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Social Workers: An Overview

What Social Workers Do

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Social workers assist people by helping them cope with issues in their everyday lives, deal with their relationships, and solve personal and family problems.

There are a variety of social workers. Two types work with people with life changing health conditions: Medical and Public Health Social Workers, and Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers.

Medical and public health social workers do the following:

  • Provide psychosocial support to people, families, or vulnerable populations so they can cope with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, or AIDS.
  • Helps the patient, family and caregivers reorganize and adjust to new, possibly changing, needs
  • Counsel patients.
  • Help plan for patients' needs after discharge from hospitals.
  • Arrange for at-home services, such as meals-on-wheels or home care.
  • Work on interdisciplinary teams that evaluate certain kinds of patients'"geriatric or organ transplant patients, for example.

Medical and public health social workers may work for hospitals, nursing and personal care facilities, individual and family services agencies, local governments or on their own.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers (also known as "Clinical Social Workers")

In general, mental health and substance abuse social workers provide services similar to those provided by psychologists and psychologists. For instance, mental health social workers:

  • Assess and treat people who experience difficulty coping with emotions relating to a diagnosis of a serious health condition.
  • Assess and treat individuals with mental illness or substance abuse problems, including abuse of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. Such services include individual and group therapy, outreach, crisis intervention, social rehabilitation, and teaching skills needed for everyday living.
  • Help plan for supportive services to ease clients' return to the community.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers are likely to work in hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, individual and family services agencies, or local governments.

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