March is Social Worker Month and March 21 is World Social Worker Day.
Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines Social Work as “any of various professional activities or methods concretely concerned with providing social services and especially with the investigation, treatment, and material aid of the economically, physically, mentally, or socially disadvantaged.”
Although the definition above is technically correct, there are many forms of social work, so such a simple and concrete definition does nearly explain the magnitude of the work done by these often highly educated workers.
Social work is a vast discipline that encompasses many therapeutic methods and can range from helping one person, to helping to improve communities around the world. For example a social worker can be working to support humanitarian rescue missions, helping families gain access to government assistance, or counseling those who are near death and their loved ones. A simple social work definition does not do justice to the many ways that social work touches the lives of people every day. The one thing social workers have in common however, is that they strive to better the lives of people, whether at the individual, family, group or societal level.
Social workers are not highly compensated by salary, but the satisfaction they get from helping others live better and more peaceful lives is significant and often motivates them every day.
Here are a few other reasons people become social workers:
They are never bored
In social work, every day is completely different. While they may try and plan meticulously, a social worker can be guaranteed that there will be several unexpected challenges to deal with each week.
It challenges people in ways few other careers do
Social work is incredibly emotionally challenging. The stories social workers hear and sights they see may just take your breath away. The highs and the lows are incomparable. It is so easy to grow attached to the people you support and their successes and failures feel like your successes and failures. Learning to manage these vicarious emotions is an important aspect of the job.
People learn things about themselves they may not otherwise have learned
The situations that social workers face are unique and often extreme. They find out quickly if they are good at dealing with people with aggressive behavior, or people with depression. They often learn the lesson of loss over and over again, be it from a patient that dies by suicide or an elderly client who passes away peacefully as they hold his/her hand.
They get to be the person who changes someone’s life for the better
They may not get a thank you card every day, or even every year, but when they do occasionally get a thank you from a client or family member for helping a person overcome the difficulties one can experience in life, they are fueled by hope. Who doesn’t like to know that you helped another person in some small (or sometimes big) way?
Being a social worker is not an easy job. There are more than 650,000 people who hold a social worker degree across the United States. Each day they wake with the hope, inspiration, and courage to connect with other people in a way that lives can change. Go out of your way today to thank a social worker.