What is mental health social work?

Approximately 26 percent or suffer from a mental disorder every year, making mental health social workers a key factor in improving our overall wellbeing and mental health as a nation.

Mental health social workers spend much of their time supporting clients who have mental health disorders such as bi-polar disorder, depression, or anxiety. Treatment options include pharmacological, psychosocial therapy, family therapy, and education group therapy, or a combination of these treatments. Mental health social workers work with clients directly, or provide triage intervention and refer clients to other professionals or in-patient clinics.

There are also social workers that work specifically with the military members and their families. Military social workers provide immediate support to members of the armed forces and their families supporting issues such as reintegration to civilian life, care coordination, and PTSD. They are also heavily involved in macro social work, which includes policy development and program evaluation.

Where to find mental health social worker jobs:

As mentioned earlier, some mental health social workers that are involved in military social work may work on military bases or in a clinical setting. Other mental health social workers can be found in:

  • Community clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • HR departments of companies
  • Private practices
  • Primary care physicians
  • Community-based mental health centers
  • Addiction recovery centers
  • Government agencies

How can you become a mental health social worker?

The first step toward becoming a mental health social worker is applying to graduate schools that offer a Master of Social Work (also known as an MSW). In order to obtain a license to perform social work in the United States, you must attend a graduate school that is approved by the Council on Social Work Education. MSWs usually require two years of schooling coupled with two years of field practicum (or an internship). Many MSW programs will also accept candidates who have any liberal arts bachelor’s degree and offer students different tracks they can take in the social work field.

For example, our partner the MSW@USC program offers a mental health work concentration that includes classes on mental health research and practicums that focus on working directly with clients experiencing mental health issues. There are also sub-concentrations within the mental health social work field that allow students to tailor their studies even further, giving them the option to focus on highly specific fields of mental health social work, including military work and veteran services.

Further Reading