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The Social Work Toolbox: 10 Skills Every Social Worker Needs

toolboxSocial work is a demanding and varied profession, often requiring a practitioner to wear many hats on any given day: adviser, therapist, caretaker, administrator, clinician and many others. Though these diverse roles might seem to require an almost limitless range of knowledge and expertise, a social worker with a well-rounded set of basic social work skills will function well in most situations. Here are 10 qualities every social worker should practice and possess:

1. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to identify with or vicariously experience another person’s situation. Empathizing is both an intellectual and emotional process that makes it far easier to understand and help others solve their problems. Most social workers are empathetic by nature; in fact, empathy is a major reason people enter the profession.

2. Boundary Setting

In addition to being empathetic, a social worker must also maintain the capacity to set boundaries and accept the limits of what can be accomplished during a specified period of time. The nature of this challenging profession can be all consuming, especially for those who sense their work is never truly complete. Establishing boundaries and setting milestones can help set expectations that are more easily accepted.

3. Active Listening

The ability to listen carefully, ask pertinent questions and retain verbally transmitted information is vital to the counseling aspect of social work. It’s how we establish trust, open doors and discover valuable details about the individuals who seek our help in understanding their unique circumstances.

4. Social Perceptiveness

In addition to receiving and processing  verbal information, a social worker must be sensitive to body language, social cues, implications and cultural patterns of behavior. While some clients may clearly state their needs and work toward solutions in a focused manner, many others will find it more challenging to express themselves verbally, requiring a perceptive social worker to “read between the lines” in order to interpret the thoughts and feelings being held within.

5. Self-Awareness

Social workers routinely receive feedback on their performance from clients, supervisors and other sources, but there is no substitute for self-awareness. Being able to evaluate one’s own performance and work toward improving it (while also taking valid criticism and praise into account) is an invaluable skill.

6. Organization

Social workers are often required to deal with busy schedules, heavy caseloads and gratuitous paperwork. Successfully managing and prioritizing the logistical aspects of the job can help you maximize the amount of time you’ll have on your schedule to provide meaningful services to your clients.

7. Coordination

The ability to coordinate communication and action among multiple parties is a vital part of a social worker’s role in connecting clients with services.

8. Persuasion

Whether it’s to help a client change behavior, motivate a healthcare worker to provide service or justify coverage of expenses to an insurance provider, the ability to influence, coax or invite others to take action is invaluable to any social worker.

9. Cooperation

Just as often as gentle persuasion might solve a problem, active cooperation can provide an alternative (and sometimes more efficient) route to a mutually satisfying solution. Being able to negotiate, compromise and work well with others is essential to the coordination of efforts required in social work.

10. Relaxation and De-compression

Social work is a deeply rewarding profession, but it can also be an incredibly stressful one. In order to remain engaged and effective at work, it’s imperative to take advantage of your personal time by focusing on and tending to your own needs. Leaving your work at the office and enjoying yourself is as important for your own well-being as it is for that of your clients.

By the very nature of who we are and what we do, most of the qualities and skills identified here are innate to our own personalities. Acknowledge their importance and maintain your capacity to leverage their advantages, and your future in the profession will most certainly be meaningful and satisfying.

Tell Me More

  • devore

    Is program accredited by Council on Social Work Education

  • http://www.facebook.com/jkayjames Joanie James

    What must be my gpa for entering a postgraduate level at your institution

  • Amy Flores

    Social workers must be devoted to their job and be satisfied with the work they do. it is true that this job is rewarding but you should not underestimate the stress that social workers experience. They must accept their jobs as an avocation.

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  • bobo

    thanks for the help in ma coursework -copy and pastes-

  • Toodie

    I have been a social worker for 20+years..A person must love people from all walks of life with all types of issues. Another trait is that you must be able to see the “good” in all people and be accepting.

    • Ihsan ud din

      can you give me job, i am job less now a days…i was a social worker and i did my graduation in sociology…3 years of experience in social sector…
      ihsan.udn@gmail.com

  • Derek McCann

    Decompression is a big one; as a social worker I have failed to do that and it showed. For some reason, the work becomes our life but that cannot be.

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