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
Director (faculty) for Bachelor Programs in Social Work Washington State University Tri-Cities Richland, Washington 11/23/2022
The College of Nursing at Washington State University Tri-Cities (WSU Tri-Cities) invites applications for a 12 month career-track faculty position at the Assistant, Associate or Full Professor level in Social Work. The successful applicants will be expected to develop a new program in social work at the Bachelor's level (BSW) which includes the creation of materials required for the accreditation process through the Council on Social Work Education. Applicants are also expected ... More
Field Director, Bachelor's of Social Work Washington State University Tri-Cities Richland, Washington 11/23/2022
Summary of Duties: The College of Nursing at Washington State University Tri-Cities (WSU Tri-Cities) invites applications for a career-track faculty position at the Assistant, Associate or Full Professor level in Social Work. The successful applicant will be expected to develop and oversee field experiences for a new program in social work at the Bachelors level (BSW). This will include ... More
Field Director, Bachelor's of Social Work Washington State University Tri-Cities Richland, Washington 11/23/2022
Summary of Duties: The College of Nursing at Washington State University Tri-Cities (WSU Tri-Cities) invites applications ... More
Director (faculty) for Bachelor Programs in Social Work Washington State University Tri-Cities Richland, Washington 11/23/2022
The College of Nursing at Washington State University Tri-Cities (WSU Tri-Cities) invites applications for a 12 month career-track faculty position at the Assistant, Associate or Full Professor level in Social Work. The successful applicants will be expected to develop a new program in social work at the Bachelor's level (BSW) which includes the creation of materials required for the accreditation process through the Council on Social Work Education. Applicants are also expected ... More
Psychotherapist 1 Baylor Scott & White Health Brenham, Texas 11/23/2022
JOB SUMMARYThe Psychotherapist 1 provides psychotherapy and counseling to individuals and their families, including group modalities, and assists in assessing psychotherapeutic needs of patients referred for service.ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS OF THE ROLEReviews and evaluates senior staff orders, patient medical records, and performs diagnostic assessments to determine psychotherapeutic treatment. Selects and accurately performs appropriate evaluation tests ... More
Social Worker 2 Northwestern University Chicago, Illinois 11/23/2022
Department: MED-Mesulam Ctr Cog Neur & AlzSalary/Grade: EXS/7Job Summary:Northwestern University Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimers Disease is seeking an exceptional social worker who demonstrates a pronounced interest in working with persons with neurocognitive disorders and their families in a diversity of roles, as well as an ability to work in a fast-paced environment. The Social Worker will work as a team member to achieve the ... More
Social Worker 2 Northwestern University Chicago, Illinois 11/23/2022
Department: MED-Mesulam Ctr Cog Neur & AlzSalary/Grade: EXS/7Job Summary:Northwestern University Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimers Disease is seeking an exceptional social worker who demonstrates a pronounced interest in working with persons with neurocognitive disorders and their families in a diversity of roles, as well as an ability to work in a fast-paced environment. The Social Worker will work as a team member to achieve the ... More
Unlicensed Community-Based Therapist (Child & Adolescent) LifeStance Health Maplewood, Minnesota 11/23/2022
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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