Social Worker Scope Of Practice

If you are thinking about becoming a social worker you need to be aware of the required social worker scope of practice. A scope of practice is a set of rules and guidelines governing what you may and may not do in your role as a social worker. If you overstep the boundaries and d something that you are not allowed to do, you may lose your job and your license.

Scope Of Practice Overview

At the most basic level a social worker is meant to facilitate the social well-being and health of a person within the social environment. This is easier said than done and one of the things that you will hear most frequently about this job is that it is, above all else, a stressful one to do. Social well-being has to do with:

  • The social roles that people play in society as well as the roles that are expected of them in comparison to the roles that they actually perform, and
  • Society’s ability to help those people perform the roles that they need to perform to an adequate degree and in such a way that their social well being and sense of congruency in well maintained.

As a social worker you may have to work with young offenders, people with mental health conditions, school non-attendees, drug and alcohol abusers, people with learning and physical disabilities, the homeless, as well as the elderly. Essentially you will work with anyone who has been excluded from the normal social functioning in society and that needs help in getting back on track in terms of the required social role. There are a number of tasks that you will be expected to do. As a social worker you must undertake and write up assessments, conduct interviews with service users and their families to assess and review their situation, offer information and counseling support to service users and their families, organize and manage packages of support, recommend decisions about the best course of action for a particular service user, liaise with, and make referrals to, other services that may be able to help your client(s), participate in multidisciplinary teams and meetings, maintain accurate records, prepare reports for legal action, give evidence in court, and last but not least participate in training, supervision and team meetings.

Social Worker Scope Of Practice

The various things mentioned here are all part of the scope of practice of a social worker. In other words they form part of the list of things that you are allowed to do as a social worker. In a lot of ways it is quite difficult to define the social worker scope of practice because social workers work in such a wide variety of different contexts doing a wide variety of different tasks and fulfilling many different job roles. However, depending on your qualifications that you have earned as a social worker, and depending on the area of social work that you are specializing in, there are certain things that will fall within your scope of practice and certain tasks that you will most likely be responsible for performing. These tasks and job roles are mentioned below.

Scope Of Practice Based On Education And Specialization

There are two main degrees that you will be able to earn:

  • The Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) prepares individuals for entry-level general practice;
  • The Master of Social Work (MSW) prepares people to do advanced specialized practice in direct practice or administration

The following is an account of what your scope of practice will be with each degree:

The Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

  • You can advocate for individuals, groups, and communities
  • You can educate, give information to, and refer clients
  • You can engage in the facilitation of links with community resources
  • You can conduct psychosocial assessments
  • You can handle case management
  • You can engage in individual, family and group counseling
  • You can engage in intervention, planning and evaluation
  • You will be able to conduct research
  • You will be able to get involved with community organization

The Master Of Social Work (MSW)

  • You can advocate for individuals, groups, and communities
  • You can educate, give information to, and refer clients
  • You can conduct psychosocial assessments
  • You can handle case management
  • You will be able to conduct research
  • You will be able to get involved with community organization
  • You can engage in education and training related to community needs and problems
  • You can be involved in the development of a social welfare policy
  • You will be consulted regarding agency policy and development
  • You will be in a position to supervise other social workers below you in standing
  • You will be allowed to engage in individual, marital, family and group therapy
  • You will be heavily involved in treatment planning programs as well as in the evaluation of the those treatment programs
  • You will be allowed to do school social work
  • You will be allowed to do corrections social work
  • You will be allowed to do medical setting social work
  • You will be allowed to engage in psychotherapy with both adults and children
  • You will be allowed to run your own independent clinical practice

As you can see the higher your degree the more responsibilities will fall into your scope of practice and the more tasks you will be allowed to complete on your own. If you step outside your scope of practice you will stand the chance of being prosecuted as legally this is seen as an unsafe way to provide help to clients. For many of the different social worker roles you will need the master’s degree, so this is the one we suggest you work towards form the start.

