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What does a Social Worker do?

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Oftentimes I get asked what I do. It is hard to explain what social workers do since we wear so many different hats and work in different arenas.

In this article, I will not explain the education and training required to be a social worker, but rather use a metaphor to describe the universal role of social workers.

In short, social workers play an instrumental role in the fabric of society. Like thread, they are integral in the tapestry of life and at one point or another they will be the stitch that is needed to keep everything from falling apart. 

Adult volunteers handing out food to children

What is so unique about social work?

Social workers believe in the innate strength in people.

The profession is dedicated to helping clients identify strengths they have and find solutions to their challenges.

Social workers “use of self” means that they utilize themselves as a vehicle of compassion, empathy and devotion to guide people who are struggling, and to aid them as they traverse the obstacles they are faced with.

Social workers have positive regard for their clients and care about their well-being. Overtime, through a positive therapeutic rapport, clients recognize that they have inner strengths and resources to work through their problems.

Through the therapeutic relationship and process they have with their social worker, clients recognize that they are resilient. They gain the tools necessary to make the changes they are seeking, and realize that they can access these tools in the future. 

Woman in dress talking to a man

Self-care is important for social workers

Like the metaphor I shared earlier, social workers are the thread that connect and support all of us.

With the “use of self,” social workers hold and contain the pain, trauma and suffering of those around them. Social workers know when to listen, engage, intervene and take a step back.

This comes at a cost because we are human and empathetic.

Overtime, when you are consistently containing the travesty and pain of others, you will be impacted by it both physically and psychologically.

If you want to be able to be sustainable, ethical and engaged in social work, you need to make self-care a priority. 

Street sign stating Impossible and possible

It’s important to remember that…

Self-care is never a selfish act. Self-care is a selfless act of social activism and longevity.

You can serve other people at a higher level when you have the physical and emotional energy, clarity and motivation. 

Self-care is the foundation of healthcare. 


Social workers are instrumental in society by helping people navigate the stressors, changes and uncertainty they are faced with. 

To be able to be a sustainable social worker, it is important to identify self-care tools and techniques to integrate in your daily life. 

In doing so, you will be able to function in a healthy, engaged and constructive way. You will fulfill your professional and personal aspirations to be of service to others, which is ultimately what social work is all about.

Do you regularly work with social workers? If yes, what has your experience been like? If you are a social worker, what do you do to practice self-care? Please share your stories and comments below.

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