Human and social services professions may be more vital and valued than ever — because of pressures surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, racial and social unrest, and additional transparency surrounding mental health issues.
For instance, schools, corporations, law enforcement and telehealth factions have begun to put more focus on embedding social workers and other mental health professionals.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected employment in social work to increase 11% from 2018-2028, leading to an estimated 81,000 new jobs in the field.
Dr. Eddie Williams has witnessed these shifts up close.
He is program director for social and human services at Pasco-Hernando State College, and also is a licensed mental health counselor in private practice serving Pasco and Hernando counties.
Williams was a featured guest speaker during an April 13 virtual social services event hosted by Saint Leo University’s East Pasco Education Center.
The social services expert shared information about various types of social work careers and practices.
His talk was part of a speaker series for students and prospective students interested in “helping careers.”
The topics for the free online series are designed to have broad appeal to those interested in social work, education, criminal justice, psychology, and human services.
“In this current environment that we’re navigating, it’s possible that there isn’t a more relevant and important subject as what’s being discussed here,” Derek Saunier, director of Saint Leo’s East Pasco Education Center, said during the webinar.
Williams offered his observations about the growing demand for social services.
In his private practice, he sees clients two days a week who are dealing with various issues.
Since last October or so, Williams said his office has noticed “a big spike” in people seeking advice regarding marital and family issues — a dynamic he previously didn’t encounter too often.
“I’m seeing more families than ever,” Williams said. “Usually (my practice) was more individuals, and I rarely saw couples or families, so that’s something that kind of changed for me, and I definitely had to adjust, had to do some more reading and talk with some colleagues who really do that all the time when I was stuck.”
For Williams, the experience has been a lesson in the ever-changing dynamics of social work, and the importance of being able to lean on colleagues or a supervisor for guidance.
“It’s power in numbers, so even if you work in a private practice, always have someone you can talk with, if you’re struggling,” he said.
Be prepared for long hours, continual learning
While encouraging webinar participants to pursue the path of social work and counseling, he also conveyed the importance for those working in those fields to have a passion for helping and interacting with others.
Working in these fields also calls for an ability to be able to have an open dialogue and be respectful — in a role that requires interactions with people of diverse cultural backgrounds.
This kind of work typically has long hours, too, in order to maximize potential and effectiveness, he said.
He personally serves on several advocacy and awareness-driven boards, in addition to teaching and clinical responsibilities.
“I’m always doing something,” Williams said. “If I’m not helping a client, I’m doing something in the community.”
He also offered some guidance on career development and advancement.
He encouraged aspiring mental health clinicians or social workers to join organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers — Florida chapter, plus other local human service clubs and organizations to provide networking, training and career opportunities, as well as to stay abreast of the latest legislative updates.
“To pretty much get to where I am now, I had to be active, I had to start being active,” said Williams, who also is pursuing a second doctorate in social work.
He also explained the licensing process, which happens through the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling, which is a division of the Florida Department of Health.
In addition to needing a bachelor’s or master degree from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited college or university, licensure often involves two years and 1,500 hours of supervised clinical experience in the field.
Williams also outlined the different levels of social work — micro, macro and mezzo — highlighting the various available pathways and opportunities.
Micro-level social work involves casework with individuals, such as a city social services caseworker, crime victim advocate, family therapist, school counselor, or substance abuse counselor.
Williams described the roles as more “in-the-trenches” work. “You’re right there, you’re hands-on with the population that you’re serving,” he said.
Macro-level social work involves interventions and advocacy on a large scale, affecting entire communities or states. It pertains to community organizers, lobbyists, professors of social policy, program developers, and researchers.
In essence, he said: “You’re either trying to prevent something, or you’re trying to give services to individuals, you’re trying to involve more people.”
Mezzo-level social work, meanwhile, focuses more on a dedicated or vulnerable group of people, with titles such as parenthood educator, community service manager and group therapist.
Published April 28, 2021