Clinical Social Work

Clinical social work is one branch of the varied profession of social work. Clinical social work is the aspect of social work that provides both counseling and psychotherapy to individuals with mental illness. A fundamental difference between a clinical social worker and a psychologist or psychiatrist is in their approach. A clinical social worker adopts a collaborative approach that takes environment into account in order to treat patients efficiently and effectively. Clinical social workers also use an exploratory approach and find ways to resolve issues based on their results.

Clinical social workers are responsible for providing mental health services that are focused on prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The goal of clinical social workers is to maintain a patients' ability to cope in society from a psychological, physical and social perspective.

During their training, clinical social workers receive a comparable education to that of psychiatrists and psychologists. This enables them to understand the medical side of the profession and identify when further assistance is required to resolve an issue associated with a specific mental illness.

Clinical social workers represent the largest group of health care workers with regards to behavioral disorders in America. In many instances, patients seek help from a clinical social worker before seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist. Due to this, clinical social workers are often the individuals who diagnose mental illnesses, hence their important to the mental healthcare field. Various healthcare workers look to clinical social workers in order to develop programs and action plans for identifying those with mental disorders. This helps to address and treat problems early on.

In America, mental illness is the second-largest cause of disability in individuals and costs the economy a substantial amount of money in treatment costs. This area of social work is popular as it enables those who have a mental illness to benefit from an emotional method of treatment instead of the prescription drugs that pure psychiatry might provide.

As a group, social workers make up the most significant group of mental health care workers in America. Their approach of providing mental health care through both medical and psychological methods has seen great success in addressing the issues associated with mental illness. There are over 200,000 social workers who are trained as clinical social workers, which is a significant figure when one realizes that the numbers of psychologists, psychiatrists and clinical nurses combined do not make up this figure.

In order to fully address a patient's problems, clinical social workers often work with other mental health professionals in the assessing and treating of mental illness. In some instances, individuals may need the help of treatment that is beyond the remit of a clinical social worker, for instance, if medication is required. The clinical social worker will consult with a psychiatrist or psychologist and a referral will often be made. Clinical social workers are not allowed to prescribe medication but if a client is referred to another medical health care worker who does prescribe it, they will often be involved in monitoring its use. Only appropriately trained psychologists and psychiatrists are allowed to prescribe medication in this area, as the clinical social worker lacks the full range of necessary knowledge.

As the approach of clinical social workers is holistic in nature, they believe that any psychotherapy needs to be conducted in the environment of the patient. This is a key element of clinical social work, and helps to differentiate this form of treatment of mental illness from others.

To become a clinical social worker, individuals need to go through a rigorous process of education and practical experience. They must complete a masters or doctoral degree in social work with a specialty on the clinical side. During their studies, individuals need to do a field internship and have a minimum of two years practical experience in a clinical social work environment. Following this, they will be able to qualify as a clinical social worker.

Patients can seek out a clinical social worker in most areas of the United States and most insurance and managed care plans cover the treatment. Clinical social workers conduct their practices privately, in government run and private hospitals, clinics and even schools. A number of initiatives are being developed across the country in order to deal with demand.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Faithful but Different: Clinical Social Workers Speak out about Career Motivation and Professional Values
Bradley, Carolyn; Maschi, Tina; O'Brien, Helen; Morgen, Keith; Ward, Kelly.
Journal of Social Work Education, Vol. 48, No. 3, Fall 2012
Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis in Social Work Practice
Jacqueline Corcoran; Joseph Walsh.
Oxford University Press, 2006
Clinical Work with Substance-Abusing Clients
Shulamith Lala Ashenberg Straussner.
Guilford Press, 2004
Mental Disorders, Medications, and Clinical Social Work
Sonia G. Austrian.
Columbia University Press, 2000 (2nd edition)
Good Practice in Adult Mental Health
Tony Ryan; Jacki Pritchard.
Jessica Kingsley, 2004
Social Work Diagnosis in Contemporary Practice
Francis J. Turner.
Oxford University Press, 2005
Practice with People with Severe Mental Illness: Rewards, Challenges, Burdens
Newhill, Christina E.; Korr, Wynne S.
Health and Social Work, Vol. 29, No. 4, November 2004
Handbook of Social Work Practice with Vulnerable and Resilient Populations
Alex Gitterman.
Columbia University Press, 2001 (2nd edition)
Social Work Practice with Families and Children
Anthony N. Maluccio; Barbara A. Pine; Elizabeth M. Tracy.
Columbia University Press, 2002
Psychosocial Treatments
Elinore F. McCance-Katz; H. Westley Clark.
Brunner-Routledge, 2004
Managed Care and the Evolving Role of the Clinical Social Worker in Mental Health
Cohen, Jeffrey A.
Social Work, Vol. 48, No. 1, January 2003
Clinical Social Work's Contribution to a Social Justice Perspective
Swenson, Carol R.
Social Work, Vol. 43, No. 6, November 1998
The Growing Admissibility of Expert Testimony by Clinical Social Workers on Competence to Stand Trial
Siegel, David M.
Social Work, Vol. 53, No. 2, April 2008
The Common Factors Model: Implications for Transtheoretical Clinical Social Work Practice
Cameron, Mark; Keenan, Elizabeth King.
Social Work, Vol. 55, No. 1, January 2010
Applying Research in Social Work Practice
Brian Corby.
Open University Press, 2006
Evidence Based and Knowledge Based Social Work: Research Methods and Approaches in Social Work Research
Inge M. Bryderup.
Aarhus University Press, 2008
Does the Glove Really Fit? Qualitative Research and Clinical Social Work Practice
Padgett, Deborah K.
Social Work, Vol. 43, No. 4, July 1998
Search for more books and articles on clinical social work