Social workers have a great impact on communities and those who occupy them. In recent times, their roles have shifted and continue to evolve to match our rapidly changing modern life. Today, their roles have grown to include crisis management, as well as advocacy and empowerment.
Social workers can benefit communities by encouraging people to take active roles in shaping social services, enabling long-term economic independence, and providing education programs. Their efforts can transform individual lives, while also creating a ripple effect at the community level. They continue build on a wave of motivation and inspiration for generations.
What is social work?
Social work is a practice-based profession that promotes the development, social change, cohesion, and empowerment of communities and people. The practice involves understanding human behavior and development, as well as cultural, economic, and social institutions and interactions.
Social work professionals who work with systems and families assist in providing and advancing these social impacts:
- Unemployment insurance
- Civil rights
- Workers’ compensation
- Medicaid and Medicare
- Reduced mental health stigma
- Child abuse and neglect prevention
What are the levels of social work?
Social workers perform their responsibilities and roles within three interrelated practice levels: micro, mezzo, and macro. These practice systems employ different methodologies to provide services to diverse populations. They all operate, however, within the Person-in-Environment (PIE) Theory.
The three primary levels of social work are:
Micro social work
This level of social work involves working with families, couples, individuals, and other small groups to resolve challenges with problematic behaviors and mental health. Workers at this level can work in an agency where a physician observes their counseling sessions. Alternatively, micro social workers can also work in private practice.
Mezzo social work
The primary focus of mezzo social work is solving problems on behalf of groups of clients. Social workers at the mezzo level identify factors affecting clients’ well-being within organizations, including social service agencies, schools, or small communities, such as at-risk youth in inner city neighborhoods.
Mezzo social workers work with agencies and other client systems, advocating for resources and services, as well as implementing programs. These workers often use mezzo level social work practices to help clients reach their goals. For example, a school counselor may develop substance abuse prevention workshops to benefit students dealing with these problems.
Macro social work
Social workers who have a career at the macro level work with the community, government, or other large client systems. This level aims to address the challenges of alleviating societal problems to enhance the quality of life at the local, national, and international levels.
The macro social work level confronts issues at a system level. It differs from mezzo social work, which focuses on organizations and small groups, and micro, which focuses on individuals.
Workers at this level do not provide direct client services or individual counseling. They do not need a clinical license; however, they must attain significant training in research, theory, policy analysis, and administration.
What is a social worker?
A social worker is a person who assists families and individuals in enhancing their life quality by ensuring access to basic needs and advocating for an individual’s human rights. They empower their clients and promote social change. These professionals assist the individuals they work with by analyzing the policies, systems, relationships, and environments that impact their lives.
Social workers guide their clients through common challenges, such as trauma, drug addiction, mental illness, unemployment, child abuse, and poverty. They identify the issues of each client and implement solutions, such as employment assistance, therapy, and physical relocation.
How to become a social worker
Becoming a social worker is a process that takes several years. Below are the steps you can take to become a social worker. It is worth noting that these steps will vary based on the type of social work you choose and state licensure requirements.
Earn a degree
You can begin a university social work program with a GED or high school diploma, a GPA that meets the threshold, and a clean academic record. A CSWE-Accredited BSW degree offered at Spring Arbor University allows you to develop your skills as a social worker while focusing on the values of service. It also prepares you to enter the master’s in social work program with advanced standing or obtain an entry position in social work.
Get an entry-level job in the field
An entry-level position in social work can assist you in working through your MSW degree so that you graduate with less debt. You can also gain experience in generalist social work as a care coordinator, case manager, school social worker, or policy analyst.
Receive further education
The next step to becoming a social worker is earning your MSW degree. This degree allows you to apply for your state’s LMSW, LCSW, or equivalent credential.
With an MSW, you can build on your social work policy knowledge. The programs accept bachelor’s degrees in related fields such as biology, psychology, and political science. You will complete your MSW in half the time, however, if you have a BSW.
Complete the required placement work
You must complete at least 900 hours or one academic year of field placement to earn your MSW. You will have an advantage if you have a BSW since you will need only 400 hours.
Field placements give experience in generalist social work, including maintaining case files, interviewing, and case planning. In most states, field planning does not meet the required supervised experience to earn an LCSW or any other relevant license that necessitates supervised experience.
Pass your Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam
The ASWB exam tests a person’s knowledge of social work practice. You must pass your ASWB exams in any state before applying for licensure.
Apply for social work licensure
Before applying for your social work license, you must complete the required experience and education and pass the ASWB exam. The requirements to get your license will vary based on your license level and state. Check with your state board for more information to ensure you complete the application form accurately.
