In case you didn't know, March is National Social Work month! There are more than 650,000 social workers in the United States, working in a wide variety of settings (Social Work Month). When my dad first suggested to me that I go to grad school for social work when I was 22, I envisioned myself behind a glass ticket window passing paper "food stamps" to people (which isn't even how food stamps actually get distributed) and told him that I didn't think I needed a Master's Degree to do that. Besides, I wanted to counsel people, to really help them. My dad ignored my response and encouraged me to check out University of Maryland's School of Social Work, right here in our own Baltimore City, which come to find out is ranked 17th for Best Grad School Social Work programs (out of well over 200) by US News & World Report. And so began my journey into the world of social work. Many people don't really understand what a social worker does or can do, which is understandable considering there are dozens of paths on which one could embark in this field. Hospital, schools, community programs, research institutions, outpatient mental health centers, and government are just some of the settings in which social workers find employment. "Clinical social workers are the largest group of professionally trained mental health providers in the US, providing over half of all counseling and therapy services" (Clinical Social Work). This includes private practice therapy (sort of like what you see on TV....a therapist in a chair, talking to a client on a sofa about what's going on in their lives). But obviously, there is so much more to it than that. While I have worked in a handful of the above settings, I have found my niche in private practice, where I get to spend my time helping my ideal clients (individuals just struggling with the stress of life-work, relationships, parenting, adulting-because, c'mon-adulting is HARD sometimes) develop strategies to help them feel like they are living fuller, more abundant lives. Social workers don't go into this field for the paycheck. It's an incredibly underpaid profession (I mean, I did have 2 of my fingers broken by a client while I was pregnant at a past job and there's really no amount of money I would take to willingly have that happen again). Despite that, I think I can speak for the majority of my fellow social workers when I say that the reward is truly in helping the people with whom we work. So if you know a social worker, give them a hug this month and tell them you appreciate what they do!
For more information on what social workers do, how to become a social worker, or how to decide to pursue a career in this field, check out the below links:
What's it really like to be a social worker?
Careers in social work
2018 Social Work Month