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Become A Psychiatric Social Worker

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Working As A Psychiatric Social Worker

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $56,310

    Average Salary

What Does A Psychiatric Social Worker Do

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers—clinical social workers—also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.   


Social workers typically do the following:

  • Identify people and communities in need of help
  • Assess clients’ needs, situations, strengths, and support networks to determine their goals
  • Help clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment
  • Research, refer, and advocate for community resources, such as food stamps, childcare, and healthcare to assist and improve a client’s well-being
  • Respond to crisis situations such as child abuse and mental health emergencies
  • Follow up with clients to ensure that their situations have improved
  • Evaluate services provided to ensure that they are effective
  • Develop and evaluate programs and services to ensure that basic client needs are met
  • Provide psychotherapy services

Social workers help people cope with challenges in their lives. They help with a wide range of situations, such as adopting a child or being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Social workers may work with children, people with disabilities, and people with serious illnesses and addictions. Their work varies based on the type of client they are working with.

Some social workers work with groups, community organizations, and policymakers to develop or improve programs, services, policies, and social conditions. This focus of work is referred to as macro social work.

Advocacy is an important aspect of social work. Social workers advocate or raise awareness with and on behalf of their clients and the social work profession on local, state, and national levels.

The following are examples of types of social workers:

Child and family social workers protect vulnerable children and help families in need of assistance. They help families find housing or services, such as childcare, or apply for benefits, such as food stamps. They intervene when children are in danger of neglect or abuse. Some help arrange adoptions, locate foster families, or work to reunite families.

Clinical social workers—also called licensed clinical social workers—diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders, including anxiety and depression. They provide individual, group, family, and couples therapy; they work with clients to develop strategies to change behavior or cope with difficult situations; and they refer clients to other resources or services, such as support groups or other mental health professionals. Clinical social workers can develop treatment plans with the client, doctors, and other healthcare professionals and may adjust the treatment plan if necessary based on their client’s progress. They may also provide mental healthcare to help children and families cope with changes in their lives, such as divorce or other family problems.

Many clinical social workers work in private practice. In these settings, clinical social workers also perform administrative and recordkeeping tasks, such as working with insurance companies in order to receive payment for their services. Some work in a group practice with other social workers or mental health professionals.

School social workers work with teachers, parents, and school administrators to develop plans and strategies to improve students’ academic performance and social development. Students and their families are often referred to social workers to deal with problems such as aggressive behavior, bullying, or frequent absences from school.

Healthcare social workers help patients understand their diagnosis and make the necessary adjustments to their lifestyle, housing, or healthcare. For example, they may help people make the transition from the hospital back to their homes and communities. In addition, they may provide information on services, such as home healthcare or support groups, to help patients manage their illness or disease. Social workers help doctors and other healthcare professionals understand the effects that diseases and illnesses have on patients’ mental and emotional health.

Some healthcare social workers specialize in geriatric social work, hospice and palliative care, or medical social work:

  • Geriatric social workers help senior citizens and their families. They help clients find services, such as programs that provide older adults with meals or with home healthcare. They may provide information about assisted living facilities or nursing homes, or work with older adults in those settings. They help clients and their families make plans for possible health complications or for where clients will live if they can no longer care for themselves.
  • Hospice and palliative care social workers help patients adjust to serious, chronic, or terminal illnesses. Palliative care focuses on relieving or preventing pain and other symptoms associated with serious illness. Hospice is a type of palliative care for people who are dying. Social workers in this setting provide and find services, such as support groups or grief counselors, to help patients and their families cope with the illness or disease.
  • Medical social workers in hospitals help patients and their families by linking patients with resources in the hospital and in their own community. They may work with medical staff to create discharge plans, make referrals to community agencies, facilitate support groups, or conduct followup visits with patients once they have been discharged.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers help clients with mental illnesses or addictions. They provide information on services, such as support groups and 12-step programs, to help clients cope with their illness. Many clinical social workers function in these roles as well.

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How To Become A Psychiatric Social Worker

Although most social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work, clinical social workers must have a master’s degree and 2 years of post-master’s experience in a supervised clinical setting. Clinical social workers must also be licensed in the state in which they practice.


A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is the most common requirement for entry-level positions. However, some employers may hire workers who have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as psychology or sociology.

A BSW prepares students for direct-service positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant. These programs teach students about diverse populations, human behavior, social welfare policy, and ethics in social work. All programs require students to complete supervised fieldwork or an internship.

Some positions require a master’s degree in social work (MSW), which generally takes 2 years to complete. Master’s degree programs in social work prepare students for work in their chosen specialty by developing clinical assessment and management skills. All programs require students to complete a supervised practicum or an internship.

A bachelor’s degree in social work is not required in order to enter a master’s degree program in social work. Although a degree in almost any major is acceptable, courses in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science are recommended. Some programs allow graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work to earn their master’s degree in 1 year.

In 2015, there were more than 500 bachelor’s degree programs and more than 200 master’s degree programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Some universities offer doctoral programs in social work, where students can earn a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) or a Ph.D. Most doctoral programs in social work require students to have a master’s in social work and experience in the field. Many doctor’s students go on to work as postsecondary teachers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states have licensure or certification requirements for nonclinical social workers. Requirements vary by state.

