What Do Mental Health Social Workers Do?
Social workers who specialize in mental health issues work with clients who are battling mental illness, substance abuse, unemployment and poverty, among other challenges. They provide their clients with individual or group therapy, as well as referrals to opportunities for social rehabilitation and crisis intervention. If you're interested in working as a mental health social worker, read on to learn more about these professionals and their job duties. Schools offering Clinical Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Overview of Mental Health Social Workers
As a mental health social worker (MHSW) you'll teach basic life skills, develop support networks and otherwise help your clients to become involved in their communities. You may also assist in the development of government policies and legislation. You'll likely be able to find job opportunities with rehabilitation centers, hospitals, family service agencies, prisons, nonprofit groups and government agencies.
A bachelor's degree in psychology, social work or a related field is the base requirement for some entry-level jobs in this field. Be aware, however, that many positions will require you to have a master's degree in social work. Additionally, some states require additional licensure of social workers and related professionals. According to the Council on Social Work Education (www.cswe.org) there are currently over 470 accredited bachelor's degree programs and over 200 accredited master's degree programs available in the United States.
As part of your training and education, you should expect to complete coursework in psychology, sociology, political science and public policy. In addition, you may also be required to complete at least 400 hours of supervised field experience as part of your degree program.
As a mental health social worker, you'll help patients to recover from a variety of mental illnesses and addictions. You'll help them to secure employment and housing, and otherwise establish and maintain control over their lives. You'll observe and monitor the interaction of a variety of life factors in patients, including how heredity and genetics interact with environment, lifestyle and social circumstances. Your duties may also require you to interview clients, perform mental and physical evaluations and collaborate with professionals in related fields. You'll plan, coordinate and modify treatment plans for patients, supervise other social workers and perform administrative duties.
Further Career Options
As a mental health social worker, you'll have many career options. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), overall employment of social workers is expected to increase by 16% between the years of 2008 and 2018. In addition to a career as a social worker, you might be able to find work as a case manager, mental health therapist, probation officer, clinical therapist, community support worker or counselor. Some of these positions may require additional training, education and licensure beyond what is required to work as a mental health social worker.
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