How Can A Social Worker Help Navigate A Family Crisis?

A family crisis can be difficult and unsettling for every party involved. Whether it involves an illness, an injustice, a financial problem or some other major issue, it can leave family members wondering how to solve the issue or where to go for help. Thankfully, social workers are key medical staff that can help families deal with the crises they face.

For social workers entering a family in crisis, there are many techniques they should use in order to gain the trust of the people involved. A family, or family member, may be hesitant to open up enough to let social workers help them. They may believe the crisis should stay in the family, or they may struggle to talk about family problems with the social worker. Or they may genuinely want and need help but don’t know how to go about asking.

In all these cases, it can be challenging to get the necessary help to overcome family crises. As with all things in life, it’s easier to navigate and communicate a crisis if you understand more about it. It’s the social workers’ job to communicate and learn about the family, and to help them overcome the challenges that have led them into crises. This article will discuss the essential skills a social worker needs to be able to help families navigate crises, and how to begin your rewarding career as a social worker.

How social workers educate and empower families

When a family crisis hits, family members may believe it is something that needs to be solved by the family. However, many families don’t have the information they need to solve the problem or don’t know how to connect with people who can help.

Social workers are connected to the community. They have access to local and national resources that can help people in need, and they know how to connect families with them. They will listen to the crisis at hand and create a personalized plan to give you the support you need. Additionally, social workers can stay by your side as you make those connections.

Helping people who are going through crises and feeling vulnerable is just part of the job for many social workers, and they can support family issues by giving you all the information you need to overcome the challenges you face.

Educating families

Along with the information they give to those who come to them for crisis management, social workers provide a thorough education on how to use it effectively. They can point families toward professionals, classes, and resources such as financial aid to help with budgeting, or therapies that not only help them with the crisis in the short term but also teach the families the skills they need to handle issues in the long term. This training can be very valuable and can ensure that the family is equipped to handle both the current crisis and whatever issues arise in the future.

Empowering families

Empowerment can make a big difference in an individual’s outcome when they face a crisis. It is natural to feel powerless and scared when dealing with a crisis, whether it is a health problem, a financial issue or something else entirely. There are so many steps to take and things to worry about and so many stressors and consequences bearing down that make a person feel small and out of their depth.

Social workers empower the people they work with to find solutions themselves, and while they will point them toward resources and help access them, they won’t do all the work for those in need as social work is about giving people the correct tools to survive, rather than simply handing everything to a family and hoping they survive. However, the resources accessible to a social worker can make all the difference to a family in crisis and can help pull them out of poverty, abusive and hostile environments, or imminent danger.

Social workers work hard to ensure that families know they are not alone; it’s their job to help families overcome adversity by giving them hope in the form of positive action and accessible resources.

Sometimes people cannot see a way out of a crisis in their home or family, such as a divorce, unemployment, eviction or other issues that seem to be permanent. However, a social worker can help families to navigate through it and adjust to the changes that the crisis and its aftermath have brought on them.

The social worker’s empowerment can help vulnerable people weather the storm and improve their quality of life, along with their standard of living. This way, social workers help vulnerable families to get back on track to living a good life.

Listening skills

Sometimes, all anyone wants to do is talk and have another person listen as they process their emotions. This is particularly true if the crisis involves a family with younger children. Being a parent during a time of crisis can be very scary and frustrating. Parents often try to remain positive in the face of uncertainty when talking and explaining situations to their children, but this façade is very difficult to upkeep and can lead to exhaustion, burnout and, in some cases, breakdown.

A social worker can listen to what a parent is going through and offer the opportunity to share emotions without being judged. Social workers will also use the problems that their patients are experiencing as fuel to create a plan of action that will be specific and beneficial to that particular situation.

A patient may need help solving a specific crisis, managing the stress of day-to-day living, or help navigating a tumultuous relationship. In all cases, a social worker is there to listen and take action. Sometimes having a shoulder to cry on and someone to really talk to can make all the difference for a family in need of help.

Long-term support

Another major benefit of being a social worker is that you can see the growth and recovery of a family from the start of the crisis through the end and beyond. Once a family reaches out for help from a social worker, they will work to create a plan that is tailored to the family and connects them with the people and resources they need to solve a problem. Social work is an extremely rewarding career because it means you can help solve serious problems, and with this you can learn new positive ways to engage with other patients along your career.

