Recent chats about licensing standards and title protection and scope of practice made me wonder,why social work?
Why do people choose to enter such a broad, almost amorphous career path, and then fight so hard to define it, instead of embracing the profession for its wide-spread appeal and wide-spread ability to help enact positive change?
For many of us it is part of who we are. We’d be doing “social work” regardless of our career path.
For some of us, it seems to be perhaps the pursuit of a shorter duration and somewhat less educationally demanding yet more interrelated-systems focused route to a clinical counseling career, or a desire to practice professional macro social work without having to sit for an exam and apply for licensed status.
What do most people think of when they think of social workers? Child welfare workers seem to top that list in some societies, yet social work associations want to make a clear distinction between a child welfare agent and a social worker. Activists and community planners also come to mind, but then so do throngs of undergrads and migrant workers, and right-to-lifers. Counseling specialists bring to mind Clinical Social Workers, but also Substance Abuse specialists, Youth Group Workers, and School Social workers.
As a profession, we offer diverse services. As a profession, we seem to feel largely misunderstood, undervalued, and disrespected.
As for me, I feel free to pursue my broad interests and talents in professional practice, and know the world is wide open to me because of my social work education and because of my skill-set and personal talents. Yes, we are bound legally and ethically by certain constraints, such as having to be supervised while working toward clinical licensing, but that is only one small part of what social work is and what social workers can do.
Perhaps instead of arguing so much about title protection, we’d be better served to more clearly define scopes of practice and working to organize an encompassing and supportive nationalized association. And along those lines, perhaps we’d be better served asking why social work, and what will help to unify our profession?
By: Michelle Scagliano, LMSW
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