There are many different careers you can pursue as a social worker, but if you are looking to focus more on the mental health or substance abuse problems that are prevalent in this society, then becoming a psychiatric social worker may be the path for you. There is a list of the various duties you will have to perform in this job, as well as the expected job prospects for people hoping to work in this areas.
In general becoming a social worker of any kind is highly challenging, so you need to make sure that you have the personality needed to handle this line of work. That said, however, it is an incredibly rewarding line of work to get into. You will literally be able to help other people in life changing ways. There are many people in this world who owe their lives to social workers.
Becoming A Psychiatric Social Worker
There are a few things that you will have to do if you wish to become a psychiatric social worker. These are the following:
- Get the necessary qualifications. To be this kind of social worker you will need to obtain a certain level at a tertiary education institute. A bachelor’s degree is often sufficient for working with many patients with mental health disorders, but for a more advanced position or to work in a hospital or other clinical setting you will most likely be required to get a master’s degree.
- Get in the program. When you enter a graduate program, be sure to enter one that will reflect your career goals as a psychiatric social worker.
- Get licensed. This may be harder than it sounds, especially as licensing laws vary from state to state. You need to keep this in mind when becoming licensed. Do some research and find out what the licensing laws are in the particular state in which you plan to practice as a social worker. You don’t want to end up wasting your time simply because you did not take the time to find out exactly what you need to work in your state.
- Improve Your language skills. In many cases you may be working in situations where people do not speak the same language as you do. Therefore, if you have any foreign language skills, make sure that they are up to scratch. Speaking to someone in their own language lessens the communication barrier and may put them more at ease.
- Where do you start? Deciding where you want to start your career, is also a very important step and one that should be given due thought and consideration. Remember that to work autonomously requires a lot more skill then you are likely to have starting out, so make sure that you start off in a setting that you know you can handle and perhaps one where you will be under supervision.
- Don’t stop bettering your skills. Continuous education is the best thing that any health care professional can do, and there are plenty of programs for psychiatric social workers to engage in once they are qualified in order to keep their skills up at the right level.
Psychiatric Social Worker Job Description
Their main goal is to help patients who suffer with mental problems and disorders to function as well as possible within society. The duties of a such a social worker are as follows:
- Help people who have mental and psychological problems deal with those problems appropriately.
- Help people who have mental and psychological problems gain access to important social services that they will need in order to cope with their problems.
- Provide counselling to the patients who are in your care.
- Provide counselling to the families of the patients in your care as they will also be affected by the problems your patient faces and will need help in coping with their emotions as well as with practical difficulties.
- Help patients and their families obtain the financial resources they need in order to survive.
- Help patients and their families get the medical services necessary to deal with the problem in question.
- Assist in finding housing options for patients who are recovering.
- Assist in finding job for patients who are in recovery.
- Make detailed records about the problems you have identified in your patient and keep those records well up to date.
- Help people who are dealing with job related issues that may affect their mental health as well as their job performance in actual work setting in order to better their quality of life.
In addition you may find yourself doing some of the following if you pursue a career as a psychiatric social worker:
- You may work directly with patients who are in prisons or mental health facilities. In some cases the patient is simply assigned a social worker, but there are those who voluntarily ask to see a social worker in order to find the best solution to their problem.
- You may deal directly with the families of these patients. This is an important part of the counselling service as mentioned above as the families of the patient is are affected by the predicament of their loved one to quite an extensive degree.
The services you will provide and the methods you will employ may vary depending on where you work and on the specific needs of the patient and their family, but the basics are as follows:
- individual and group therapy
- crisis intervention
- social rehabilitation
- teaching skills needed for everyday living
Where You Can Work
There are several setting in which this kind of social worker can work. They are:
- Inpatient psychiatric hospitals
- Outpatient mental health centers
- Government social services offices
You will be happy to hear that like so many of the health and mental health industries, the need for psychiatric social workers is growing, meaning that you will have guaranteed job security and employment options should you choose this line of work. They hold about 137,300 of the 642,000 jobs that are currently registered. It is though, that jobs for them will increase by nearly 20% by 2018, which is a lot faster than jobs are increasing in any other industry at present. A big part of being a psychiatric social worker is working with substance abuse offenders. Due to changing attitude towards the problem of substance abuse, many substance abusers are being put in institutions rather than prison.
This change benefits many people, including social workers. The demand for social workers in outpatient institutions has therefore greatly increased. Even those who are in prison are generally required to fulfill some sort of rehabilitation program, thereby given you the opportunity to work in prisons as well, once again increasing your job opportunities as a social worker. If you are hoping to open you own private practice, you will also be in luck. Generally speaking, they are cheaper than psychologists, making them a preferred option for a large number of people. The psychiatric social worker pay that you will be eligible for, will not be amazing, but it will be sufficient for the vocation.
The work environment varies. A lot of the time you will find that you are in a job that involves being indoors all day or in an office setting. However, there are also jobs that provide you with the opportunity to work in the field and travel to the affected areas in your community, although as a psychiatric social worker you will most likely be traveling to the institutions where your patient is interred. It can be a very challenging job, however, especially considering the understaffing and low salaries that social workers receive. However, if you speak to any social worker, they will tell you that they are not in it for the money, but rather for the rewarding experience in general.
The workload is also likely to be heavy, leaving you feeling that you are unable to give each case the personal attention it deserves. However, all you can do is your best, and for many people, that will be more than enough to get them through their difficulties. You will have the option of working normal 40 hour weeks, but in many cases you may be able to negotiate for part-time or weekend work, making it a very flexible career in terms of the working hours. On top of the 40 hour week you may work in the evenings and on weekends in order to engage in extra meetings and so on.
Know that you have all of the facts and figures related to becoming a social worker you will be able to make an informed decision about this career path and whether or not it is the best choice for you. It is very important to make sure that you get the correct qualifications and licensing in order to practice in the state in which you are hoping to work. Make sure that you are fully aware of what will be expected of you in most psychiatric social work jobs, and be aware that you will be dealing with people who are dangerous in this line of work. Make sure that you are fully prepared and able to cope with all of these aspects of being a psychiatric social worker. Do your research well and make sure that you are 100% certain.