Skills for Social Workers
Social Work is a profession that requires a variety of emotional and psychological skills in addition to formal academic training. While knowledge and practices are what defines the profession, some of the most important skills are actually internally developed. The skills one is taught within your academic and professional training are also extremely important in their own right and cannot be ignored either.
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Some of the skills that are most relevant and useful for Social Work include the following:
- Detailed note taking ability - The ability to take excellent notes is extremely important as you listen to your clients and colleagues and develop interventions and strategies.
- Organizational skills - Being organized is very important as you will often be asked to multi-task and the ability to prioritize which work is required to be done in which order is extremely important.
- Understanding of human psychology - You will need to understand the way people’s mind works.
- Knowledge of Human Developmental stages – it is critical to understanding human psychology, to know the developmental stages from birth to death.
- Knowledge of interventions applicable to one’s specialty - Depending on your specialty there might be a variety of different interventions that are extremely important to not only understand in theoretical terms, but also in practical application.
- A developed sense of empathy - Empathy is extremely important as a Social Worker for without it you will have an unending series of difficulties as you attempt help others work through their problems without fully being able to understand their point of view on a given situation.
- Exceptional professional boundary setting - In Social Work there are myriad situations in which it is critical that you are able to quickly and effectively establish a boundary in a concise and professional manner. This is important not only for ethical reasons, but also due to the fact that you as a human being will find yourself burnt out quickly if you do not rigorously apply and stick to professional boundaries as you go about the practice of social work.
- Ability to facilitate co-operation both among individuals and groups – One of your main tasks as a Social Worker will be to get reluctant individuals and groups to work with one another.
- Active listening skills - If you wish to be successful as a social worker you will need to be able to listen and also ask questions where appropriate for clarification as otherwise you will be unable to understand what others are attempting to convey to you in an accurate manner.
- Critical thinking skills – Critical thinking is helpful in Social Work just as it is in most of life when you need to make a decision on what a piece of information really mean, critical thinking is an incredibly useful skill.
- Verbal and written communication skills – You will need to be able to express yourself to a wide variety of people in a diversity of contexts and having strong written and verbal communications skills is an absolute must.
All of these skills play a crucial role in the career of a successful Social Worker. Developing each skill will require its own unique method of learning. Many of these skills will be developed as a result of formal educational training, while some will require you to actively develop yourself as a person.
With the continued growth of the social work field comes increased opportunities for social workers and human service professionals to improve the lives of challenged individuals. Before entering the field of social work, it is important to consider the core skills that are essential for successful career as a social worker.
1. Assessment Skills
According to the National Association of Social Workers, a significant number of social workers spend half of their time in case management. In order to be successful in case management, it is important to complete quality assessments. The assessment process reveals which clients need assistance obtaining resources, and it also allows a social worker to re-evaluate clients periodically in order to ascertain whether or not services remain effective and necessary.
2. Communication Skills
Communication in social work involves written and verbal correspondence with clients and other professionals. As an example, social workers considering grant writing careers must effectively communicate with elected officials to advocate for their causes and obtain necessary funding for programs. In any social work capacity, effectively communicating helps a professional advocate appropriately, remain clear and concise, appear professional and avoid or overcome crisis situations.
3. Advocacy and Leadership
Social workers frequently advocate for their clients. Well-developed advocacy skills allow social workers to properly represent their clients and obtain the services communities need. Excellent advocacy skills lead to positive change, and this helps clients to live empowered lives. These skills are used on the local, state and federal level to fight for existing programs, create new programs and remove or revise outdated policies.
4. Problem Solving Skills
One goal of social workers is to empower individuals. In order to empower someone, professionals must help that person work through challenges. Excellent problem solving skills are crucial in finding solutions for individuals and communities. In addition, social workers often work with limited resources and tight budgets. Problem solving skills are essential if one hopes to overcome budgetary obstacles and fiscal constraints.
5. Critical Thinking Skills
Applying social work theories and making informed decisions helps professionals to best serve client needs. In addition, professionals must act in an ethical and educated manner in order to best serve their organizations. This is where critical thinking comes in. Critical thinking involves searching for answers with an open mind and using information to best serve the present situation. When used correctly, these skills empower an individual during crisis situations and assist a social worker in best utilizing available resources.
6. Respect for Diversity
Social workers serve a diverse array of clients in many different sectors of society. Diversity offers many challenges, but it also offers strengths that can be utilized to overcome obstacles. A social worker who understands this can effectively serve clients, and this increases opportunities to improve communities.
7. Intervention Skills
Social workers regularly intervene in emergency situations to benefit the lives of their clients. Interventions are best offered in a way that empowers clients and draws on their available strengths. This allows clients to develop their own strengths and utilize them when future problems arise, so they can independently manage their lives.
8. Documentation Skills
All areas of social work require that professionals document findings about clients. As an example, many sources give a probation officer job description that includes the following: the ability to compile, analyze, evaluate and report to the court information obtained during an investigation. Without well-developed documentation skills, completing such tasks would be impossible. Social workers document assessment information, crisis interventions and any correspondence with their clients or other professionals. Documentation must be thorough, accurate and timely in order to benefit both the client and the organization offering services.
9. Organizational Skills
Social workers must keep resources organized, remain diligent in maintaining thorough and accurate records and utilize effective time management skills too. Excelling in organization requires learning how to simplify a work environment, prioritize tasks, use good decision making practices and keep a calendar of important events or projects.
10. Understanding of Human Relationships
Finally, social workers must understand that this field is about human relationships. Couples, families, friends and communities are all part of the support system an individual turns to in time of crises. If a social worker does not embrace relationship based practice, resources will be missed and problems often become impossible to resolve. Understanding this is key to becoming a competent social work professional.
Mastering important skills enhances a social worker’s abilities in this challenging field. Education, practice and personal discovery all assist an individual in excelling in these areas.
10 Skills Every Social Worker Needs was last modified: November 30th, 2016 by Ashley Dunlap