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Thinking about getting into Social Work? Here are some facts you should know

February 3, 2016

Senior women holding hands with caretaker

Community Services Workers (CSWs) are uniquely qualified individuals in the healthcare industry.  They are professionals that help people in their own environment by looking at all aspects of an individual’s life and culture.  CSWs strive to achieve the well-being of those in need of help and counsel such individuals, families and entire communities.  CSWs care for people in every stage of life, from children to the elderly and can help them overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges.

As an integral part of the Canadian healthcare industry, Community Service Workers help to reach every part of the community from hospice care to adoption agencies, schools, hospitals, mental health clinics and many other social groups.  Community Services Work is a demanding profession and requires practitioners to have a well-rounded set of basic skills in order to function well in most situations.

According to “The Social Work Toolbox: 10 Skills Every Social Worker Needs” by Joshua Dean, University of South Carolina, every successful Community Services Worker practitioner should have a basic set of skills.  To find out if this could be the right career choice for you, read on.

1. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to identify with or vicariously experience another person’s situation. Empathizing is both an intellectual and emotional process that makes it far easier to understand and help others solve their problems. Most CSWs are empathetic by nature; in fact, empathy is a major reason people enter the profession.

2. Boundary Setting

In addition to being empathetic, a social worker must also maintain the capacity to set boundaries and accept the limits of what can be accomplished during a specified period of time. The nature of this challenging profession can be all consuming, especially for those who sense their work is never truly complete. Establishing boundaries and setting milestones can help set expectations that are more easily accepted.

3. Active Listening

The ability to listen carefully, ask pertinent questions and retain verbally transmitted information is vital to the counseling aspect of social work. It’s how we establish trust, open doors and discover valuable details about the individuals who seek our help in understanding their unique circumstances.

4. Social Perceptiveness

In addition to receiving and processing verbal information, a social worker must be sensitive to body language, social cues, implications and cultural patterns of behavior. While some clients may clearly state their needs and work toward solutions in a focused manner, many others will find it more challenging to express themselves verbally, requiring a perceptive social worker to “read between the lines” in order to interpret the thoughts and feelings being held within.

5. Self-Awareness

CSWs routinely receive feedback on their performance from clients, supervisors and other sources, but there is no substitute for self-awareness. Being able to evaluate one’s own performance and work toward improving it (while also taking valid criticism and praise into account) is an invaluable skill.

6. Organization

CSWs are often required to deal with busy schedules, heavy caseloads and gratuitous paperwork. Successfully managing and prioritizing the logistical aspects of the job can help you maximize the amount of time you’ll have on your schedule to provide meaningful services to your clients.

7. Coordination

The ability to coordinate communication and action among multiple parties is a vital part of a CSW’s role in connecting clients with services.

8. Persuasion

Whether it’s to help a client change behavior, motivate a healthcare worker to provide service or justify coverage of expenses to an insurance provider, the ability to influence, coax or invite others to take action is invaluable to any social worker.

9. Cooperation

Just as often as gentle persuasion might solve a problem, active cooperation can provide an alternative (and sometimes more efficient) route to a mutually satisfying solution. Being able to negotiate, compromise and work well with others is essential to the coordination of efforts required in social work.

10. The ability to De-Compress

Social work is a deeply rewarding profession, but it can also be an incredibly stressful one. In order to remain engaged and effective at work, it’s imperative to take advantage of your personal time by focusing on and tending to your own needs. Leaving your work at the office and enjoying yourself is as important for your own well-being as it is for that of your clients.

For more information about earning a diploma in Community Services and working in the Ontario Healthcare Industry, contact



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