What does a psychiatric social worker do?
Job loss, divorce, or worse can happen if a person has mental health problems that go untreated. Psychiatric social workers are mental health professionals who conduct psychosocial assessments and help individuals and their families cope with psychiatric problems. You work in inpatient and outpatient settings including governmental agencies, substance abuse clinics, correctional facilities, residential care facilities, and hospitals. A small minority of psychiatric social workers establish private practices.
As a psychiatric social worker, you research, assess, and diagnose a person’s mental illness(es) and work in conjunction with other health professionals to put your patient on the path to recovery. The treatment plans you develop will often include psychotherapy and social rehabilitation. You need to be aware of the vast array of social services available to assist clients and their families. It’s important to educate and involve patients’ families in the patient rehabilitation, which may include family therapy. As you monitor patient progress, crisis intervention and referrals may be necessary. Discharge planning is one of your most important responsibilities. In this process, a psychiatric social worker schedules follow-up appointments and connects patients and their families with community resources to help them thrive in society. The plan may first involve a transition to a residential care center or a day program.
To be a psychiatric social worker, you need to earn a master’s degree in a social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, which includes two years of full-time study and two years of internship. You can develop a specialty during your studies. Then, you can get state licensed to begin practicing or pursue a post-master’s degree program.