Best Social Work Introduction Guide with Free Templates

What is Social Case Work & What Does a Caseworker Do?


Primer: What You Need to Know to Understand Why Social Work Is Important

Social workers are a vital part of society, but they’re often overlooked. A person that gets a referral for financial aid and outpatient support during hospital discharge may not realize the person that helped them feel everything was going to be okay was a social worker.

Likewise, a family looking for assistance caring for an elderly relative, may not be aware that the person that “was so great with Dad” during the transition was a licensed social worker with years of experience.

If you ask the average person, “What is a caseworker?” or “What is a case manager in social work?” they may not know the answer or may believe social workers only do social work in Foster Care.

introduction to social work

Different types of social work and social work techniques

The fact is that most people have likely interacted with a social worker at some time or another without even realizing it.

In this introduction to social work, we’ll review the basics of what social work is and why social work is important in society. This article is not only designed to help the general public better understand case work in social work, it can also help people interested in becoming a social worker learn more about the field.


Table of Contents

Some of the topics this introduction to social work article covers are:

  1. Introduction to Social Work | What Is Social Work?
  2. What Is a Social Worker?
  3. Introduction to Social Work Degrees (Bachelor’s in Social Work, Master’s in Social Work)
  4. What Is LMSW & LCSW?
  5. Principles and the True Purpose of Social Work
  6. Why is Social Work Really Important?
  7. What Does a Social Worker Really Do?
  8. What Are Different Types of Social Work?
  9. Looking for Information on Social Work Software? Less Paperwork & More Client Engagement!
  10. What is a Case Manager in Social Work? What does a Caseworker do?
  11. Is there a Social Work Association You Should be Aware of?
  12. Where Can I Find a Social Work Union?
  13. Free Social Work Case Study Examples PDF
  14. Conclusion | What Are the Goals of Social Work & Why Is It Important?
  15. Introduction to Social Work & What Is a Caseworker – Additional FAQs

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Introduction to Social Work | What Is Social Work?

Social work is an activity dedicated to making people’s lives better. This is done to enhance human wellbeing and provide assistance to people with basic and complex challenges.

These challenges can include help with resources (food, shelter, financial aid) and help with personal challenges (substance abuse, emotional or behavioral issues, psychiatric problems).

Case work in social work is typically performed on three levels:

  • Micro: Providing assistance to individuals, families, and small groups
  • Mezzo: Providing assistance to communities
  • Macro: Creating large-scale social programs at a city, state, or country level

What Is a Social Worker?

Social workers are the professionals that carry out social work. Social workers will often be referred to as caseworkers, though there is a slight distinction between all social workers and case work in social work, which we’ll discuss shortly.

A social worker will either have a bachelor’s degree or master’s in social work and some may be licensed to perform a more complex level of clinical social work.

When asked what a social worker is in a social work interview, responses will typically be along the lines of “a professional dedicated to helping people through their challenges” and “experts that work to improve quality of life for the underprivileged or those going through crises.”


Introduction to Social Work Degrees (Bachelor’s in Social Work, Master’s in Social Work)

To become a social worker and even be considered for a social work interview, a person needs to have a 4-year degree in social work or a related field (such as psychology) as a minimum.

For those that want to perform social work casework, social work and counseling, and more than basic social work jobs, it’s necessary to have a master’s in social work.

If you have a Bachelor of Social Work, then you can qualify for an advanced degree program which may only take you 12-18 months to get a master’s in social work.

If you have a bachelor’s degree in another field, then it will typically take two years to earn your master’s in social work.

Learn more about different types of social work degrees: Best Social Work Degree Programs for Social Workers – Online & Near You.”

What Is LMSW & LCSW?

Two of the social worker licenses that a social worker that has a master’s in social work can obtain are LMSW and LCSW.

What is LMSW? This stands for Licensed Master Social Worker, and this certification enables social workers to take on higher positions for case work in social work.

What is LCSW? This stands for Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and it is a higher level of certification than LMSW. It enables social work and counseling in psychiatric settings.


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Principles and the True Purpose of Social Work

The main purpose of social work is to help those in need.

This can be food assistance to an underprivileged community, mental health therapy to someone suffering from depression, work with school children to help them through a traumatic event, and many other types of social services.

The purpose of social work also encompasses multiple scopes of social assistance. It can include helping people one-on-one, working to build a health clinic in a community in need, and developing social policies to address systematic racism and discrimination.

