In the years since its inception, the social work field has been on the frontlines of countless cultural, economic and health-related causes. Alongside advocating for fair and equitable health care programs, many social work practitioners including mental health social workers, also assess, diagnose and treat mental illnesses, behavioral disorders and emotional issues. Some examples include:
- Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions
- Child abuse, neglect and behavioral problems
- Addiction, substance abuse and alcoholism
- Significant life events, including divorce, bereavement and terminal illnesses
- Coping with unemployment, homelessness and long-term disabilities
Mental health social workers support individuals, families and communities as they seek to overcome challenges that negatively impact individual and community well-being. For example, by addressing a patient’s substance abuse issues, social workers can help recovering addicts find new employment, obtain affordable housing and take advantage of available mental health services.
Since each client has different needs and preferences, social work professionals need to focus on cultivating strong relationships built on trust, transparency and compassion. This is particularly important when treating people who have a diagnosed mental illness, as they may be more sensitive to certain experiences and forms of communication. While social workers of every type are concerned with mental health, some roles come with specialized requirements that fall outside the norm.