Definition / What Clinical Social Workers Do

Clinical social work practice is the professional application of social work theory and methods to the differential diagnosis, prevention, amelioration and treatment of bio-psycho-social-spiritual dysfunction, disability and impairment, including mental, emotional, behavioral and addictive disorders, developmental disabilities and the impact of physical illness, injury and disability on bio-psychosocial-spiritual functioning.  Clinical social work practice shares with all social work practice the goal of enhancement and maintenance of physical, psychological (mental and emotional), social and spiritual well-being and functioning of individuals, families, small groups and communities.

Knowledge Base of Clinical Social Work

Clinical social work practice is based on knowledge and theory of: normal biological, psychological (mental and emotional), social and spiritual development; normal human behavior; psychopathology; the effects of physical illness, injury and disability on bio-psychosocial-spiritual development and functioning; unconscious motivation; group dynamics and interpersonal relationships; couple and family dynamics; the causes, effects and impact of environmental stress; the development, organization and functioning of social systems; the development, implementation and impact of social policies, particularly those policies which affect health, mental health and other human services; the role and impact of multiculturalism and other diversities in society; the influence and impact of age, culture, customs, disability, discrimination, economic status, gender, geographic and other environmental factors, health status, linguistic and communication skills, losses, mental and emotional health, national origin, pain and suffering, race, religion, sexual orientation, stress and spirituality on human development and functioning; differential assessment and diagnosis of bio-psychosocial-spiritual dysfunction, disability and impairment; assessment-based service and treatment planning; and the implementation of treatment of mental, emotional, behavioral and addictive disorders, the treatment of the psychosocial-spiritual effects of physical illness, injury and disability, and the habilitation of developmental disabilities with particular attention to the person existing as a combination of biological, psychological (mental and emotional), social and spiritual elements in his or her environment.

Clinical Social Work Methods and Approaches

Clinical social work practice methods and approaches include, but are not limited to: differential diagnostic assessment of mental and emotional disorders and developmental disabilities, as well assessment of the psychosocial-spiritual impact of physical illness, injury and disability, undertaken within an holistic bio-psychosocial-spiritual framework; administration and interpretation of tests and measures of psychosocial-spiritual functioning; development and implementation of assessment-based service and treatment plans which may include providing counseling and psychotherapy to individuals, couples, families and small groups using the full range of constantly evolving psychotherapeutic techniques and modalities, including but not limited to brief, short-term and long term psychotherapy, crisis intervention, psychoanalysis, psychodynamic - insight oriented psychotherapies, cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, guided imagery and other relaxation techniques, as well as habilitation, patient education, clinical case management, client-centered advocacy, and making appropriate referrals to other health care professionals; documentation and review of treatment outcomes; and providing clinical social work consultation, teaching, training, supervision and research.

Interdisciplinary Collaborative Practice

Clinical social work practice includes, in appropriate cases and situations, engaging in interdisciplinary collaborative practice with other health care professionals so that patients/clients and their families can be provided with the benefit of a coordinated and integrated treatment and service plan implemented collaboratively by a team of members of different health care professions and/or specialties in order to bring to bear those professionals’ shared foundation and framework of common knowledge, skills, competencies, perspectives and approaches, while also drawing from their respective discipline and specialty specific bases of knowledge, skills, competencies, perspectives and approaches, to address comprehensively the evaluation, care, treatment and other service needs of a patient/client within an holistic bio-psychosocial-spiritual framework.

 
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