What is “Social Work?”

What is “Social Work?”


The best way for me to kick off my new blog is through the following words I wrote awhile back about what social work is and means to me. My experience with social work has been so diverse already even though my time in the field has been incredibly short.

Maybe that’s why social work is so hard to define…there are so many different ways that social work happens that there isn’t one simply way to describe the field. It doesn’t just happen in a classroom, an office, at a desk, or at a store. It isn’t just paperwork, talking with a client, or “taking away children.”

Please enjoy the following words, based off of my limited time in the field:

Social Work…

Social Work is




Self Determination

Goal setting

Rapport building


So much paperwork.

But social work

Is also

Sitting in a hospital waiting room

For hours on end

Hoping that, this time, it all works out.

It is being a privileged witness

To the beginnings and endings of a life.

It is teaching grown adults

To use a toilet

All while preserving their dignity.

It is spending an entire day

Making juice for a client celebration.

It is listening to the same story

For the 64th time.

It is being able to predict

The next words out of a client’s mouth,

But not acting on the prediction prematurely.

It is balancing client needs

With laws and outside expectations

That do not always have the client interest in mind.

It is encountering ethical questions

On a daily basis.

Decisions made with no clear guidance.

It is putting out fires with client families

And also putting out literal fires.

It is being given a task

And learning how to complete it

As you go.

It is fixing toilets and vacuums

And unplugging kitchen sinks.

It is sitting with a client

As they sober up

For the fifth time that week.

It is becoming accustomed to calling emergency services

It is being a first responder

Saving lives with no prior experience.

It is sitting with a client late into the night

Close to tears

As they face a future they cannot control

Because of a past they did not choose.

It is comforting them

Even when you know the outcome

Will be poor.

It is feeling fear and anger.

It is wanting to fight with every inch of energy possible

But being held back

By the law. By the organization. By society.

It is questioning if any of the work

Is even worth it.

It is knowing without a doubt

That these lives could make

The world a better place.

It is quietly carrying countless stories

Of heartbreak and joy

Within your own being.

It is laughter and devastation.

It is messy and complicated.

It is defined by expectations, ethics, and regulations.

It is flexible and vaguely understood in practice.

It is walking with human beings

Wherever they are

However they need to grow

Whatever mistakes they may make

And make again and again.

It is a burden and a privilege.


Social Work is there

To love.