This month is National Social Work Month. The theme last year was “Social Workers Are Essential” as a nod to the challenges brought about by COVID-19. During mandated lockdowns, public health guidelines placed firm guidelines for businesses and individuals. Nonessential businesses were prevented from operating, and individuals were strongly discouraged from any trips outside the home considered nonessential.
This year, the theme is “The Time is Right for Social Work.”
The National Association of Social Workers website explains this year’s theme:
“The need for social workers is great. There are nearly 720,000 social workers in our nation… Social workers have been an integral part of our nation for decades… The time is always right for social work. However, more people are entering the field because the life-affirming services that social workers provide are needed more than ever. ”
In other words, social workers – along with other healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, and therapists – have been integral fighters throughout our history. The nation needs more social workers as it continues to deal with entrenched problems that have stressed our society, including systemic racism and the Coronavirus pandemic.
Just like doctors and nurses save lives by addressing physical issues, social workers and other clinicians save lives affected by mental health issues. It’s no secret that suicidal ideation, substance use, and self-injurious behavior have increased since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with teens and younger adults experiencing particularly adverse mental health symptoms. Social workers and other mental health providers are the people who offer these at-risk adolescents treatment and support. Whether in schools, hospitals, or private counseling sessions – in person or via telehealth – social workers give strength to those who feel like they have no more left.
March is the opportunity to applaud the heroic efforts of social workers and give them a standing ovation.
The Role of Social Workers
Globally, there are more than three million social workers, with about 700,000 professional social workers in the U.S. Fun fact: California (our home state) employs more social workers than any other state in the union.
Social workers work in a variety of settings. These include mental health and addiction treatment centers, schools, agencies, hospitals, and private practice. In fact, social workers are one of the largest groups of mental health care providers in the U.S. March is a time to recognize and celebrate the significant contributions that social workers make to their communities all year round, each and every year – not just during pandemics.
But what do social workers actually do?
In general, social workers help and support individuals or children who are vulnerable, at risk, or face challenges with day-to-day living. Here’s a partial list of the challenges social workers help people overcome:
- Mental health issues
- Substance abuse
Social Workers as Therapists
Social workers who can diagnose and treat mental health, substance abuse, or behavioral issues are called licensed clinical social workers (LCSW). These clinicians can provide therapy at the individual, group, and family levels.
LCSWs generally start out as MSWs, which means they’ve earned their Master’s degree in Social Work. After they accrue 3000+ hours (about two years) of supervised counseling experience and pass the licensing exam, MSWs can become LCSWs. During their years of supervision, social workers learn how to conduct assessments, diagnose mental health and/or substance abuse disorders, and provide direct clinical treatment and counseling.
Social Workers in Teen Mental Health Treatment Centers
Clinical social workers are an integral part of teen mental health residential treatment centers, partial hospitalization programs, and intensive outpatient programs. In high-quality adolescent treatment centers, clinical social workers work in collaboration with psychologists, psychiatrists, and other therapists to develop customized treatment plans that address each client’s clinical needs. These social workers also provide individual and family therapy, conduct group therapy sessions, and engage in crisis counseling and support.
At Evolve, many of our licensed therapists hold social work degrees. Others are licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs) or licensed professional clinical counselors (LPCCs). Although the titles vary, all our masters-level licensed therapists can diagnose and treat any mental health, substance use, or behavioral disorder.
Our clinical social workers, along with the rest of our treatment team, teach teens practical skills to recover from the challenges they face. These include addiction or mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, trauma, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD), self-harming behavior, suicidal ideation, or psychosis. These therapists are often trained in evidence-based modalities such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Through these clinical modalities, our therapists teach adolescents different ways to change life-interrupting behaviors into life-affirming ones and develop productive coping mechanisms to deal with stress.
If you’re searching for a high-quality treatment center for your teen, make sure the mental health or addiction program has licensed, masters-level therapists on staff, such as licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) or licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs). Additionally, a top adolescent treatment center will also have other experts on their staff or treatment team, including a child and adolescent psychiatrist and licensed nurse.