Psychiatric Social Worker Jobs & Career Guide

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What Is a Psychiatric Social Worker?

Psychiatric social work is a subset of social work. These specialized social workers work with people with severe mental illnesses, addictions, and neurological problems. Their patients are often in emotional distress while struggling with complicated, difficult disorders. Psychiatric Social Workers are often caring for individuals with major traumas and emotional distress who may be a danger to themselves or others in their community.

A Psychiatric Social Worker can support, therapize, or coordinate care for the individuals they’re treating. Their patients often require hospitalization or other psychiatric interventions. Their ultimate job function is getting people with severe mental health issues the support they need to function.

What Is a Psychiatric Social Worker Responsible For?

Generally, a Psychiatric Social Worker will complete a detailed intake of their patient to assess their mental state. This may involve an entire team of professionals, like psychiatrists and neuropsychologists, depending on their patient’s condition. Their information, along with the rest of the group’s, helps determine an appropriate treatment plan for the person.

After the treatment plan is developed, the Psychiatric Social Worker ensure their patient follows through with it. They may even be a part of the plan. For instance, their role could be providing therapy to the individual.

Outside of patient interaction, Psychiatric Social Workers are often speaking to the person’s family members. They give updates about their patient’s condition, their progress within the treatment plan, and provide education about what the person is experiencing with their condition. They may also run support groups for the patient’s family.

If their patient is hospitalized, a Psychiatric Social Worker will likely be involved with their discharge and transition to reenter society.

There are a multitude of tasks a Psychiatric Social Worker could be responsible for completing. Depending on where they work, they might be specialized in one of these functionalities or all of them.

On the job, a Psychiatric Social Worker can expect to”

  • Complete patient assessments and use these to help develop treatment plans.
  • Communicate with an interdisciplinary team about the patient’s care and how they are functioning within their treatment plan.
  • Document a person’s psychiatric care.
  • Meet with the patient’s family (likely alongside another member of their medical team) to discuss their progress.
  • Lead educational classes about medical wellness and mental health.

Where Does a Psychiatric Social Worker Work?

With this career, there are plenty of options of where to work.  Psychiatric Social Workers are most commonly found in some kind of care setting: hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers (both inpatient and outpatient), government settings (local and state), substance abuse clinics, jails, and outpatient healthcare locations.

What Other Career Options Are Available to a Psychiatric Social Worker?

Being a Psychiatric Social Worker means having a choice in two important factors: the population they want to work with and the type of facility where they’d like to practice. The job can be focused on a singular issue or on a larger set of problems. It depends on their preference.

A Psychiatric Social Worker can expect to find a career in the following areas:

  • Inpatient Psychiatric Social Workers: These social workers are often employed by a psychiatric department within a hospital system. They treat hospitalized patients with psychosis, addictions, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or other severe psychological or behavior problems. Their work includes completing assessments about a patient’s well-being and health needs, providing therapy, and cooperating with other members of the patient’s care team. They’re advocates for their patients.
  • Psychiatric Emergency Services and Crisis Response Social Workers: In this social work niche, patients are in active crisis. Crisis Response Social Workers give assessments, provide short-term support, and coordinate care. After determining their patient’s needs, they may recommend an involuntary hospitalization. It depends on the severity of the individual. They are often working with people who are a danger to themselves or others.
  • Outpatient Psychiatric Social Workers: When a person with severe mental illness doesn’t currently need to be hospitalized, they work with an Outpatient Psychiatric Social Worker. These social workers have patients with a range of issues who are either at risk for hospitalization or were recently released from an inpatient program.

What Degree Is Required to Become a Psychiatric Social Worker? What Do They Study?

Getting into psychiatric social work will require earning a college degree — both undergrad and graduate. Prospective students normally major in psychology or social work for their bachelor’s degree. Then, they’ll earn a master’s in a subject like mental health or psychiatric social work.

With their two degrees in hand, the next step is getting their social work license. This requires an internship and thousands of hours of supervised social work activities. Once they’ve earned their license, they’ll need to keep it current. These rules vary by state, but Psychiatric Social Workers can expect to attend a certain number of classes that cover social work issues.

What Skills are Required in Psychiatric Social Work?

This subset of psychology is known for its difficult patients and challenging, yet depressing, situations. Being a Psychiatric Social Worker requires an individual who has patience, empathy (within boundaries), and a strong sense of resolve.

Choosing this career path also means choosing to be tolerant of others’ situations. Psychiatric Social Workers must be able to meet people where they are with a nonjudgmental attitude.

