The Many Facets of Social Work

Whether working in a hospital setting or in a CLSC, the social worker (SW) certainly doesn’t have a boring routine. What does this profession look like? How do you become a SW?

What is a social worker?

Among professionals in support relationships, the SW assesses and restores the social functioning of individuals, couples, families or groups. “The role of the SW is based on the principle that the problem does not only relate to the individual and his past, but that it also concerns his family, professional and social environment,” points out Émilie Leblond, social worker teacher at UQAM and a psychotherapist in private practice.

Tasks and responsibilities

After assessment of the individual’s social situation, the SW determines the intervention necessary then ensures implementation and follow-up. The goal of the SW is to help the individual resolve his problem himself. “The intervention plan is prepared with the person, giving him as much autonomy as possible,” says Émilie Leblond. “The SW also carries out liaison work with the family, the doctor or the school.”

The tasks of the SW are divided into four main categories, which are enquiry, counselling, development of assistance programs and mediation.

Required aptitudes

According to the teacher, “empathy is the most indispensable quality for this profession.” It is supplemented by a necessary capacity for adaptation and great flexibility. “You have to travel a lot for work, and often respond to emergencies,” she explains.

“You also have to be ready to work with the most socially marginalized people, and let each person make their own decisions.” Faced with individuals in situations of precariousness, family violence or loss of autonomy, an open mind, being non-judgemental and patience are essential.

Training

In Canada, a bachelor’s degree in social work is usually the minimum degree required to become a SW. The curriculum must be certified by the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work. A supervised practical internship generally supplements the theory courses.

Finally, as is the case in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta, recognition by a provincial regulatory body is required. In Québec for example it is necessary to be a member of the Ordre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec. 

Work environments

The SW can practise in various locations: health facilities, CLSC, shelters, youth centres, schools, etc. “SWs work more and more as a team, with other professionals such as doctors, teachers or psychologists,” adds Émilie Leblond. “It provides the opportunity to have a very rich and varied career!”

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