The National Association of Social Workers had a campaign a few years ago called “Say you’re a social worker.”
The premise is an important one; we can’t hope to reclaim our professional identity if we’re not claiming it in the first place, and far too many social workers call ourselves “therapists” or “administrators” or even “advocates”, without specifying that we approach those disciplines from an identity within the social work profession (and accompanying professional values and ethics).
But the fact that we’re social workers first, however we choose to approach the particulars of that work, does matter. We believe it does, and I think that our clients should think so too (because if we’re NOT doing our work any differently, we may need to check how we’re putting our professional values to work).
I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of this.
It’s tempting, sometimes, to say that I do policy work, or that I teach, or do consulting, especially because saying that I’m a social worker often leads to people asking for help that I don’t feel qualified to give. Like about their neighbor whose boyfriend is abusive or their sister-in-law who hears voices.
And while I’m always careful to point out that I’m not a clinician, the truth is that social workers do carry an obligation to be generalists and able to help folks navigate resources even if we don’t believe that we’re that kind of social worker.
Just the same way that I try to help all social workers discover their advocacy potential. And their advocacy commitment, too.
So I rejoice at this article describing one of the last Nobel Peace Prize winners, who, in addition to being an amazing advocate for women’s rights and peaceful opposition to violence, is a…
We believe that social workers are changing the world every day, albeit admittedly not always in ways this dramatic and profound.
We just have to claim it.