We can’t talk about the purpose of social work without listing the core principles of social work and social work approaches as well, as noted by the social work association most social workers look to for guidance.

What are the goals of social work?

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the core ethical principles of social work include:

  1. Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems.
  2. Social workers challenge social injustice.
  3. Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person.
  4. Social workers recognize the central importance of human relationships.
  5. Social workers behave in a trustworthy manner.
  6. Social workers practice within their areas of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise.

Looking for a social work case notes example? Check out this article, Best Social Work Processes with Examples & SOAP Notes.”


Why is Social Work Really Important?

Social work is important because it provides a vital safety net for all types of people in our society. This includes those that are living in poverty, those that are marginalized in their societies, those suffering from mental or emotional health issues, and those that can’t help themselves (such as children).

Through the expert use of social work techniques, social workers help to improve people’s lives by:

  • Advocating for social justice
  • Guiding people through physical, emotional, and mental health challenges
  • Educating people on how to improve their lives
  • Advocating on behalf of their clients
  • Helping people navigate complex systems (government agencies, health care system, etc.)
  • Protecting and advocating for children in crisis
  • Improving the lives of vulnerable people in the population
  • Providing individual and family therapy services
  • Guiding people through major transitions in their lives (such as a senior transitioning to a nursing home)

These are just a few of the reasons that explain why social work is important for individuals and society as a whole.


What Does a Social Worker Really Do?

The different types of social work fields will dictate much of the daily tasks of case work in social work. Social workers learn social work techniques for assessing client needs and creating care and intervention plans to help address them.

When we discuss the different types of social work, you’ll get a better idea of the things a social worker does in each field. If you’re interested in a general description of “What does a caseworker do in social work?”, we have detailed below the general social work approach.

Social Work Approach

These are certain universal responsibilities and social work approaches that all social service workers share.

  • Identify those that need help
  • Conduct a social work interview to gather information
  • Assess needs of individuals, families, or groups
  • Prioritize needs by urgency
  • Assess opportunities, strengths, and supports
  • Match available resources and opportunities with needs to help the client improve their situation
  • Develop a care plan
  • Follow up to provide support for the individual, family, or group while the problem(s) is resolved

Do you have any questions or feedback about this article detailing topics like sample social work case study assessment and “what is a case manager in social work?” If so, click here to contact us.


What Are Different Types of Social Work?

Once you’ve had an introduction to social work, you’ll find that social workers can be employed by just about any type of organization. They can work for government agencies, non-profits, social services organizations, hospital groups, or private enterprise corporations.

This is yet another sign of the importance of social work in society.

Here is an overview of some of the areas where social work casework is done.

Child & Family Social Worker and Social Work in Foster Care

A child and family social worker supports vulnerable children and youth and their families. When asked, what is a caseworker with children, most people will think of social work in Foster Care, the U.S. Government agency that gives homes to children that have been removed from unsafe living situations.

Often a social worker in Foster Care will be called a “supervising social worker” because they supervise and support the Foster families.

However, there are many social work approaches to working with children and families outside social work in Foster Care. This may include providing family support and parental guidance and counseling to at-risk youth.

A child and family social work treatment plan example could also involve working with families that have mentally or physically disabled children and providing support resources.

Healthcare Social Worker

A healthcare social worker will usually work in a hospital or hospice setting and will be there to assist individuals and families that may be going through emotional, financial, and physical stress due to health crises.

Home health social case work in social work which has a social worker traveling to someone’s home for intervention can also be under the health care umbrella.

Geriatric Social Worker

A geriatric social worker is also known as a gerontological social worker. This field can encompass the nursing home social worker as well as a social worker for elderly clients that visits them at home.

When reading information on social work with the elderly, you’ll also find this type of social worker working in palliative care facilities.

Mental Health Social Worker

A mental health social worker will provide social work and counseling to individuals and families for a wide range of needs, such as

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Relationship issues
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-harm
  • Behavioral issues
  • Other mental health problems

What is social case work for those with more severe psychiatric disorders?

Psychiatric social workers will hold a master’s degree in social work and an LCSW certification and specialize in helping more severe and complex mental health patients.

School Social Worker

Social work association with schools has a long history. Social workers often work in school districts to assist with behavioral issues or to identify children that may be having trouble at home.

