A social worker is a professional who helps people manage various challenges and events in their lives. The worker can guide people through multiple issues and help them learn to live independently. A social worker’s efforts are often about helping people feel better about themselves while providing the tools necessary for managing their lives.
A clinical social worker is slightly different from a traditional social worker. In addition to helping a client learn how to handle many life situations, a clinical social worker provides counseling services. These professionals can diagnose and find solutions for clients with mental illnesses or substance abuse concerns.
Both types of workers are essential to the mental and emotional health of at-risk people, but the duties they carry out are very different. Here is a closer look at what sets these roles apart.
Clinical workers operate on a micro level
The best way to explain how clinical and typical social workers are different involves looking at the levels at which they work. A clinical social worker operates on a micro level, focusing on individuals and reviewing each person’s distinct needs.
A traditional social worker focuses on a macro level. While a social worker can provide help for individual people, much of their work is about finding the necessary policies and services a client can benefit from the most. A social worker can recommend various treatment solutions or measures for clients, but many of these duties might be more general in nature. Nevertheless, their services are still critical for helping people with various needs.
The unique services a social worker provides can find solutions for a patient who needs help. Every person has different needs, and a social worker can find the right solutions to fit each specific individual. Proper preparation and support for each patient are critical components of care.
How can a clinical social worker help?
A clinical social worker will provide many services for patients, talking to each person and assessing their unique situation. Clinical social workers can manage many patients, including children, seniors, recovering addicts, people with previously diagnosed mental health conditions, and victims of trauma and violence.
A social worker will talk with people and review various considerations, such as:
- What might have caused a problem to happen
- Recurring issues a patient experiences
- What a patient has tried doing in the past to fix things
- Any changes in their relationships with others, including how a certain condition is straining such links
A social worker can diagnose patients and devise a suitable care plan to meet their needs. Every patient’s needs will vary, and some people may require more unique standards that go beyond whatever resources are already available.
All social workers will need to listen to people and understand their needs. The best social workers will be respectful of their clients without being judgmental. They should avoid letting biases or other prior thoughts influence their decisions about which treatments and services are necessary for patients.
What about a regular social worker?
A standard social worker can also support various people who have emotional and mental health needs. However, they will concentrate on different agencies, community partners, and groups that may be able to offer assistance. The social worker is responsible for determining the contacts someone might require for care.
A typical social worker will still provide help in many ways, including supporting conflict resolution measures, rehabilitation services, and mediation efforts. However, the work will not be as intensive or specific as what a clinical social worker might provide.
Diagnostic efforts are critical for social work as a patient must be properly diagnosed with a condition before receiving help. Although a standard social worker cannot diagnose patients, a clinical social worker can diagnose certain patients with specific mental or behavioral disorders. The worker can then recommend appropriate treatments.
While a social worker can diagnose a condition, it is important to keep in mind that they cannot prescribe medications or other treatments. However, they can refer a patient to another professional for further treatment and support.
What education is necessary?
The pathway to becoming a social worker is roughly identical for both a clinical worker and a standard one, but the contents of a study program will vary by institution. Social workers can study for an advanced MSW online through Florida State University, for example, to further their career. The school provides a clinically focused social worker program that helps social workers understand how to provide clinical services for clients.
A social worker will go through these steps to become certified:
- The student should have a bachelor’s degree in social work or another related field. A GRE is not required in some situations.
- A statement of purpose may be necessary to enter a school like Florida State University. The statement of purpose provides details on how someone will provide value to their graduate program.
- The student will then need to complete a master’s in social work, or MSW, program. It can take around three years for a student to complete a traditional MSW program, although some online programs may be completed in two years.
- A certain number of fieldwork hours will be required. The number of hours a student must complete will vary by state. An online study program can provide field placement services for students.
- The student must then complete a certification exam that is specific to the state in which they plan to work.
- Each graduate must also apply for a license to serve as a social worker in their state. The license will only be valid for that particular state.
- Continuing education may also be necessary for some professionals. The rules for these will vary by state.
The education process is critical for all social workers. Online programs can help students, especially those who are actively working and need help balancing their commitments. Online learning tools can also help students manage their studies on their terms, giving them more control over the learning process.
The additional duties and responsibilities of a clinical social worker mean they can expect to earn more money than a standard social worker. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that social workers can earn around $50,000 per year, as of 2021. However, this can rise depending on the work situation.
A clinical social worker who serves in a hospital, education center, or local government group may earn around $60,000 to $70,000 a year. Individual clinical social workers can also operate their own independent practices, but their earnings may only be around $40,000 a year. The added freedom one enjoys by working as an independent provider may still be a positive.
Regardless of what type of social worker someone is, they can obtain full-time employment and work at various times. Some social workers will work on weekends or evenings, and some may also operate on holidays. They can be on call to serve patients, especially when it comes to emergencies.
What types of people will a social worker serve?
Social workers can serve people in many forms. They can assist people who have experienced trauma or violent events and may help seniors, children, immigrants, refugees, and people struggling to handle significant life changes.
The people that social workers encounter in their work vary. Social workers should be prepared to handle individuals from a range of backgrounds. Clinical and traditional social workers alike should be ready to support each patient’s needs and respect their wishes.
An essential working field
Social workers are essential to the well-being and mental health of people. The best social workers will respect their patients’ needs and guide them toward the right measures for success.
Every social worker will serve various people who need help managing their lives. These clients often require thorough assistance in many different aspects of their lives, and a social worker can make a big difference in their outcomes.
The duties of a clinical social worker will be more thorough and detailed than what a regular social worker may provide, but both types of professionals can significantly enhance their clients’ lives. Every social worker should be ready to serve people and help them with whatever obstacles they are facing.