What is Social Work?

Helping people overcome some of the challenges associated with abuse, poverty, homelessness, addiction, aging, disability, illness, and discrimination is the heart of social work. Social workers are skilled in ethics, human development and behavior, in ways of helping others, and in the nature and impact of a particular social problem like child abuse or homelessness. They work in a number of different settings including:

  • Child welfare and family service agencies
  • Hospitals or hospice
  • Community mental health or substance abuse treatment centers
  • Retirement centers, skilled nursing centers, or other places that serve the needs of the elderly and their families
  • Prisons and the justice system
  • Schools and community programs

There are several ways that social workers support their clients.  They help them secure resources and necessary services.  For example, a social worker might locate affordable housing for an impoverished mother or find a suitable foster home for an abused child.  Clinical social workers provide therapy to people who are experiencing personal problems, who are mentally ill, or who have some type of addiction.  Other social workers teach, conduct research, or help make the world a better place by developing or shaping public policy.