By Ethan Lewis, MSW –
March is National Professional Social Work Month and at Family Counseling Services, we very much appreciate our social workers. Social workers are an integral part of all of our services including our mental health and chemical dependency counselors, our prevention staff, and our LGBTQ Center staff. Social workers stand up for millions of people every day.
But what is social work and what do social workers do? The answer is much more complicated than one would imagine. According to the National Association of Social Workers, “Social workers are highly trained and experienced professionals. Only those who have earned social work degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral levels—and completed a minimum number of hours in supervised fieldwork—are professional social workers.” Many social workers go on to be licensed by their respective state to practice social work and continue to go to professional trainings to further enhance their education. Some social workers may even choose to specialize their practice and may choose to work only with youth, families, or older adults.
But what do social workers do? Social workers do a variety of jobs within our community. Some social workers are mental health professionals focusing on individual, family, or group therapy. These social workers may work in an organization like Family Counseling Services, school districts, county agencies, or they may have their own private practice. These positions are generally referred to as micro social work. A micro social worker may also work in case management, chemical dependency, family support, or facilitate instructional support in academic settings. Another type of social work is called mezzo social work. They will often work with groups, neighborhoods, and communities. Finally, there are macro social workers. Macro social work focuses on solving social issues on a larger scale which may include research, creating policy or law changes, or advocating for civil rights.
Though these distinctions exist, social workers often work in more than one field. The same social worker who is working with a family with issues related to trauma may also be advocating for policy changes to help the family stay together. Many social workers go to school for a more general practice and learn micro, mezzo, and macro social work styles. Social workers go into a variety of fields of work and can be found in many different nonprofit or governmental agencies locally, state wide, and nationally.
Social workers have been at the forefront of many of the major progressive victories of the 20th and 21st centuries including the end of child labor, advocating for the rights of people with disabilities, and creating laws against child abuse. Modern social workers continue to advocate for health care reform, LGBTQ rights, and for the rights of people with mental illness. There have been many famous social workers throughout history including Jane Addams (who advocated for the rights of women and children), Frances Perkins (who advocated for workplace safety and creating a social safety net for the poor), and Edith Abbott (who advocated for changes in the social welfare system).
We are delighted to celebrate National Professional Social Worker Month. Social workers contribute to the betterment of our families, our communities, and our nation. We are thankful for all the social workers in our community and the amazing work they do.
Ethan Lewis is an Educator and Prevention Specialist with the Cortland LGBTQ Center, a division of Family Counseling Services.