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
Lead Therapist - GoHealth Urgent Care ChristianaCare Newark, Delaware US 05/15/2022
PRIMARY FUNCTION: To enhance and improve the quality of patient care at GoHealth Urgent Care by providing assessment, treatment, consultation and educational services for individuals with problems related to emotional or mental health. Provides clinical support to the Behavioral Health Outpatient Practice. PRINCIPAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: Collaborates with multidisciplinary team (psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, nurses, care management, ... More
Behavioral Health Therapist- GoHealth ChristianaCare Newark, Delaware US 05/15/2022
Are you passionate about serving our patients with Love and Excellence? GoHealth , an affiliate of ChristianaCare Health Services is looking for a Full-Time Behavioral Health Therapist.Feel Free to Apply today! PRIMARY FUNCTION: This position will provide office based clinical assessment and mental health therapy services for a diverse caseload of patients. This position is a hybrid mix of remote/virtual work and in person office ... More
Student Counselor Midwestern University Glendale, Arizona US 05/14/2022
Summary The Student Counselor assists students in resolving personal and academic problems that produce emotional stress and adversely affect their educational progress. The position reports to the Manager of Student Counseling. Essential Duties and Responsibilities Meet with students one-on-one to discuss personal problems and develop strategies to resolve those problems Meet with students one-on-one or in the company ... More
Sr. Social Worker I - M-F - 8a-4:30p ChristianaCare Wilmington, Delaware US 05/14/2022
Headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, ChristianaCare is one of the country's most dynamic health care organizations, centered on improving health outcomes, making high-quality care more accessible and lowering health care costs. ChristianaCare includes an extensive network of outpatient services, home health care, urgent care centers, three hospitals (1,299 beds), a free-standing emergency department, a Level I trauma center and a Level III neonatal intensive care unit, a comprehensive stroke ... More
School Based Senior Social Worker (Part Time, 32 hours) ChristianaCare Wilmington, Delaware US 05/14/2022
ChristianaCare is searching for a Part Time, Senior Social Worker to join the First State School Team. This position is 32-hours a week (4 days a week) and will provide comprehensive mental health care for the students (grades K-12) at the First State School and their families in prevention and treatment in collaboration with the school psychologist, nursing staff, educational staff, ancillary staff, and community providers.The ChristianaCare Way!When you become an employee ... More
Behavioral Health Therapist - Center for Hope and Healing ChristianaCare New Castle, Delaware US 05/14/2022
ChristianaCare is looking to hire a Behavior Health Therapist/ Licensed Clinical Social Worker for one of their growing programs in New Castle, DE!Christiana Care is looking for an individual that has passion to care for highly complex patients with underlying behavioral health conditions, and who is looking to work in a multi-disciplinary team setting. This role would be serving across three of our practice locations including, Wilmington Hospital-Gateway, Riverside Primary ... More
Unlicensed Community-Based Therapist LifeStance Health Anoka, Minnesota US 05/14/2022
Unique benefits include, but are not limited to:Licensure Supervision for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW), and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).Professional Liability CoverageMedical/Dental/Vision/Voluntary Life/Short Term DisabilityContinuing Education Units (CEU) BenefitQUALIFICATIONSEducation Requirements:Possess a Bachelor's ... More
Unlicensed Community-Based Therapist LifeStance Health Eden Prairie, Minnesota US 05/14/2022
Unique benefits include, but are not limited to:Licensure Supervision for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW), and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).Professional Liability CoverageMedical/Dental/Vision/Voluntary Life/Short Term DisabilityContinuing Education Units (CEU) BenefitQUALIFICATIONSEducation Requirements:Possess a Bachelor's ... More
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