Skills for social work and counselling are not just about making clients feel good about their own situation.
Skills are also about understanding the ways that the system works and what can be done to improve the outcomes of people’s lives.
A study published this week in the Canadian Journal of Psychology looked at what it took to be successful in social workers, psychologists, psychologists and other social workers.
In addition to the skills and knowledge required to provide effective social work, these people also have to be prepared to face personal issues that can arise, and be willing to learn from those experiences.
“We’ve seen a lot of really good research that shows there is a lot more of a need for this type of work, a need to be able to handle a range of situations and be able connect with clients in a more human way,” said Sarah Deakin, associate professor of social work at the University of Manitoba.
The study was conducted by researchers from the University, McGill University, and the University Hospital of St. John’s in Saint John, N.B. They surveyed more than 300 people across Canada.
The researchers wanted to see how many people could be expected to be working in a social work position, what skills are needed, and what types of training are needed to get the job done.
There are many reasons why people might want to consider working in social services.
People often find that they need a career, said Deakin.
“It’s a career that you’ve been looking forward to, that you have a lot to offer.
And the more you’re engaged with clients and the more they’re involved in your life, the better you can do it,” she said.
Social workers also need to know what the client needs.
“You have to understand how they feel, how they’re feeling, what their concerns are, what they need, what’s the problem,” Deakin said.
“This person has been on the phone or online for several hours.
You have to know that you’re going to have to interact with them, to know when they’re in a position where they can get what they want or need, to understand what they’re going through, and so forth.”
One of the most important skills is empathy, Deakin explained.
People need to understand the feelings of others and how they relate to one another.
Social work professionals also need a willingness to learn and to adapt.
“If you are trying to teach someone a skill or to make them feel more comfortable, you have to learn how to adapt and to change your behaviour,” she explained.
“I think that is really the core of it.
We’re not teaching people to be social workers or social workers to be teachers.”
Deakin and her team also looked at the kinds of skills needed for a social worker.
“Some of the skills that were needed were communication skills,” she noted.
“They were people who were able to talk about their experiences and understand what the clients were feeling, and to communicate their feelings to the person.”
The researchers also looked into the skills needed to build trust, which is the ability to develop rapport.
“For example, the skills required to be more empathetic,” said Deak, “are those people who are able to be in the same room with their clients, and who are willing to share their feelings, to listen, to give the information and share the information with them.”
Some of the people in the study were from different provinces and had varying levels of experience, Deak said.
In some, the average social worker had a masters or higher degree.
“In other cases, people who had been social workers for a very long time, had been trained in different areas of social services and in a particular profession, they had a higher level of experience,” she added.
The team also had to consider a variety of factors, including how long the person had been in the job.
“Many of these occupations are highly repetitive,” said Michael LeBlanc, associate vice-president and director of research and development for the Canadian Association of Social Workers.
“So it is really important to be aware of the fact that there are people who will have to change their careers, they have to adapt their skills.”
Deak noted that social workers have been making big changes in the past decade.
“There are more people doing work with more people.
And there is more evidence that there is an increasing demand for social workers.”
Dekin and her colleagues are still working on their findings, but she said the work will make a big difference.
“Because we’ve seen that in our field, in our society, in social-work education, we have this enormous need to have more people working in this field, more people have to do this work.
And we need to do it now,” she stressed.
“That’s why we need more research, more training, and more research into these skills and these programs.
It’s not a question of whether or not we need this