Social workers helping victims of domestic violence frequently face a challenge: people who refuse to leave an abusive situation without their beloved pets. Part of the issue is that many abusers target animals as well as people; the other is that only about 10% of domestic violence shelters accept pets, according to a St. Louis Public Radio segment, “Pet-Friendly Domestic Violence Shelters Help Abuse Victims Stay Safe.”
Social workers have to be aware of available options, including programs such as Purina’s Purple Leash Project and Red Rover. They also need to be able to persuade victims that leaving is the safest choice for themselves and their companion animals.
In fact, social workers should develop a variety of job skills, including empathy, creativity, critical thinking and time management. Earning an online master’s in social work can help professionals cultivate these abilities and others so they can have a positive impact on the lives of their clients and their families.
The Skills That Make or Break a Social Worker
Social work requires agility in a wide array of competencies. For instance, a social worker who works with homeless families must be a confident networker who can find temporary or permanent housing through government programs, churches, other charities, or even individuals contributing their own resources. Such a person would naturally have to have excellent research and people skills.
“Social work skills include a variety of soft skills, such as organization and communication, and skills directly related to the job, like client evaluation,” Indeed.com explains in “Top Social Work Skills for Success (Plus How to Develop Them).”
“Social workers can develop these skills through education, training, and experience,” the article continues. “It’s important for these professionals to continually practice and develop a unique skill set in order to remain current and keep up with the demands of the job.”
Social worker skills, according to Indeed.com, include:
• Critical Thinking
Social workers must be able to evaluate all available facts to find the best possible solution for each client.
Most social workers handle multiple cases simultaneously. Organizational skills are imperative for keeping track of the necessary paperwork, digital files, and deadlines.
• Emotional intelligence and empathy
A social worker with high emotional intelligence and empathy will be able to read between the lines with their clients, perceive nonverbal clues, and know what questions to ask.
Social workers need to communicate effectively with clients in a non-aggressive manner. At the same time, nonprofits and government agencies often have limited resources, and social workers will need to establish valuable contacts and broker partnerships with other organizations.
• Active listening
The flip side to excellent communication for a social worker is good listening. Clients often have painful stories to share, and they need someone to hear them.
• Time management
All clients deserve their social workers’ undivided attention. Large caseloads and grueling schedules require social workers to manage their time effectively and efficiently.
• Boundary setting
An often-overlooked skill, boundary setting can protect a social worker from burnout or becoming too invested in their clients’ problems.
Social workers have access to an abundance of tools that help them develop and maintain crucial professional skills.
Computer and mobile device apps can help with scheduling and organization. Online resources, both in formal university programs and online through a variety of free or inexpensive sources, can help social workers improve their skills. MSWOnlinePrograms.org offers a list of useful social worker links including podcasts and writing tips.
Where Social Worker Skills Come in Handy
Social workers who develop the necessary competencies can work in a range of locations. Whether in nonprofit organizations, government agencies, hospitals, prisons, rehabilitation centers, or long-term care facilities, they will come across many of the same duties and responsibilities.
Day-to-day social work responsibilities vary a little from role to role. Noodle.com’s “How to Become a Group Social Worker: The Skills, Degrees, and Certifications Required,” and TheBalanceCareers.com’s “Important Job Skills Social Workers Need” list these duties, all of which require one or more social work skills to accomplish:
- Identify individuals, families, and communities that need assistance
- Assessing clients’ needs
- Mapping out program goals
- Outlining ground rules
- Developing service plans
- Researching and advocating for community resources
- Developing meeting structure
- Guiding clients toward useful strategies and resources
- Helping clients to solve interpersonal conflicts
- Maintaining files and records on all cases
- Assisting clients in their transitions and adjustments
- Following up with clients
- Preparing client and program progress reports
- Taking part in court hearings and providing testimonies
Every day in social work can be different than the day before, so social workers need to be capable of adjusting a broad skill set to constantly changing circumstances while simultaneously keeping track of all their cases. Training and experience can help strengthen these skills, especially when coupled with a graduate degree program.
About Ohio University’s Online Master of Social Work
Ohio University’s Online Master’s in Social Work degree program can prepare graduates for a career in social work. Social workers help vulnerable populations handle life’s challenges in areas that include marriage and family therapy, foster care counseling, crisis counseling, and human resources.
The Master of Social Work program, which is offered through the university’s College of Health Sciences and Professions, is 100% online and does not require a GRE for admission.
News.StLPublicRadio.org, “Pet-Friendly Domestic Violence Shelters Help Abuse Victims Stay Safe”
Indeed.com, “Top Social Work Skills for Success (Plus How to Develop Them)”
MSWOnlinePrograms.org, “9 Most Useful Online Resources for Social Workers”
Noodle.com, “How to Become a Group Social Worker: The Skills, Degrees, and Certifications Required”
TheBalanceCareers.com, “Important Job Skills Social Workers Need”