What is a Clinical Social Worker?

Clinical social workers fill a niche in the therapeutic community that is both essential and specific. While all individuals in the field are dedicated to ensuring the wellbeing of their clients, these social work professionals interact with some of the most vulnerable populations and their caregivers. The article below provides greater detail about the discipline for individuals who may wish to pursue this line of study.

What They Do and for Whom

Individuals with organic mental illnesses as well as a variety of emotional, behavioral and social disorders rely on caregivers and mental health practitioners for support. Therapies and treatment programs may take the form of group and family therapy or individual sessions and behavioral interventions. But awareness of the particular issues they face, accurate diagnosis, and availability of treatment options are not equal across today’s social landscape.

Mental, developmental, and behavioral complaints and disorders disproportionately impact lower socioeconomic strata, not because they occur more frequently in these populations but because access to adequate care is constrained. In higher income brackets, therapeutic options are more widely available through navigable care channels. However, the less affluent often either lack the means to afford or access to knowledgeable professionals and programs. While they don’t work with these individuals exclusively, clinical social workers do use their skills and certification to close this gap.

Where They Work

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) these professionals work to assess and diagnose such mental disorders and behavioral or emotional complaints in a variety of settings. They are found in hospitals and private practices, but they also offer their expertise to community health centers and to disadvantaged portions of the population through social and government agencies.

While all social work requires a substantial set of abilities and specialized education, it’s important to note that there are different levels of involvement that correspond to three types of social worker. Indirect social work is often most useful for those working at the agency level to provide focused aid in foreign or domestic programs. However, these individuals rarely interact with cases, and usually focus their energy toward policy formation and implementation. Direct service practitioners specialize their efforts in a variety of ways, choosing to work with specific populations of clientele. They may focus on geriatric welfare or children’s health and wellness.

Clinical social work requires specialized education in the field of mental, behavioral, and emotional complaints and disorders. In order to maintain the highest standard of care and assessment, individuals pursuing this profession must be certified at the state level through one or more organizations that maintain the quality of practice.

However, in the interest of unilateral excellence, the field looks to the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABECSW) to set the standards of certification. Not only are they the body charged with maintaining such requirements, they also keep a national directory of certified practitioners, and issue credentials for advanced clinical generalists, psychoanalysts, children and family practitioners, and clinical supervisors.

Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Master of Social Work Online (MSW) Degrees

The responsibilities of these practioners include analysis, and diagnosis and administration of therapeutic treatments, which is why they must attain additional certificates and education. However, as with general practioner applications, the role of a clinical social worker is to provide aid to vulnerable members of society, ensuring the continued equity and wellbeing of these individuals.