Highlighting Residential Mental Health

Highlighting Residential Mental Health

Social work sometimes seems to be this vague concept about some group of humans who do some type of good work for certain people. Basically, social work is not typically well understood.

Go ahead…ask yourself (or your friends) what social work is. 

You might get answers like “taking away children” or “that one person in the hospital” or “that person that helps with the adoption.” 

I can tell you that even when I was a freshman in college with a social work major (my Type A self declared my major as soon as I was allowed) I was not able to define social work. 

If you had asked me then, I would’ve said something along the lines of “helping people” and then gone on a tangent about how I wanted to fight human trafficking and to promote social justice. 

Now, if you ask me to define social work, I’ll still probably hesitate a little. Not because I don’t have an idea of what the profession entails, but because it is so diverse and far reaching. 

Social work for some means direct work with clients. For others, its more administrative or research based. 

The populations/areas social workers serve are countless, but include mental health, domestic violence, adoption/fostering, maternal health, community development, clinical, forensic, labor and delivery, substance use, refugees, and schools.

So…why am I talking about this??

It is my hope that through this blog that we as a community better understand the profession and all that social workers do and experience. 

Once a month, I’ll highlight a different area of social work to give an idea of what a typical “day in the life” might look like. Fellow social work peers might even be guest bloggers 😉

Note that the below information is based off one specific agency- similar agencies may have a slightly different structure.

This month, I’m highlighting residential mental health services:

What is it?

There are many different types of residential services with varying levels of independence. I’m going to highlight a group home setting. This setting is more independent than an inpatient setting, but has more support than other settings, such as apartments. Clients live in the same house and have staff available 24/7 for assistance and support.

Residents typically have mental health diagnoses such as schizophrenia, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, major depression, or schizoaffective disorder.

What is the purpose?

To provide a safe, supportive place for adults with severe and chronic mental health diagnoses to further their independence. The goal is to move into more independent housing.

What are some typical challenges?

Substance use by clients.

Clients refusing services.

Financial restrictions on the program.

Clients relapsing or becoming more symptomatic.

What do “small victories” look like?

Clients meeting goals.

When clients display an increase in independence, even in tasks such as shopping or hygiene habits.

Clients acknowledging the need for assistance and then getting it.

When medications or other interventions help a client return to baseline (their “normal”).

What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in this area?

What a client chooses to do or not do is not a reflection of my performance as a social worker. I can provide support and guidance where appropriate, but the client ultimately has self-determination and can choose to make whatever decision he or she wants to make. 

 What does a typical day look like?

Most of what I do is dependent on the day and the needs of the household. Some days, I’m mostly at the computer or on the phone. Other days, I’m barely at the group home because I’m busy running errands, attending meetings, etc.

The below activities might take up my time on any given day:

Meeting with clients for “billable” hours (this could be anything from a discussion to cooking a meal to riding the bus).

Documenting billable hours.

Goal setting with clients.

Documenting these goals in a treatment plan.

Communicating with treatment providers (think case managers, psychiatrists, therapists, doctors, etc.).

Crisis management (anything from a disagreement between clients to a full blown emergency).

Documenting a crisis.

Educating clients on basic life skills (cleaning, cooking, budgeting, communicating, etc.).

Transporting clients to appointments (and sometimes attending them).

Attending treatment team meetings.

Grocery shopping and other household shopping.

Documenting daily/monthly client progress.

Assisting with cleaning and maintenance tasks for the household (I now know how to fix various parts of a sink, toilet, and vacuum).

Monitoring clients taking medication at designated times of the day (big perk: I now know a BUNCH of psychiatric and medical med names, purposes, and side effects). 

Documenting when medications are/are not taken.

And documentation, documentation, documentation. 

Did I mention that already? 😉If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen, folks.