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The Counseling Center

social work month

What do Social Workers do anyway?

Max Liles, Senior Director

When I made the decision myself to get into Social Work, it was pretty straight forward. A lot of people I looked up to in my professional life were Master’s level social workers and counselors.

(I know it’s social worker month, but I gotta shout out our gang affiliates the LPC’s and LPCC’s)
I got some advice from a couple trusted folks and followed their direction. I applied to a couple universities. Despite not looking the best on paper, I got accepted to a couple places.

Ultimately I wound up at Ohio University, because my wife was also going to graduate school at the same time and that’s where she was going. Her program required we move to Athens, so lucky OU Social work let me in and the rest is history. I look back on that time in grad school at OU and remember it as the most pleasant trauma I ever had. ☺

Cut to the first semester – I’m in a class that was designed to put students from multiple disciplines together; think hospital. There are A LOT of different backgrounds that make up and contribute to the medical care we get. This class was supposed to be the place we crossed paths before we worked together, to start to get a grip on what the other professionals ACTUALLY do.

Now, mind you, I’m a Social Work student who got into grad school on a prayer and a standard of academic progress plan… and these people put me in a class with high level doctoral students. Physical Therapy, Audiology, Speech-Language Pathology, Nurses, Doctors – REAL LIFE DOCTORS!

Fast forward to the end of the semester, I’ll never forget the assignment… “Word on the Street”. The goal was to go home over Thanksgiving break and talk to some people in our lives and get their perspective on what our own profession did.
“Uhh… Work with kids? At least that’s what my friend’s girlfriend does and I think she’s a social worker?”
“Social workers are the people that discharge you from the hospital.”

“Work… with… people?”

I’ve been on the hunt for the most eloquent answer that I got, because I wanted to share it in this blog, verbatim – but I’ve had no such luck in finding it. Number 1, my boy Jake Bradshaw, as only he could perfectly described the profession in a way that was both mystical and real. Number 2, this marked the first time I cited Jake Bradshaw as a scholarly source in a graduate school program. (Hope you read this, JB).

So – what do Social Workers do?

Like the voice of our generation, Meek Mill taught us, “There’s levels to this…”

MACRO: Some Social Workers spend their time on what is called the Macro Level – the big picture. These people are advocating for large scale policies, procedures, and changes that will benefit large groups of the populations we serve. It might be at the state house, it might be within a national advocacy group, it might be part of their job at a large scale social services organization

MEZZO: Some Social Workers spend their time working the in between… think of this as your regional influencers. These folks are organizing the resources of our more localized areas to make the most of what we have at our disposal. Social workers at this level focus on teaming up with other community partners, create and operate consortiums or coalitions, or maybe focus on helping others implement the benefits of things that happened on the macro level.

MICRO: And by no means does this mean small. The Micro Level is individual focused. These are the Social Workers that keep their clinical focus. They are performing diagnostic assessments, rendering diagnosis, providing therapy, and assisting our client base in addressing the day to day barriers of their lives.

Social Workers perform their duties with a ton of different populations that span all of the human experience. Any population that is identified as vulnerable is our people. You might find us in schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, retirement homes, in an elected office, prisons, senior centers, or operating our own private practice.

With that being said, this isn’t some willy-nilly thing where we come in and do what we individually think is best. We have a skill set. We have strict education and licensing policies. We keep up with continuing education. We believe is what science tells us in best practice. We monitor changes in the field. We allow the code of ethics to guide our practice wherever we may be.

Check it out.

In addition to the Code of Ethics in its entirety, our practice is guided by the following core values:
–social justice
–dignity and worth of the person
–importance of human relationships

Here to help.
Above all, I think most people get into the profession of Social Work because we want to help people.
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