Clinical v. Direct Social Work


Clinical vs Direct Service Social Work

When you made the decision to become a social worker, you most likely did so with the goal of helping people. Once you start studying towards a degree in social work, you realize that there are dozens of fields and specialties within this particular career path. Social work is the general term than includes all kinds of professionals who serve those in need. A social worker’s clients can range from a private individual to a student body to an entire government organization.

According to SocialWorkLicensure.org, there are two distinct categories of social work: direct service and clinical or licensed social work. Clinical social workers perform therapy exclusively and usually work with clients with psychiatric conditions, emotional issues, mental health disorders, or struggles with substance abuse. Direct service social workers work with clients to determine what further services or programs their client may benefit from. They may perform counseling or mediation to help their clients consider their options or with decision making, but they cannot diagnose or provide any professional treatment.

 Clinical Social Work

Clinical social workers include psychiatrists or advanced practice psychiatric nurses. Clinical social workers can find employment at government agencies, residential care facilities, psychiatric hospitals, or a private practice. They have the qualifications to perform psychotherapy and diagnose their clients. Clinical social workers often work with a team of colleagues, including other social workers, doctors, and nurses. They will discuss patient care with their team to ensure their client receives the best possible service.

Direct Service Social Work

Direct service social workers will perform intake and initial screening to determine what services their client should be connected to. A direct service social worker’s responsibilities often vary from case to case. Some of their responsibilities include making referrals, performing case management, determining program eligibility, counseling, and mediation. Direct service social workers can include the following specialties:

  • Child, Family, and School Social Work

This can include anything from child welfare, helping families through illnesses, or counseling students with school related stressors.

  • Community Social Work

Social workers specializing in a community help with organization, making referrals, and planning programs. They help a community run smoothly.

  • Military and Veterans Affairs Social Work

These social workers provide counseling to the families of veterans or those who are currently deployed. They also provide support to veterans and troops suffering loss, trauma, substance abuse, or any other needs that may arise.

  • Gerontological Social Work

Responsibilities include connecting their elderly clients with the necessary resources, examining the needs of the client, working with expenses of their required services, and paperwork.

  • Palliative and Hospice Social Work

These social workers assist clients and the families of clients who are either living with chronic illness or who are nearing the end of their life. They may help with everything from paperwork to emotional and physical comfort.

  • Medical and Health Social Work

Responsibilities include providing support for the ramifications of medical conditions, such as emotional and financial needs. These social workers can serve as care managers, patient navigators, or counselors.

May 16, 2016

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