Note: This is an invited post by May (pseudonym), an experienced social worker in the field.
Social workers are primarily concerned about the well-being and functioning of individuals and families, and work to empower the individuals to be better equipped to handle their issues. In Singapore, social workers are employed in various settings, which include youth, family, prisons, hospitals, and special needs. At the same time, they are also employed to look at shaping larger level policies, and how these policies are implemented to the ground level. Social workers are very often associated with being volunteers - as being people with huge hearts and "give people a fish".
Societal views of the work as a social worker
However, how our society views this profession is an important perspective to think about, which is something that isn't always talked about, even in school. Why is this so? The people who will end up studying and aspiring to be social workers are from, well, that same society. Acceptance of the society's views is a mindset that will challenge the student's perspective as well.
Being the "quick fix" to clients' issues
On a day-to-day basis, social workers face unreasonable demands - as there is an expectation that they are the "quick fix" solutions. "Quick fix"'solutions administered for clients are almost always finite, with a stringent assessment process, and an interim solution to tie over a period of time where they are expected to still work on being more self-reliant, which inevitably frustrates people who view 'help' as an instant solution.
What social workers really do
What social workers actually do is to look at how various systems in the environment affect people, help people navigate these systems, as well as look into how systems can be improved. This is done with a core value of empathetic and intentional listening, in a non-judgmental and objective way. Advocacy for clients that are vulnerable or unable to access resources and systems is also an integral part of the work. As with any other job, social workers deal with disagreements, emotional upheavals, expectations from various people, and have to always be mindful of their clinical interventions.
Having to deal with so many concurrent issues is virtually impossible to do alone, and the concepts of individual and group supervisions and team work help to provide support to the social worker in managing dynamics, clinical interventions, and the emotions evoked when dealing with a multitude of issues. This support from peers and supervisors is very helpful in motivating the growth of the social worker, regardless of years of seniority and experience. It is important for social workers to keep up with positive attitudes and work hand in hand with different parties to build up a better community - and to constantly keep themselves motivated and purpose driven, to maintain themselves in this profession.