Social worker skills

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Social work is a profession committed to social justice and to the enhancement of the quality of life for all people. Broadly, social workers tender the following key services:

  • Provide specific management services as per the instance to families and individuals
  • Counsel groups, families, and individuals on issues and problems
  • Link clients with the resources and services they need to enhance the quality of their lives
  • Be part of an institution or institutions and organizations that influence people’s lives
  • Improve current and creating new policies that support the well-being of communities, groups, families, and individuals.

Not everyone has an aptitude to be a social worker. A social worker should ideally possess the following qualities: a desire to make a difference in the lives of others, a concern for people, good interpersonal communication skills, an ability to relate to others empathically, an ability to approach others non-judgmentally, an appreciation for human diversity, a willingness to work collaboratively with clients, colleagues, and other professionals, an ability to problem solve,  a willingness to make challenging decisions, a commitment to social justice, a respect for the privacy of others and personal integrity.

Why Self-Awareness is an essential trait

Self-awareness is major requisite for every individual. People who are successful in their occupations know themselves. Successful people recognize their own abilities and their areas of weakness. Successful people are also self-confident. Because they see themselves as capable people, able to do a number of things well, employers and co-workers also tend to see them in this way.

Social work is emotionally and intellectually demanding and being comfortable with oneself is vital in order to deal with clients. In this field, they will encounter more individuals who are stressed and often act as sounding boards and shock absorbers.

It is imperative that the social worker is able to understand what creates stress for them and develop means of reducing stress where they can. This involves self- assessments of their own physical and mental health, and establishing a lifestyle that promotes their personal well-being.

Part of this process is to understand one’s own personality characteristics. This would enable the workers to conduct a personal self-assessment and determine how their own identities, beliefs and prejudices may affect their social work practice. The social worker must know how his/her values, attitudes, beliefs, emotions and experiences and how they cloud her judgement of his/her thinking, behaviour and relationships.

The worker must be retrospectively be willing to examine and amend her attitude if it will be an impediment to effectively getting the job done. In order to work efficiently with both clients and colleagues an absolute self-awareness will determine to what extent the individual will be able to cope in the field of social work.

Especially when dealing with vulnerable, troubled or oppressed clients, it is important to maintain a neutral outlook and not be judgmental based on individual opinions and preferences. Exploring their own issues and feelings around self-identity helps them to stay focused and not worry about differences, negative beliefs and stereotyping of individuals. The social worker will need to show sensitivity to other political and religious viewpoints, doing their best to be non-judgmental.

Social workers who are sincere, comfortable with themselves and non-judgmental and are relatively emotionally stable often are able to function more effectively. Self-awareness is an essential skill because you need to know who you are before you can start relating to others.

Relationship building skills are vital

The importance of human relationships cannot be emphasised enough. Social workers need to recognize and embrace the central importance of human relationships. It needs to be understood that relationships between and among people are an important vehicle for change. Social workers interact with people in order to involve people as partners in the helping process.  Therefore, it is important that they have good relationship building skills in order to communicate effectively with the other professionals and clients to facilitate and maintain relationships among people in a purposeful effort to promote, restore, maintain, and enhance the well-being of individuals, families, social groups, organizations, and communities.

Showing empathy towards the other individual experiencing the trials of life is often the basis of relationship building. Problem solving for the client does not mean that the worker is looking to change the client, but endeavor build supportive friendships with them and act as a natural companion who is easy to talk to. A positive relationship with the client will be a therapeutic channel that heralds the achievement of the goal of the process.

Human relationships also have the power to defuse conflict and make it easier to resolve. Relationship building skills establish a common ground that sets the stage for conflict resolution. The social worker who is able to establish personal relationships with people on the other side of the conflict can help lessen many of the problems related to conflict escalation. This is because personal relationships humanize adversaries, improve communication, and increase the general level of mutual understanding and trust.

As individuals get to know each other, they are able to connect more, understand, and align with the problem at hand. This allows for the development of feelings of sympathy and empathy, which tend to inhibit hostile activity and open up opportunities for de-escalation. It also reduces the likelihood that destructive misunderstandings will arise. It may also contribute to increased tolerance among highly diverse groups. Indeed, relationships that cut across ethnic, religious, or cultural lines help to combat the effects of narrow identity groups and harsh intolerance, and move individuals toward a wider sense of social identity.

Interpersonal and communication skills like development of trust, verbal and non-verbal expression of feelings, above all respectful empathetic style of listening and responding leading to inviting confidence and subtle encouragement to keep the communication flowing, will all contribute to a comfortable relationship that may be part formal and part informal.

It is also necessary to maintain a formal relationship with the stakeholders and organizational members, by following through on commitments, respecting confidentiality, and demonstrating an interest in their work-related issues and activities. It will be necessary to develop and maintain a wide circle of contacts when involved in the social service field. Having a smooth working relationship will be easy for everyone involved.

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  1. Code of Ethics Retrieved 14th Dec 2005 from National Association of Social workers. Web site
  2. Relationship Retrieved 14th Dec 2005 from The encyclopaedia of informal education. Web site
  3. Practice competencies for the beginner social worker for five years Retrieved 14th Dec,2005 from Singapore association of social workers Web site
  4. Egan, Gerard The Skilled Helper A Problem-Management and Opportunity-Development Approach to Helping 7th Edition
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