Social Worker Scope Of Practice: Practice Methods

There are a number of different practice methods that will be available to you as a social worker within the social worker scope of practice:

  • Case Management: As a social worker you may need t deal with situations on a case to case basis and case management will almost always form part of your scope of practice.
  • Psychosocial Therapy
  • Community Resource Coordination
  • Child Protection Assessments: This involves evaluating a child’s environment and then making a decision regarding whether or not that child should stay in that environment, whether you should intervene in that environment, or whether you should remove the child from the environment altogether.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is a very clinical aspect of social work and requires a high degree of training that will not necessarily fall within the scope of practice for each and every individual social worker out there.
  • Developmental Social Welfare
  • Client-Centered Therapy:This implies a focus on the client rather than on the social worker and an understanding that through and empathetic approach your client will be able to eventually present himself or herself with the answers that he or she is searching for on his or her own.-          Social Casework-          Grassroots Mobilization or Locality Development

    –          Clinical Social Work

    –          Social Group Work

  • Program Evaluation:When programs are implemented in a community they need to be evaluated for their efficacy in order to determine whether or not they should be continues or discontinued. This will form part of your responsibilities as a social worker.
    –          Crisis Management

    –          Client Advocacy

    –          Neighborhood and Community Organizing: As a social worker one of your main responsibilities will involve organizing change at a community level.

    –          Discharge Planning

    –          Network Facilitation

  • Political and Social Action:Instigating change is something that often has to occur at a political level as political change is often the catalyst for social change. As a social worker you will have to be both socially and politically active in order to achieve the best results for the communities that you serve.
    –          Family and Marital Therapy

    –          Network Skills Training

    –          Social Planning

    –          Family Mediation

    –          Structural Social Work

    –          Social Policy Analysis and Development

  • Group Therapy:At times you may be required to work with groups rather than with individuals for a variety of reasons and you will consequently require the skills needed to speak with a group.

    –          Class Action Social Work

  • Structural Change: IN order to facilitate the change that is required to benefit the community that you serve you will need to ensure that change occurs at a structural level in society and is not merely spoken about.

What Can I Do With A Social Worker Degree?

There are different educational levels that you can pursue as a social worker student. Each level of education comes with a differing scope of practice. The two main degrees are:

  • The Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) prepares individuals for entry-level general practice;
  • The Master of Social Work (MSW) prepares people to do advanced specialized practice in direct practice or administration.

There are several specific areas that you will be able to work in as a social worker:

Services to Children in Troubled Families

There are a large number of children living in what are referred to as troubled families. These children often need to be removed from their homes. In these cases it is the social worker who deals with the foster care and adoption issues and also who intervenes in any way deemed necessary.

Clinical Therapeutic Services

This is one of the more clinical areas to work in as the social worker in this regard will be responsible for providing actual clinical counseling interventions aimed at bringing about psycho-social change for and in the client who is being dealt with.

Criminal Justice and Corrections

A social worker working in this aspect of the social paradigm will have to do a lot of counseling and therapy as well as the necessary behavioral rehabilitation. In addition you as the social worker will provide probation and parole services, youth offender services, as well as victim assistance.

Community Development

In terms of community development the social worker will have to engage in planning and developing community programs to improve the lives of citizens as well as in educating about and advocating for community improvements and engaging in the politics of the situation.

Employee Assistance

In this regard the social worker will be responsible for ensuring that the work environment is in line with the best interests of the workers and that they are emotionally stable. The social worker may also be involved in hiring and firing.

Developmental Disabilities

Here the social worker will be responsible for intervening on behalf of and advocating for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Gerontology

This involves working with and developing programs for the elderly population demographic.

Services to the Needy

The social worker working in this domain will be engaged in intervening in the lives of the poor, advocating for the poor, as well as developing programs to improve conditions for the poor

School Social Work

Here you will provide services to help children deal with the pressures of growing up as well as to help them face the challenges this time of life presents.

Mental Health Care

Here you will counsel people who face disease, develop programs which promote health, intervene with persons who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction, and advocate for programs which promote health and healthy living.

It is incredibly important that you have a good working knowledge of what a social worker may and may not do before embarking on this career. It is equally important that you ensure that you do not overstep the boundaries purposefully or by accident once you have qualified to practice as a social worker. There is a lot at stake in a job like this, and if you do something outside of your scope of practice you may well end up jeopardizing legal proceedings. This is something that you simply cannot afford to do.

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