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
Masters Psychotherapist - UPMC Women's Behavioral Health Specialists UPMC in Central Pa. Camp Hill, Pennsylvania US 08/08/2022
Masters Psychotherapist UPMC Women's Behavioral Health Specialists UPMC Central Pa. a growing multi-site health system is seeking a Masters Psychotherapist to join our growing team at Women's Behavioral Health Specialists (WBHS). This provider will play an integral role in helping to provide high-quality, compassionate care to patients. The WBHS office specifically treats women experiencing anxiety and/or depression related to pregnancy and postpartum. ... More
Clinical Pediatric Gastroenterologist University of Kentucky, Kentucky Children's Hospital, Department of Pediatrics Lexington, Kentucky US 08/08/2022
Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Kentucky Childrens Hospital and the University of Kentucky are seeking to recruit a clinical pediatric gastroenterologist with an outstanding record of clinical and teaching endeavors. The ideal candidate would join a vibrant and collaborative division of pediatric gastroenterologist and would: Be recruited at the Assistant Professor, Associate Professor or Professor level to the University of Kentucky. ... More
Mental Health & Mental Performance Provider Cleveland Guardians Goodyear, Arizona US 08/08/2022
Primary PurposeThe Guardians believe that by investing in the well-being and positive mental health of their players, coaches and staff long term, optimal performance will be supported. The Mental Health and Mental Performance Provider will be based in Goodyear, Arizona throughout the year--- spring training, season, fall development, and winter development. They will be tasked with fostering the overall well-being of the Cleveland Guardians players and staff in that ... More
Clinical Counselor/Referral Specialist Oklahoma State University Union, Oklahoma US 08/07/2022
Provide referral services for OSU students to agencies outside of University Counseling Services and maintain database of available community providers. Provide individual and group counseling for university students experiencing personal/emotional and career problems, and alcohol and substance abuse issues. The staff member will perform administrative duties, provide consultation to members of the university community, and occasionally provide educational outreach programs. Although ... More
Staff Counselor Agnes Scott College Decatur, Georgia US 08/06/2022
General Summary: Provides psychological services to students including brief individual and group therapy, crisis intervention, and referral to psychiatric and /or medical resources as needed; Provides consultation with administration, faculty and staff . W ith Counseling and Psychological Services team, coordinates provision of campus outreach services. Provides culturally-informed services to a diverse student population. This position requires the availability to participate ... More
Licensed Therapist - LPC,LMFT,LCSW's Welcome! - Sign On Bonus - No Weekends (copy) LifeStance Health Portland, Oregon US 08/05/2022
Is this you?Wanting to deliver high quality behavioral healthcare.Seeking work life balance.Interested in growing professionally.What we offer Therapists:Flexible work schedules. Telemedicine and in-person flexibility. Generous 'above market' compensation with unlimited/uncapped earnings. Full benefits package: health, dental, vision, life, 401k (with match), paid parental leave, holidays, EAP and more. ... More
Licensed Clinical Therapist - (LMFT,LCSW,LPC) - Sign On - No Weekends - Unlimited Income Potential LifeStance Health Portland, Oregon US 08/05/2022
Is this you?Wanting to deliver high quality behavioral healthcare.Seeking work life balance.Interested in growing professionally.What we offer Therapists:Flexible work schedules. Telemedicine and in-person flexibility. Generous 'above market' compensation with unlimited/uncapped earnings. Full benefits package: health, dental, vision, life, 401k (with match), paid parental leave, holidays, EAP and more. ... More
Licensed Clinical Therapist - (LMFT,LCSW,LPC) - Sign On - No Weekends - Unlimited Income Potential LifeStance Health Tualatin, Oregon US 08/05/2022
Is this you?Wanting to deliver high quality behavioral healthcare.Seeking work life balance.Interested in growing professionally.What we offer Therapists:Flexible work schedules. Telemedicine and in-person flexibility. Generous 'above market' compensation with unlimited/uncapped earnings. Full benefits package: health, dental, vision, life, 401k (with match), paid parental leave, holidays, EAP and more. ... More
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