School social workers will also apply social work approaches to provide guidance and counseling to students going through bullying or other emotionally challenging situations.

types of social work

Different Types of Social Work

Corporate Social Worker

A newer type of social work involves working in a corporate setting and providing support for the company and its employees for health and wellbeing.

Community Social Worker

A community social worker will typically work with underserved populations and may also be an international social worker facilitating support when a natural disaster strikes or in areas where social injustice is present.

Criminal Justice Social Worker

Social workers in the criminal justice system will work in places like courthouses, substance abuse centers, and correctional facilities. They are also referred to as a correctional social worker.

Military & Veteran Social Worker

Military and veteran social workers specialize in working with members or former members of the military. A social work approach here would be used to help soldiers adjust to civilian life or assist those with PTSD with their mental wellbeing.


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What is a Case Manager in Social Work? What does a Caseworker do?

A social work case manager, also known as a social work caseworker, will have developed case management skills, beyond the social work interview, assessment, and client care plan implementation.

Case work in social work is an additional area of skill and knowledge. If you’ve been searching for information on, “What is a caseworker?” and “What is a case manager in social work,” then you may want to check out one of the caseworker certifications by NASW.

This social work association notes that a social work case manager will “address the individual client’s biopsychosocial state as well as the state of the social system in which case management operates.”

It further states, “Social work case managers have a strong focus on client and system strengths and the development of self-care skills that go beyond the disease and symptom focus of the medical model.”

What Is Social Case Work?

Social casework is a primary function of social work that involves looking at multiple factors impacting a client’s wellbeing to come up with a holistic plan to address problems.

Social casework can involve long-term interventions such as those with children in the Foster Care System. Case work in social work can also include working with a student with behavioral issues.

What Is a Case Worker?

A case worker is a social worker that does casework and may work as a case manager.


Do you have any questions or feedback about social work approaches or social work techniques? If so, click here to contact us.


Is there a Social Work Association You Should be Aware of?

There is a social work association that provides support, training, certification, and resources for social workers. This is the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

NASW was founded in 1955, and according to the website, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world.


Where Can I Find a Social Work Union?

If you’re looking for a social work union, one labor union that many social workers join is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). This union includes service workers in varying fields, such as healthcare, public sector, and property services.

For social workers in the U.K., there is the Social Workers Union (SWU) which is a registered trade union and an organizational member of The British Association of Social Workers (BASW).

Depending upon where you live, you may also be able to find a local county social work union.


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Conclusion | What Are the Goals of Social Work & Why Is It Important?

Ultimately, the purpose of social work is to help people, and social caseworkers do that in a wide variety of ways. The field of social work provides an important safety net to every member of society.

Whether you are interested in social work as a career or just want to know the different types of social work, we hope that you’ve found this introduction to social work informative and helpful.


Introduction to Social Work & What Is a Caseworker – Additional FAQs

What is social work?

Social work is an activity dedicated to making people’s lives better. This is done to enhance human wellbeing and provide assistance to people with basic and complex challenges.

These challenges can include help with resources (food, shelter, financial aid) and help with personal challenges (substance abuse, emotional or behavioral issues, and psychiatric problems).

What does a caseworker do?

Social casework is a primary function of social work that involves looking at multiple factors impacting a client’s wellbeing to come up with a holistic plan to address problems.

The day-to-day responsibilities of a social worker will vary according to their specialty. However, there are certain universal responsibilities all social service workers share.

• Identify those that need help
• Conduct a social work interview to gather information
• Assess needs of individuals, families, or groups
• Prioritize needs by urgency
• Assess opportunities, strengths, and supports
• Match available resources and opportunities with needs to help the client improve their situation
• Develop a care plan to improve the situation
• Follow up to provide support for the individual, family, or group while the problem(s) is resolved

What are the different types of social work?

There are several types and sub-types of social workers, as they work across a wide range of areas to fill needs and help individuals, families, and groups

Here is a list of some of the most common types of social workers:

1. Child & Family Social Worker
2. Healthcare Social Worker
3. Geriatric Social Worker
4. Home Health Social Worker
5. Mental Health Social Worker
6. Substance Abuse Social Workers
7. Psychiatric Social Worker
8. Corporate Social Worker
9. Supervising Social Worker
10. Community Social Worker
11. Criminal Justice Social Worker
12. School Social Worker

What is LMSW?

LMSW stands for Licensed Master Social Worker, and this certification enables social workers to take on higher positions for case work in social work.


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