Is there anyone who likes being a social worker? If so, what about it do you like?
I’m passionate about helping kids overcome obstacles and I’ve had a bit of experience taking care of and being the head organizer of activities for a family whose kids who are pretty messed up because of their parents and who have had a brush with the system. Everyone I’ve talked to who is a social worker says they hate it and wish they did something different. Will I end up bitter like they are? Is it just a really really really hard field where no one stays for too long or have I just not found any good people to talk to? I’m kind of discouraged.
Kasey Hart, MSW
Janelle Ciapocha’s Answer
I love the flexibility of options when it comes to being a licensed social worker (state to state limitations may vary). I have worked in many different settings having a variety of roles ranging from individual counseling to parent education/support to connecting people with other community resources. I have the ability to run my own private practice one day if I do desire or work as an independent consultant in the field. I’m currently fee for service and am able to work the days/hours that best meet my families needs.
Such a tough question to answer - as Kim pointed out, you have to focus on the positive. Keep in mind social work is a field that is very undervalued in our current society, and you're working with underprivileged people in (likely) the worst times of their lives. So, it isnt an easy job, and one where high burnout is very common. I've worked in a slew of crisis/high stress social work positions, including er cps which it sounds like you're familiar with as far as how it might impact the family you're helping. You are often given a very high case load, and might not always have the ability to see the impact of what you're doing. So from that perspective, it can get very hard. There's a lot of 'hard truths/reality' out there that you will be exposed to, you will be asked to do more than is reasonable because the system is overworked and under supplied with workers, and you may never know if what you did made a difference. Its likely the people you talked to are in that spot.
So how do you not get turned off entirely (because if the world is this broken, it definetly needs us big-hearted people!)? Well, you can look for jobs that provide you the long-term perspective, so you can see your impact. Also, you create really healthy boundaries (remember, you will be forced to take care of yourself over others even when it makes you feel guilty, because if not, you WILL cause yourself harm in the end). Ask for and create a supportive work environment and community. Sharing our woes with coworkers is so crucial to not getting beaten down by the hardships we see every day. And lastly, celebrate every possible win you can, no matter how small. My first 'win' was at my internship as a school counselor, were I saw kids who had very hard lives and not a great chance of success. But after working for weeks with one client who was severely depressed, they came in one day with the biggest smile because "today my mom was nice to me" (I'd been working with her on boundaries and reframing). A smile is so little...but to me (and of course the client!) it meant the world, even if it was only for that week, that day, etc. Hold on to your wins, you'll need to survive what is otherwise a difficult job only the strongest of hearts can handle.
*hugs* you got this!
There are many different types of "social work." People enter it hoping to make a difference, and no one warns them about the down-side. It sounds like you've already gotten plenty of that, so let me tell you the up-side.
Social work can be in fields such as child abuse, adoption placement, helping those in financial need, etc. I work for a workforce office, and I help people find jobs. But I do more than that. I restore their self-confidence, and give them a sense of hope. When people lose their jobs, they feel like they have been kicked in the teeth. Their whole world starts to crumble. I help them to pick up the pieces and get going again. For some it is easier than others. But, when they make a special trip to the office, to tell me, in person, that, they got the job, and would not have done it without my help on how to nail the interview, that makes it all worthwhile. Watching people come into the computer lab day after day, and seeing the transformation in them, that makes it all worthwhile. We cannot save the whole world. We make a difference one person at a time. So, if other types of social work are not for you, this might be something to consider.
I'll be happy to answer any other questions, about the work we do, good or bad aspects. Just let me know!