Eventually, families will manage to survive the crises that once faced them, but a social worker’s involvement won’t end there. Many social workers conduct follow-ups and check-ins in the months after the crisis has been resolved. They will take notes based on the successes and obstacles that their patients have faced, and will be around to congratulate them while also handling any new problems or developments that have arisen.

Helping the community

Resources such as food banks, mental health facilities and facilities for people who need a roof over their heads can go unnoticed by people who don’t use them. However, when a social worker connects a family in need with these resources and they prove to be a big help, it can inspire those families to give back to those resources and the community at large.

Don’t underestimate how powerful gratitude can be when working with people who are down on their luck and need a bit of help. Many families who take advantage of certain resources while they are in the middle of a crisis will often come back and donate their money and time to those very same resources as a way of demonstrating their gratitude.

This allows them to help other families who might be in the same boat, and a ripple effect develops that eventually aids the community. When a social worker helps people who need to solve a crisis and offers them solutions to their problems, an entire community benefits; people become much more willing to help one another and charitable organizations that need the support.

How to become a social worker

Whether you are working with families who have young children, divorced couples or the elderly, those who enjoy taking on the challenges of people who are completely different from them may find social work to be a fulfilling career.

If you want to become a social worker for families, you will need the ability to empathize, listen and communicate with your clients. You will likely be working with families of all types, sizes and age ranges, and they will each have their own crisis that they need help handling. No two days are the same for many social workers, and being able to get the families you are working with to open up and share their problems is essential.

Social workers also need good time management and organizational skills because they will likely be working with different families who have different needs and who all need different resources at the same time. Being able to keep track of who needs what is essential for helping all your clients.

Finally, a social worker needs to have the ability to think on their feet. Many times, the problems that a social worker encounters with families arise unexpectedly. This means that social workers need to be able to get a handle on rapidly changing situations in order to provide the best help to their clients.

It’s also important to have a good work-life balance as time goes on because constantly putting out fires for your clients can be draining. Even if you genuinely want to help and love your work, taking care of yourself needs to be a priority.

If you are stressed or overwhelmed by the various problems of social work, you won’t be able to help others effectively. This is why it is so essential to combat burnout and work toward having a healthy and happy life outside of work.

The education needed to become a social worker

Before you can become a social worker, you need to obtain the right qualifications. The precise education needed will vary based on the requirements of the state where you obtain your degree, but the general process is similar throughout the country.

For starters, you will need to get a bachelor’s degree, such as a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from a college or university. During your studies, you will learn about topics such as human behavior, the ethics of social work, human rights, and how social work cases are managed on a day-to-day basis.

Once that is done, you will be able to obtain some practical experience. This is done by observing and working under practicing social workers, or by working with clients under strict supervision. Other schools and workplaces offer internships that can provide aspiring social workers with some real-world practical experience.

Another advantage of doing practical work is that it allows you to experience different branches of social work so you can identify which professional path you would like to pursue. You can work with families who are in crisis, but that isn’t the only field of social work to consider. If you find that another field of social work feels like a better fit for you, you can shift your studies accordingly.

Obtaining more degrees as a social worker

A bachelor’s degree in social work is sufficient if you want to stick to the basics. However, if you want to grow your career and take on greater challenges, you need to advance your field of study. For example, many social workers get a master’s degree so they can qualify for jobs beyond entry level.

Earning a Master of Social Work (MSW), for example, entails spending two years focusing on fields related to clinical social work. These fields may include providing social work services for couples and families, providing help to those who struggle with substance abuse, and helping older adults.

You can also obtain a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) credential in many states. If you want to work in family therapy or in schools, you may need both an MSW and an LCSW;  the Virginia LCSW requirements can give you an idea of what to expect. Florida State University offers an excellent MSW program. You can earn your degree online, and once you have completed all the requirements and supervised hours, you will need to take an exam.

The Association of Social Workers Board’s (ASWB) clinical level exam is a licensing exam that will ask you 170 multiple-choice questions about key social work concepts. Once you pass the exam, you will be eligible for your license.

Taking on the education needed to become a social worker might take time, but this career can be very rewarding once you start helping families and people in need.

Don’t be afraid to help

Social workers are unsung heroes. They are people who help the helpless and give a voice to the voiceless. If you feel a desire to provide that help, don’t be afraid to start on the path toward becoming a social worker.

This in-demand and rewarding career can help you make a difference in many people’s lives. From helping children learn to live with different, more caring families, to offering solutions to young, single parents so they can navigate parenthood with the tools to give their child a happy, healthy life, social work is essential in building a stable community.