people, it is important to understand how humans develop and how the brain works. Granted social workers are not doctors, but in any profession, it is important to have a general understanding of how the sole thing you are helping functions. Having the knowledge of how to communicate with people is important as well, both formally and informally. To expand on that, motivational interviewing is a great tactic to learn in that it helps to facilitate even the most difficult conversations allowing the professional to better help the client. All in all, the more knowledge one has about people and how to work with them, the better able they will be to help sever clients.
Social work is a wide-ranging profession. No matter the path that one tasks in the social work field, they must all possess certain values and knowledge. Both the values and range of knowledge mentioned above are tools needed to be a successful social worker. A successful social worker is one that helps advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves, someone who helps people find their voice.