What is a Typical Day for a Clinical Social Worker?

A typical day for a clinical social worker (CSW) involves empowering clients to contend with personal challenges. While specific duties vary by employer and patient population, all social workers provide skillful counseling.

Through psychotherapy, people gain coping strategies to handle difficult emotions, behaviors, relationships, and situations. Additionally, clients learn where to access valuable community services, making life easier for them physically. Here’s an exciting tour of a clinical social worker’s daily responsibilities.

Performing Client Assessments

Many CSWs are employed by social service organizations or healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, child welfare agencies, public schools, rehab centers, and mental health clinics. Usually, such professionals begin their workday by attending a staff meeting to obtain their client schedule.

Subsequently, a child welfare CSW travels to a child’s home, responding to a report of suspected abuse or neglect. During the intake, the CSW evaluates the child’s home environment, physical and emotional well-being, and caregiver competency. Based on their findings, they devise a plan to ensure the child has a healthy residential setting. If the home is considered unsafe, the CSW may place the child with an adoptive or foster family.

A family services CSW also performs home assessments. However, rather than relocating a child, their goal is keeping a family together. To help a child thrive among their loved ones, the CSW provides caregivers with counseling, education, and referrals to community services, such as financial aid programs.

At an academic institution, a school CSW helps students surmount barriers to learning. Examples are behavioral problems, mental health disorders, emotional challenges, and learning disabilities. Medical CSWs are employed by hospitals, conducting assessments when patients are admitted and discharged. Social workers in private practice evaluate clients in a professional office setting.

Providing Psychotherapy

The counseling given by a CSW is “strengths-based.” During an adult intake, the therapist documents the problems needing intervention and any relevant history. Next, the therapist identifies the person’s innate talents and skills. These strengths form the basis for teaching coping methods.

In a social work context, psychotherapy is also “holistic,” considering the impact of environments and other people on client issues. Frequently, CSWs practice cognitive behavioral therapy. With this approach, a client overcomes unhealthy habits by changing the detrimental beliefs that trigger them. As a person learns to see the bright side of challenges, troubles become less burdensome. Then, armed with management tools, a client can better handle problems, and unwanted habits gradually resolve.

Psychotherapy tackles many types of harmful thinking patterns. Among them are blaming, personalizing, labeling, regretting, generalizing, and making uninformed assumptions. To devise a treatment plan, a CSW formulates a problem list, diagnosis, and client strengths. Then, they create a “working hypothesis,” the suspected reason for a client’s unproductive behavior.

Psychotherapy sessions can be tailored to individuals, couples, and groups. Common problems addressed are depression, addiction, anxiety, self-harm, marital strife, and grappling with a major life change, such as a chronic illness. Once a therapist establishes treatment goals, they develop an action plan to achieve them.

Documenting Interventions

A typical day for a clinical social worker entails considerable documentation. Due to financial, ethical, and legal mandates, a practitioner must be diligent with record keeping. For each client, the CSW summarizes their initial assessment, therapy goals, and treatments, with results reported at least weekly.

In healthcare facilities and social service organizations, progress notes help various departments stay informed of client developments. Progress notes should include all clinically relevant e-mail, phone, and text messages from clients. Plus, they must mention all client-related interactions with families, caregivers, educators, and facility employees.

A child welfare CSW is responsible for completing four types of documentation — Investigation Narratives, Case Plans, Case Notes, and Court Reports. An Investigation Narrative contains an assessment of child neglect or abuse. A Case Plan includes findings on child health, along with family goals, agreements, and visitation schedules. In the Case Notes, a CSW records family interactions. Some situations may require a CSW to testify in court. The information in Court Reports is specific to the hearing planned.

Detailed documentation ensures continuity of care if a CSW becomes unavailable due to illness, vacation, disability, or termination. Thorough records are also required by health insurers, funding agencies, and quality assurance staff. Note that, if a CSW is cited for ethics complaints or lawsuits, comprehensive records protect their integrity and license! Here, Social Work Today reveals the legal impact on a CSW who failed to keep detailed notes on a suicidal client.

Attending Multidisciplinary Rounds

At a medical facility, a CSW’s workday involves joining a multidisciplinary team, visiting patients on the social work census. Typically, the team includes department representatives from Nursing, Finance, Pharmacy, and Case Management. During rounds, they identify patients ready for discharge, then meet to synchronize preparations. For patients not making progress, the team discusses ways to improve healthcare and outcomes.

During a patient’s hospitalization, a CSW is a friendly point of contact, available to answer questions about facility services, procedures, and policies. When a patient is ready for discharge, the CSW may collaborate with a discharge planner. This type of social worker streamlines a patient’s return to home or transfer to a rehab facility. A CSW may assist the discharge planner by devising a home healthcare plan. This can include scheduling home visits by a nurse, physical therapist, or occupational therapist. Additionally, the CSW may order medical equipment for home use.

The final assessment by a CSW entails noting which community services are required for continuity of care. Then, the CSW provides the names and addresses of where a client can obtain further help.

For patients with severe mental illness, the therapist schedules follow-up home visits. By observing a client’s residence, the CSW can see whether the home environment is safe and supportive. If not, suggestions are given for making improvements, which are then evaluated at subsequent home visits.

Saving Lives

A typical day for a clinical social worker involves being a refuge for those grappling with trying situations. This compassionate role entails making client assessments, holding psychotherapy sessions, connecting patients to community services, and documenting social work interventions. In large healthcare facilities, the CSW joins multidisciplinary rounds, ensuring that patients receive optimal treatment, emotional support, and ongoing medical care after discharge.

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

If serving people in this way appeals to you, this profession could be your niche. Your dedication will help clients gain strength and confidence, transforming their struggles into triumphs. And, just like a doctor, in some cases, you’ll be saving precious lives!