If you are considering a career in social work or already on your career path, it's always important to be aware of trends in your industry. You can expand your opportunities and career advancement by understanding new needs in the marketplace or how additional training may help you find a more rewarding career.
A More Uncertain Society
The attacks of 9/11, Katrina, Sandy Hook Elementary School. These national traumas, along with smaller events such as workplace and community violence, the deaths of young students from bullying, and more highlight the importance of those in the social work profession and how they can assist people in moving through these experiences in a healthy way.
While these types of events are unfortunately not new, there has been a growing awareness of the need for post-traumatic counseling and an acceptance that this counseling is a necessary and accepted part of helping communities and individuals heal. This has provided a need for more social workers and nationally we have seen an increase in revenue in mental health services as a result.
Another area of growing awareness and need for these behavioral specialists is with our returning military population and their families. They are playing a growing role in meeting the mental health needs of this population and in advancing care for people experiencing this type of trauma and applying it to other situations.
Specialties in the Social Work Industry
To have a rewarding career, you need to be in an environment that suits you and allows you to use your skills in a way that keeps you engaged and fulfilled. Social work professionals are no different. There are no many different settings to choose from when thinking about your career.
- Substance Abuse Centers
- Case worker in a Hospital
- Children's Services
- Veterans Agencies
- Domestic Violence Organizations
- Women's Shelters
- Elder Care
- LGBT Organizations
There are now many different working environments to choose from once you complete your training.
The Practice of Social Work
In 1915, an invitational lecture at the National Conference of Charities and Corrections (the nation’s leading authority on professional education) was presented by Dr. Abraham Flexner, entitled “Is Social Work a Profession?” He asserted that the field of social work lacked specificity, technical skills and specialized knowledge and therefore could not be considered a profession. Since then, the practice of social work has evolved dramatically and now meets those same criteria as set forth by Dr. Flexner.1
The profession continues to evolve. Social workers now understand that looking at a patient's circumstances holistically gives them a better understanding of how many factors are influencing behavior. This is a change from simply focusing in on one specific area that has brought the patient to seek help.
Further, they - like every other healthcare professional - are now being held to a standard of "evidence based medicine." Third party payers and healthcare organizations are demanding accountability and standards and social workers now must increase their knowledge of what "evidence based medicine" means to their organization.
Finally, technology has impacted and changed social work just as it has on every other profession. In the article Information and Communication Technologies in Social Work, the authors state:
"ICTs have received some attention in the social work literature and curriculum, but we argue that this level of attention is not adequate given their ubiquity, growth and influence, specifically as it relates to upholding social work ethics. Significant attention is needed to help ensure they are responsive to the technological changes in the health care system, including the health care infrastructure and use of technology among clients. Social work practitioners also need ICT competencies in order to effectively lead different types of social change initiatives or collaborate with professionals of other disciplines who are using ICTs as part of existing strategies. This paper also identifies potential pitfalls and challenges with respect to the adoption of ICTs, with recommendations for advancing their use in practice, education, and research."
Social Media & Ethics in Social Work
If you are a seasoned social worker, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social sites simply didn't exist when you started your career. Today, they are omnipresent and cannot be ignored given the enormous amount of time people spend on these sites.
Social networking has created social communities and in these spaces you may find kids talking about bullying, addicts talking about substance abuse challenges or support groups for grieving parents. These tools are being used by social workers to provide additional resources, to help educate patients and in some instances they are marketing their online practices.
With social networks comes ethical issues that need to be addressed. The clear boundaries you want to set with patients can become blurred; improper or incorrect information permeates the internet and social workers need to take care they are not leading their patients to sites that may cause more harm than good.
Since social networking is not going to stop, you as a professional need to make sure you're educated on how to properly use social media as part of your practice and discuss it with colleagues to arrive at an agreeable methodology.
As you can see, social work as a profession continues to grow and evolve as our society and world continue to change. The pace of that change continues to increase and with it can bring some new learning experiences and opportunities for those who pursue this challenging and rewarding career.
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