Advance your career as a social worker
You must complete continuing education to renew your license yearly. After renewing your license, decide what trajectory you want your career to take.
Improving community health as a social worker
Social workers play a critical role in enhancing community health. They address social determinants of health, foster well-being, and assist individuals and communities.
The following are some particular ways social workers assist in enhancing community health.
Promoting social support systems
Social workers should facilitate the establishment of social support networks within communities. By fostering a sense of community and assisting people in overcoming obstacles, these networks lessen feelings of loneliness and increase positive mental health. Social workers must help build a robust and resilient community fabric by encouraging solid social ties.
Evaluating community needs
Social workers must conduct detailed evaluations to pinpoint community health needs and difficulties. They should gather the necessary information to understand the public’s health challenges through surveys, focus groups, interviews, and partnerships with regional health organizations. These evaluations will serve as the basis for programs and interventions that tackle the root causes of health disparities.
Creating health-related programs
Professional social workers should develop community health programs based on thorough assessments. These programs must target health problems common in the community, such as nutrition, mental health, substance addiction, or chronic illness management. They must collaborate with neighborhood organizations, healthcare professionals, and community members to guarantee the effective implementation of these programs and promote community support.
Promoting health education
A community can promote preventative measures and healthy behaviors by investing in health education. Social workers are leading the charge in educating the public about various health issues, from good nutrition and exercise to mental health and illness prevention. To enable people to make knowledgeable decisions about their health and well-being, social workers need to run educational campaigns, workshops, and community outreach programs.
Crisis management and disaster preparedness
Social workers are on the front lines during crises or disasters. They are qualified to provide crisis counseling and assist people and families in coping with the fallout from trauma, including natural disasters, epidemics, and community-wide traumatic events. These workers must continue working with local organizations, medical professionals, and emergency responders to deliver crucial assistance and support.
Providing assistance to vulnerable groups
Access to healthcare and social services can be challenging for vulnerable populations, such as people experiencing homelessness, immigrants, and those with impairments. These populations benefit from the vital resources and supports offered by social workers, improving their general health and well-being as a result. Social workers must promote inclusive and equitable communities by ensuring that vulnerable people have access to healthcare, mental health counseling, and other essential resources.
Collaborating with healthcare professionals
Social workers and medical professionals must work together for comprehensive, integrated community health care. The collaborations will help address social and medical facets of healthcare, resulting in more successful outcomes.
While healthcare professionals concentrate on providing medical care, social workers evaluate patients’ social determinants of health, such as home stability and availability to nutrient-rich food. This cooperative strategy guarantees that patients receive comprehensive care that considers the underlying social variables affecting their health.
Engaging in community development
Social workers must regularly participate in community development projects that enhance livability, resource accessibility, and general well-being. They should work with neighborhood groups and residents to find sustainable growth and positive transformation opportunities. This will result in the development of healthier and more resilient communities.
Advocating for policy modifications
Health policies that support equity, accessibility, and high-quality healthcare for all must be strongly supported by social workers. They should have unique insights into the difficulties faced by underprivileged communities because of their firsthand experience dealing with marginalized groups.
Social workers must work with lawmakers and officials to address systemic problems and promote legislative changes that improve community health. Their lobbying should focus on enhancing patient access to medical treatment, mental health services, and preventive care.
Supporting mental health
Social workers are essential in addressing mental health challenges within communities. They must offer counseling, as well as necessary resources to support mental well-being. Additionally, they should assist people in overcoming mental health difficulties by lowering the stigma associated with mental health.
Evaluating the effectiveness of programs
Social workers must frequently evaluate the activities of community health programs to ensure their efficacy and sustainability. They should measure the effectiveness of treatments and pinpoint improvement areas by gathering data and customer feedback. These assessments will enable social workers to alter programs based on data and ensure that resources are used effectively to produce the best potential health results.
Collaborating with schools
Social workers should collaborate closely with schools to address health issues impacting students and their families. They will enhance academic achievements of students by identifying early intervention requirements, encouraging healthy behaviors, and promoting these behaviors. By working with educators and parents, they will help foster a supportive environment that nurtures the physical, emotional, and academic development of children and adolescents.
Community builders and organizers
Each community member has a desire to remain safe, earn an adequate income, and enjoy good health. Excellent public services and a secure economic status are necessary to enjoy all of society’s amenities. Social work and social services are influential in helping people improve the quality of their lives and enjoy the available amenities in the community.
Effective social work services promote independence and resilience and enable the community’s vulnerable to live decent lives. These services go a long way in building community awareness, identifying and developing leaders, fostering collaboration, and building community capacity. It is undeniable that social workers are effective community builders and organizers who will continue to foster more equitable and compassionate societies as we move into the future.