Career as a Psychiatric Social Worker

Psychiatric Social Workers are mental health professionals that can assist patients and their family members in coping with both mental health issues and various economic or social problems caused by mental illness or addiction. Although many mental health professionals such as psychologists or psychiatrists can help patients with their psychiatric problems only very few have such extensive training in various communal services as psychiatric social workers do. Thus, these professionals make sure that a person with mental health issues can get all the help and support he or she needs in their road to recovery. One important task that many psychiatric social workers do is to educate the patient, his or her family, and perhaps even the teachers and other relevant people in the patient’s life about the illness that the patient is facing. Psychiatric social workers may explain to all of these people how likely a patient is to improve or how rapidly his or her illness is likely to deteriorate. The duties of a Psychiatric Social Workers typically conduct interviews in order to determine the appropriate services to offer mental health patients and their families. They develop care plans that include counseling, support services, treatment methods and referrals, as well as periodically review their patient and patient family situations and make changes to the care plans as necessary. Typical job duties includes to explaining treatment plans to patients and their families, maintaining patient records, preparing reports, monitoring progress toward treatment goals and conducting annual reviews of active treatment plans. Psychiatric social workers may also offer individual and group therapy sessions to patients, instruct other mental health staff in therapeutic techniques, provide crisis interventions, arrange for services from referral agencies and help patients ease back into the community after leaving inpatient programs.

  • The Psychiatric Social Worker typically works in hospital or residential care settings. One of the primary tasks of the social worker, especially in the hospital environment, is preparing the patient for discharge. This process goes far beyond completion of the paperwork necessary for a patient to leave the hospital at the end of the stay. The psychiatric social worker meets with patients soon after admittance to begin tracking their progress, to offer ongoing support, and to help them reach a level of personal autonomy and maintenance, so discharge is a viable option. Psychiatric social workers are employed in both outpatient and inpatient settings but it is somewhat more common for them to work in hospital settings. Other common settings include nursing homes, state and local governments, substance abuse clinics, correctional facilities, and ambulatory health care services. Some psychiatric social workers also have their own private practices.

  • Bachelor's or Master's Degree in Social Work, Psychology or related field.

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