Clinical social work

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Clinical social work is a licensed social work practice in healthcare profession. It is a collective term. A strong therapeutic alliance between client and practitioner, using evidenced based best practices is the key to this practice. With 200,000 practitioners serving millions of client consumers, clinical social workers constitutes the largest group of healthcare providers in United States.

Professional base[edit]

This practice is based on theories and methods of prevention and treatment in providing health (general health) behavioral healthcare (mental health and substance use disorder) services, with special focus on bio-psycho-social-spiritual problems and disorders. Clinical social work’s unique attributes include use of the person-in-environment perspective, strengths perspective, systems theory, respect for the privacy of client rights, and social administration.

The knowledge base of clinical social work includes theories of biological, psychological, and social development; diversity and cultural competency; interpersonal relationships; family and group dynamics; mental disorders; addictions and substance use disorders; impacts of illness, trauma, or injury; and the effects of the physical, social, and cultural environment.


Social workers in general typically undergo a systematic set of training and qualifications that enable them to do field of work professional. Hence it is distinct from social care workers, social service workers or care assistants, who may undertake social work functions and function as ancillary staff. Social work is a paid job as other professional jobs.[1] Persons or professionals who engage in social work activities and social care services are not necessarily a qualified social worker, though within geographical differences they are accepted as companions of change.[2][3]

Knowledge required is inculcated in social work graduate school and is fused with direct-practice skills that are developed by the practitioner during a period of at least two years of post-graduate experience under clinical supervision. This period should suffice to prepare the clinical social worker for autonomous practice and state-licensure as a clinical social work professional. In the years that follow, clinical social workers may pursue an advanced-generalist practice or may decide to specialize in one or more areas.


Clinical social work is notable for the versatility of its practitioners and the variety of their roles, including that of team member and team leader in a mulch-disciplinary setting. Client consumers—individuals, couples, families, and groups—benefit from a variety of direct services, including assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, intervention/treatment, evaluation of outcomes, and case management.[4] Clinical social work settings and services include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • children and family services
  • palliative and rehabilitative care
  • residential treatment
  • clinics
  • program and project management
  • rural healthcare
  • court and forensics
  • public and private schools
  • social services
  • elder care
  • public sector health/mental health
  • uniformed services and veteran affairs
  • private/home health care practice
  • behavioral health rehabilitation facilities
  • substance abuse treatment facilities
  • not-for-profit agencies and organization agencies
  • medicare & medicaid services
  • religious/spiritual organizations


The flexible and skillful application of knowledge, theories, and methods in a bio-psychosocial approach is a hallmark of clinical social work. Interventions—the direct person-to-person(s) process—are conducted with people of all ages and range in nature from preventive, crisis, and psycho-educational services to collaborative client advocacy and brief and long-term counseling or psychotherapy. Typically, clinical social workers supervise and consult with professional colleagues and may engage in indirect practice (e.g. administration, research, teaching, writing). It is a standard of practice for clinical social workers to engage in career-long continuing clinical education and to adhere to a professional code of ethics.