Practicing in this niche requires plenty of critical thinking and rationality as well. This is the type of career where workers learn much more in the field than they do in school. College is only a jumping off point — the environment is the real classroom.

How Much Money Does a Psychiatric Social Worker Earn?

On average, a Psychiatric Social Worker can expect to make $52,891. Based on location and experience level, their salaries can vary from $30,000 for entry level positions to $90,000 for senior positions.

The social work field is expected to expand by 12 percent — which is faster compared to other job sectors. This growth is influenced by the United States’ ever-growing need for healthcare and social services. See also: Psychology jobs salary guide

Latest Psychiatric Social Worker Jobs & Career Guide Listings

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Position Company Location Posted
Clinical Social Worker International Rescue Committee Sacramento, California US 02/28/2022
Job Overview:Located within the Safety & Wellness department, the Clinical Social Worker is a new role to address the mental health and psychosocial needs of the IRCs clients. The Clinical Social Worker willprovide individual, family, and group mental health services to newly arrived refugees, SIVs, and immigrants, with a focus on new arrivals from Afghanistan. This position ... More
Full-time Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Outpatient Behavioral & Mental Healthcare- Danbury Hospital (60 Miles from New York City) Nuvance Health Danbury, Connecticut US 02/24/2022
Nuvance Health, formerly known as Western Connecticut Health, has as excellent opportunity for a full-time, experienced Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) working in an outpatient setting in Danbury, Connecticut. The LCSW will provide support to the Behavioral and Mental Healthcare department following a Monday-Friday office schedule of 8:30am-5pm with a flexible evening shift once a week. Danbury is located one hour outside of New York City in suburban Fairfield County. We offer a highly ... More
Licensed Clinical Social Worker - Psychiatry NorthShore University HealthSystem Skokie, Illinois US 02/15/2022
Position Highlights: Position: Licensed Clinical Social Worker - Psychiatry Hours: Flexible Work Schedule Competitive Salary: Competitive with excellent benefits package What you will need: License: Active or Eligible in the State of Illinois Education: Master of Social Work Certification: ... More
Clinical Social Worker - BSW - Cancer Center - Augusta -- Part-time University of Virginia, School of Medicine Charlottesville, Virginia US 01/16/2022
The BSW social worker, in conjunction and collaboration with MSW/LCSW social workers, screens and briefly assesses patients to identify their medical, psycho-social, and financial needs and appropriate services. Participates in ongoing team huddles with fellow Department of Social Work members to ensure quality of care in case assignment and level of intervention. Refers patients/families with identified social work needs to the MSW or LCSW social worker for comprehensive assessment. Works ... More
Clinical Social Worker; LCSW - Bilingual, Cancer Center University of Virginia, School of Medicine Charlottesville, Virginia US 10/13/2021
$10,000 SIGN ON AVAILABLEUVA Health is seeking to hire a full time bilingual clinical social worker (LCSW) for the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center (ECCCC), a nationally ranked NCI-Designated cancer center. Individuals from all around Virginia receive care at ECCCC, and there is opportunity to work with diverse, refugee and undocumented patients. As a member of the ECCCC support services team, the clinical social worker will provide assessment, individual counseling both in-person ... More
Clinical Social Worker, MSW - Emergency Department, Wage/PRN University of Virginia, School of Medicine Charlottesville, Virginia US 10/05/2021
The Emergency Department Clinical Social Worker is responsible for conducting face to face meetings with patients and families in order to complete assessments and provide appropriate interventions. Responsible for serving populations with a variety of clinical needs and who have needs related to health impairments chronic illness trauma death and dying marriage and family dysfunction mental health and behavioral health issues and substance abuse. Works with victims of intimate partner violence ... More
Licensed Clinical Social Worker - LCSW Ocean Health Initiatives Toms River, New Jersey US 02/26/2022
Position Summary:Under the direction of the Vice President of Specialty Care, the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is responsible for the implementation of the Social Work Department Strategic Plan. The LCSW will work in an environment that supports clinical excellence and competency through multi-disciplinary teamwork and collaboration. The LCSW will develop a plan for social work intervention that is consistent and congruent ... More
Licensed Clinical Social Worker RUSH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER Chicago, Illinois US 02/23/2022
We are seeking an experienced and highly motivatedLicensed Clinical Social Workerto join Affirm: the Rush Center for Gender, Sexuality & Reproductive Health. We strongly encourage people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and non-binary people, veterans, parents, and individuals with disabilities to apply. Rush is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes everyone to our team. If you need reasonable accommodation at any point in the application ... More
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