All states require clinical social workers to be licensed. However, some states provide exemptions for clinical social workers who work in government agencies. Becoming a licensed clinical social worker requires a master’s degree in social work and a minimum of 2 years of supervised clinical experience after graduation. After completing their supervised experience, clinical social workers must pass a clinical exam to be licensed.

Because licensing requirements vary by state, those interested should contact their state board. For more information about regulatory licensure boards by state, contact the Association of Social Work Boards.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Clients talk to social workers about challenges in their lives. To effectively help, social workers must be able to listen to and understand their clients’ needs.

Empathy. Social workers often work with people who are in stressful and difficult situations. To develop strong relationships, they must have compassion and empathy for their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different groups of people is essential for social workers. They need strong people skills to foster healthy and productive relationships with their clients and colleagues.

Organizational skills. Social workers must help and manage multiple clients, often assisting with their paperwork or documenting their treatment.

Problem-solving skills. Social workers need to develop practical and innovative solutions to their clients’ problems.

Time-management skills. Social workers often have many clients and administrative responsibilities. They must effectively manage their time to provide adequate service to all of their clients.

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Psychiatric Social Worker jobs

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Psychiatric Social Worker Career Paths

Psychiatric Social Worker
Director Of Social Services Program Director Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Therapist Respiratory Therapist Registered Nurse
Career Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Program Director Educator
Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Program Director Adjunct Professor Clinical Social Worker
Clinical Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Program Director Adjunct Faculty Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Medical Social Worker Clinical Social Worker Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Services Director
11 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director Case Manager
Director Of Case Management
11 Yearsyrs
School Social Worker Therapist Clinical Manager
Director Of Clinical Operations
13 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Clinical Manager Nursing Director
Director Of Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Medical Social Worker Director Of Social Services Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Therapist Medical Social Worker
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
School Social Worker Medical Social Worker
Director Of Social Work
7 Yearsyrs
Director Of Social Services Therapist Career Manager
Geriatric Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Director Career Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Clinical Director Nurse Practitioner Nurse Manager
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Therapist Clinical Manager Occupational Health Nurse
Health Services Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Career Coordinator Residence Director
Housing Director
6 Yearsyrs
Psychotherapist Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
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Psychiatric Social Worker Demographics


  • Female

  • Male

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • French

  • Chinese

  • German

  • Japanese

  • Russian

  • Cantonese

  • Mandarin

  • Korean

  • Swedish

  • Greek

  • Portuguese

  • Dutch

  • Vietnamese

  • Hebrew

  • Czech

  • Armenian

  • Choctaw

  • Arabic

  • Italian

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Psychiatric Social Worker Education

Psychiatric Social Worker

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Real Psychiatric Social Worker Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Psychiatric Social Worker Queens Child Guidance Center, Inc. NY May 25, 2011 $62,000
SR. Psychiatric Social Worker University of Massachusetts Amherst Amherst, MA Sep 02, 2010 $61,003
Mental Health Clinician/Psychiatric Social Worke Unity Health Care, Inc. Washington, DC Jul 25, 2009 $56,140
Psychiatric Social Worker The Child Center of Ny, Inc. NY Feb 07, 2012 $54,729
Psychiatric Social Worker Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center New York, NY Jun 09, 2016 $54,500
Psychiatric Social Worker County of Monterey Marina, CA Sep 04, 2014 $53,602
Psychiatric Social Worker The Child Center of New York, Inc. NY Apr 08, 2011 $52,624
Psychiatric Social Worker The Child Center of Ny, Inc. NY Feb 07, 2012 $52,536
Psychiatric Social Worker/Substance Abuse Counselo The Child Center of Ny Inc. NY Jun 24, 2010 $51,028
Medical and Psychiatric Social Worker Associated Staffing Resources Los Angeles, CA Jul 18, 2009 $49,100
Psychiatric Social Worker Hamilton Madison House Inc. New York, NY Feb 01, 2013 $44,500
Psychiatric Social Worker Hamilton Madison House Inc. New York, NY Feb 01, 2013 $41,000
Psychiatric Social Worker Hamilton-Madison House Inc. New York, NY Feb 01, 2010 $41,000

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Top Skills for A Psychiatric Social Worker


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Top Psychiatric Social Worker Skills

  1. Group Therapy Sessions
  2. Discharge Planning
  3. Individual Treatment Plans
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Facilitated cognitive behavioral group therapy sessions.
  • Document progress notes of patients care, family sessions, discharge planning and updates;.
  • Developed individual treatment plans in response to self injurious and suicidal behaviors.
  • Coordinated aftercare planning and disposition, intake/psychosocial assessments and family and systems meetings.
  • Worked closely with a diverse team of clinicians providing a variety of mental health services to our veteran population.

Top Psychiatric Social Worker Employers

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Psychiatric Social Worker Videos

A Day in the Life- Social Worker

Job Description of a Psychiatric Social Worker

A Day In The Life Of A Social Worker 1