Has the field of social work changed in the last century
Has the field of social work changed in the last century? What comes to mind when you hear the words “social work”? The field has changed from philanthropic to a specialized field. Social workers now have various areas in which to practice, including clinical practice, which is a field that use to be reserved only for psychologists and psychiatrists. Practicing for over 20 years, Diane Rullo is a clinical social worker. She worked as an intern while attending school to get a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, then she continued to work there while she went on to get her Master of Arts degree in counseling. When she was growing up she knew she wanted to be a social worker, but she didn’t know there was a special degree for social workers. Later, she found out about the Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. In New Jersey, a degree like that brought a person status and power. She wanted to work in a clinical position. There were non-MSW clinical areas out there to work in, but those opportunities were limited and unfortunately, MSW’s were in high demand. So, she went into addiction treatment, a clinical area that didn’t require a MSW. In 1990, New Jersey’s state legislature passed its MSW licensure, which made the degree even more powerful. This pushed Rullo to go for her childhood dream and become a social worker. She not only completed her MSW, she went on to get her PhD in social work and started a private practice. She’s also an “adjunct professor at a university teaching clinical skills to social workers.” (Rullo, 2001)
Today, people are more accepting of the idea of social workers as therapists. With the policy changes to HMO’s, managed care, and insurance companies, people are seeing the advantages of using psychiatrists and psychologists for medication management and social workers for psychotherapy.
So, if we go back to the original question, “has social work changed in the last century?”, the answer would be yes. People can no longer legally call themselves social workers unless they have at least a BSW degree. With a BSW degree, social workers have a huge field of positions to choose from. Just to name a few; advocate, mediator, consultant, counselor, and administrator,
Clinical social workers devote hours to helping others. Their work week is 40 hours plus. Whether it’s a generalist practitioner or a private practice, most social workers are on call for emergencies. So, that means they really work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Not many professions expect a person to work so many hours, especially without pay.
The educational programs are concentrating on making social workers perform to the best of their abilities. Clinical social work practices have advanced through areas of social science and gained skills from professions like sociology, psychology, psychiatry, legal studies, anthropology, and political science. The profession was founded on philanthropy, but that was just the seed that started the profession growing. In the last hundred years, the fertilizer that gave clinical social work its own life was the other fields of practice.
Early on, social work was mostly volunteer work. It was helping poor people find food, clothing, and shelter. They’d also try to find help for needs of clients they couldn’t take care of. Now students are trained to work for the result they want when they meet a patient. Today there are degree programs the educational system has developed specifically to train persons to use their intellect to assess, evaluate, and diagnose their patients.
Continuing education, specialized training, workshops, and seminars are crucial to keep up the status of a clinical social worker. Social workers aren’t persons with lots of time on their hands. “Today, social workers have spent many hours educating themselves to make intellectual judgements about people’s situations and to devise plans to help people change any negative life situations that they confront.” (Rullo, 2001)
Using a medical model framework, clinical social workers treat patients with psychotic, mood, ; anxiety disorders, ; chemical dependency. They also do family and couples therapy, behavioral techniques, psychological interventions, and case management. The effect social workers have professionally is due to the involvement of these advancements. There was an effort in the 1990’s to try and keep families together. Often, social workers are given this task. They try to do this by educating family members about understanding each other through cooperation and communication. Social workers must also help those persons facing such issues as physical/sexual abuse, suicide, homicide, extreme psychotic disorders, and self-mutilation. Their work intervenes in all areas of psychological disorders.
In today’s time, with the changes to clinical social work, it’s not often a patient will be referred out to any other sources for treatment. Most of the time, clinical social workers can handle or help the patient handle a crisis. The referral of a patient to a psychiatric facility would be used to stop a threat of harm to themselves or to someone else. This is an option the social worker has at their disposal to further help their patient and to solve their problem correctly.
Clinical social workers have many instruments to help the progress of their science and the interventions. They have designed tests to measure mental disorders, addiction, depression, 33w2and anxiety. They’ll also use psychiatrists to help treat their patients with issues that may require medication. Social workers today must be decision makers with their patients. It’s their obligation to be able to recognize issues patients have and use their referral contacts to help get the patient stabilized and ready for the clinical time to continue.
Clinical social workers often don’t make the same amount of pay as other professionals with the same level of education. Their starting pay is about the same as a full-time clerical employee or grocery store cashier. Clinical social workers must acquire some of the highest educational requirements and field training, but the attitude they face concerning their salaries is philanthropic.
When clinical social workers deal with third-party payments from insurance companies, HMO’s, and managed care organizations they face the disadvantage of being paid less for their clinical care versus the same care given by other clinical care providers. For those clinical social workers in private practice, the money outlook isn’t good. Unlike those in generalist practices, the clinical social worker can’t look forward to raises, and cost of living increases, or salary increases based on how good a job they do. Typically, incomes will decline based on insurance, HMO’s, and managed care companies reassessing how often a patient can be seen or how much a visit is worth. The social work community, even though it has established itself into a specialized group, hasn’t helped encourage higher wages and more consistent fees for services.
People continue to become clinical social workers because they have a need to help families, individuals, and society. “Finally, in terms of status, clinical social work has gained a respected and needed position in society. Clinical social workers are highly skilled, resourceful professionals who have learned to combine tactfulness, judiciousness, and empathy with technical skills.” (Rullo, 2001)