The fundamentals of social work revolve around helping people. Social workers have the taxing responsibility of supporting troubled individuals to cope with their struggles. They are involved in scenarios where individuals face behavioral problems, marital troubles, substance abuse, domestic violence, etc. A social worker aims to bring a positive change in society by helping individuals become better people.
But one element that gets often forgotten about social work is the challenges encountered while fulfilling this heavy responsibility. Moreover, we usually overlook the consequences of the social worker of shouldering people’s problems day in and day out. Focusing on one issue while neglecting the other creates an imbalance in the society. That is why we felt the need to discuss the challenges a social worker has to face in their profession and talk about how we can overcome these challenges.
The most significant challenge in the way of social work is the lack of awareness amongst the masses. Even today, in the 21st century, where we expect many things to have evolved and cultural norms challenged, seeking personal help from professionals is stigmatized. Individuals dread going to mental health counselors fear that people will consider them weak-willed or incapable of handling their problems.
Such people might also fear losing jobs or to tarnish their chances of having a prospering career if their counseling sessions become public news. Culturally, seeking marital or domestic violence counseling is often considered taboo. Family members may feel an aversion to treatment options such as medication, which becomes a further hurdle in handling victims effectively.
Therefore, the first step towards ensuring a better society is to eradicate this stigma from people’s minds. Only when this negative belief gets neutralized will people start feeling comfortable and confident in seeking help from professionals. As a social worker, you can put in efforts to eliminate this anti-counseling culture by creating awareness among the masses. You can initiate campaigns, collaborate with known public figures, or affiliate yourself with some government body and take support in bringing a positive change. You can also interact with your social work fellows and initiate movements to create awareness in the general public. For example, if you have completed a masters in social work online, you will surely have a circle of mentors and individuals who can help you create a positive perception of your work.
Being a mental health counselor or dealing with individuals who have PTSD may sound like an easy thing to do. However, it is quite the contrary. Managing the troubled emotions of other people round-the-clock is an exhausting task. Being a social worker requires empathy. It demands of you to feel the pain of the people who are seeking your help. Once you put yourself in their shoes, only then can you reach out and help them fight their evils. But this process of empathy, reaching out, and resolving may sometimes result in compassion fatigue.
Handling extremely traumatic emotional scenarios day-and-night may take a toll on your mental health as well. You may feel drained out and exhausted after a period of prolonged work. Apart from mental health, your physical state may also be affected by challenging situations. Many social workers are known to deal with stress headaches and pains, which are direct consequences of the kind of work they do.
It brings us to the significance of work and personal life balance. Even though this is an essential thing for any professional, social workers should be extra conscious about ensuring they are giving enough time to themselves as well. A social worker needs to make sure that they have devised adequate strategies for distressing and unwinding because this will play a critical role in maintaining good personal health.
A 24-hour Job
If you ask a mental health counselor who deals with a patient tackling anxiety and self-harm, they will tell you that their duty is 24-hour. If your patient calls you up and tells you that they feel suicidal, you do not tell them that it is sleep time and hang up. The criticality of the job is such that it requires you to be on your toes day-and-night. You will have to rush if your patient has an emergency in the middle of the night, and you cannot complain about it. That is what a social worker’s job entails.
However, such a routine obliges you to manage time effectively. It would help if you spent the breaks you get in between your works to practice distressing. Also, you should ensure that your personal life and health does not take impact because of such a routine. They say you cannot pour from an empty cup, which means self-care should always be a priority. To make sure you give your best at work, you need to maintain a proper balance between work and life.
Often, people want to take up a service but cannot because they cannot afford it. It might happen with seeking counseling as well since it is a relatively expensive facility. One challenge that you may encounter as a social worker would be to take advice readily available to all. Accessibility is a significant hindrance to an evolving society. Additionally, low-income households tend to have higher counseling needs due to more problems. That is because poverty is a significant cause of many other mental and physical difficulties.
However, everything has a solution. You can try and affiliate yourself with government bodies and initiate positive movements on a national level. It needs to be understood on a governmental level that the mental and emotional health of individuals is as essential as their physical well-being. With the state’s help, you can try and make the availability of counseling easier for all.
Social work is slightly diverse from common professions. It involves dealing with people and their emotions, pain, and struggles. And requires more than just knowledge and skill. It entails being empathetic and having the ability to understand an individual’s trauma. This diversity puts some extra burden on the shoulders of a social worker. It is a continuous and relentless job which may not always yield monetary benefits. On the contrary, it also puts various hurdles and challenges in the social worker’s life, such as the ones mentioned above. However, all you have to do as a social worker is keep a pure intention, do your best, and keep self-care always a priority despite all the obstacles and barriers.
Positive Words Research – Challenges as a Social Worker and How to Overcome Them