What is a social worker, anyway?
Karen Collins, M.S.W., L.I.S.W.
Licensed Independent Social Worker
Have you ever wondered what social workers do? It's our job to provide the foundation for growth and change in an individual, a family and a community. A central philosophy of the profession is to build on strengths that already exist. Social workers help people identify resources, capabilities, support systems and motivations to meet challenges and overcome adversity. As we all know, life is not without pain and challenges. A social worker is educated and trained to help people adjust to and navigating through the trials in life to the best of that person's abilities. Understanding and calling upon someone's strengths is essential to improving that person's emotional health and well-being.
Licensed Social Workers have practical experience and advanced education with a bachelor's degree, at least. Almost 80 percent of social workers have a master's degree in social work. There are two licensures in the state of Ohio. The LSW (Licensed Social Worker) requires a bachelor's degree that includes extensive practical experience and a passing score on the state exam. The LISW (Licensed Independent Social Worker) requires a master's degree that includes extensive practical experience, 200 hours of supervision by another LISW over at least two years and a passing score on the advanced state exam. Licensed social workers are required to continue education throughout their practice. The requirement is 30 hours of approved continuing education credits every two years and this must include three hours of ethics training. Social work practice is governed by the state and is held to a high standard of ethics and professionalism.
The social work field is filled with professional practitioners who foster hope by focusing on the positive rather than on feelings of hopelessness. Social workers play an essential role in alleviating some of America's most difficult problems. We provide assistance in many areas of practice, including health care, schools, adoption, substance abuse, aging, mental health, child welfare, cancer care, end of life issues, grief, adolescent health, HIV/AIDS, family violence, individual counseling, family counseling and marriage counseling, to name a few. Everyone can use help overcoming challenges in life, and that is why many turn to social workers.
When challenges affect an individual, family or community, the tendency is to focus on the problem and how things went so wrong. Social workers view challenges in a unique way, looking for positives in the depths of difficulty. Social workers are masters at connecting people to other people to gain support and hope to weather any challenge. We look at the whole individual, family and community to identify strengths that will lead to a successful outcome.
More than 600,000 people in the United States hold a social work degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for social workers is expected to grow twice as fast as any other occupation, especially in gerontology, home health care, substance abuse, private social service agencies and school social work. Professional social workers are the nation's largest providers of mental health services. In fact, social workers provide more mental health services than psychologists, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses combined. There are hundreds of social workers in national, state and local elected offices, including two U.S. Senators and eight U.S. Representatives. Social workers are in so many arenas because our profession has provided assistance to millions of people each year and earned professional recognition for those services.