CHOOSING A CAREER / JUL. 12, 2014
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How to Become a Clinical Social Worker

If you have a person-in-environment perspective and willing to help individuals in improving and maintaining their social, psychological and physical function, working as a clinical social worker is ideal for you. This job position requires you to emphasize family, community, group and individual resources as well as reciprocation between people and their surroundings to indulge in resolute conversation and programmed therapeutic tasks with clients to mobilize environmental resources.

What Do Clinical Social Workers Do?

Clinical social workers can work in a number of settings such as:

  • Child welfare agencies
  • Mental health clinics
  • Schools
  • Community organizations
  • Medical facilities such as hospitals and clinics
  • Private practice offices
  • Community organizations

Clinical social work is renowned for its practitioners’ versatility and variety of their responsibilities. They are either team members or team leaders in various settings. Their roles include but are not limited to:

  • Advocating for patients and clients to clear up various crises
  • Collaborating with other professionals to analyze physical and medical conditions to determine the client’s needs
  • Counseling patients and clients in group and individual sessions to enable them recover from ailments, overcome dependencies and adjust to life
  • Utilizing social work experience and consultation data to coordinate and schedule patient and client rehabilitation programs while ensuring service efficiency
  • Planning discharge of patients and clients from healthcare facilities
  • Organizing support groups or counseling family members to help them understand, support and cope with patients
  • Modifying treatment plans in accordance to the status of their clients
  • Monitoring, evaluating and recording progress with regard to measurable goals outlined in the care and treatment plan
  • Identifying the environmental impacts on patient or client progress through patients’ records and interviews

Salary

In 2012, the median annual salary for clinical social workers was $49,830. The highest earners made around $61,590 while the lowest earners took home roughly $39,120. Below is the median annual salary of clinical social workers in the best paying cities.

City

Median Annual Earnings

Napa, California

$76,210.00

Vallejo, California

$76,060.00

Hanford, California

$74,330.00

Danbury, Connecticut

$71,240.00

San Francisco

$67,760.00

Source: usnews

Skills

Clinical social work is based on both theory and knowledge of psychological, spiritual, social, and normal biological development. The imperative skills required of a clinical social worker include:

  • Active listening skills to accord full attention to what others are saying and ask relevant questions for proper understanding
  • Speech eloquence
  • Ability to understand written material
  • Decision making and judgment abilities to be able to evaluate the relative benefits and costs of the available alternatives
  • Complex problem solving abilities
  • Ability to adjust actions according to the client’s needs
  • Critical thinking abilities
  • Logic and reasoning abilities to establish weaknesses and strengths of various problem solutions
  • Ability to communicate effectively through writing

Qualifications

Securing a bachelor’s degree in social work will enable a beginner to obtain the position of a mental health or a case worker assistant. However, all clinical social workers are supposed to obtain a MSW which is a master’s degree usually earned from a two-year program. Clinical social workers are also encouraged to study chemistry and biology subjects to gain a better understanding of their work. This is important because as well as dealing with people in therapy, they will also be dealing with those who use different kinds of drugs and unlawful recreational substances. The graduate program consists of the following coursework:

  • Principles of social work
  • Social welfare policies
  • Human lifespan development
  • Social and political environments
  • Working with children and families
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Field practice
  • At-risk populations

Even though requirements vary by state, many states require the clinical social worker to be licensed. PhD programs are available for those individuals wishing to go into research. A large number of these graduates end up working with social training organizations or certain applied research teams. These programs usually have 47-51 program hours accompanied by a dissertation. PhD students are required to conduct research on theories of social work since they have a close relation with their practice and principles in the clinical social field.

Career development for clinical social workers is a crucial activity. However, it is a self-directed initiative which needs the professionals to assume obligation for the expansion of their personal knowledge base. Regardless of the stage of their career, clinical social workers are encouraged to keep updated of the prevailing theory, research and techniques that offer them guidance on social work to provide better services to their clients.

Career Prospects

According to BLS, employment opportunities for clinical social workers are estimated to increase 19% from 2012-2022 due an increase in the demand for social and healthcare services. However, this will vary according to specialty.

Working as a clinical social worker, you need to develop skills on how to comfort and converse with people especially during the hardest times in their lives. You are required to be compassionate and patient when working with various clients. The clinical social work guiding principles value the dignity of all clients and their need for confidentiality. As such it is clearly not a career for everyone but if you have these attributes then this might be the right career for you.

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