Social work versus therapy: a theory (or WAG)

This is purely subjective and based on my own experiences.  But….

My exposure to clinical psych, in terms of PhDs who hang their shingles on the street and take in anyone who can pay, led me to picture a long-term psychotherapeutic relationship.  It would last so long that the therapy itself became part of the client’s personal evolution, and would clean out all the client’s mental corners.  From that hamster that died in second grade to the first boy-girl party to all the mommy issues you can lift; everything.  I knew people for whom the weekly or twice-weekly visit (with or without meds) was like going to the gym or the chiropractor:  periodic maintenance rather than emergency care.

Social work was much hazier.  My exposure was limited to the kids I knew in foster care.  Social workers were overworked idealists who thought being poor was a disease, and it would be doing the kid a favor to remove her from her single-parent household (possibly a drunk, neglectful parent after the spouse had R-U-N-N-O-F-T.)  That was before there was widespread awareness that a lot of foster parents were looking for a free servant who came with a monthly check from the state…who might be taken advantage of in other ways, too.  At least that was common in my neck of the woods. 

But now I know social workers have a variety of jobs, and a better idea of what their work entails.  I like the idea of, instead of taking $100 per visit and getting into years-long relationships with individuals, having a more limited relationship with a client, giving him or her tools to self-repair, and finding community resources for the client to connect to.  Better to embed in a network with many caring people, who aren’t being paid for friendship, and whom the client might do some good as well — which in turn will help the client. 

This might be pure fantasy, since I live in isolation:  no friends within hundreds of miles, no church or desire for one, no children, only a few surviving relatives…I don’t even have a pet.  It’s easy to picture a sad patient with a problem growing healthy, surrounded by friends and family and church and coworkers and community.  Things to care for, who will care for him.  Perhaps this is all projected.

But if I get to be a social worker, I’ll figure it out.  🙂

And in order to do that, I’ve got to get back to the books….


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