The Complexity of Social Work Education
I was in several conversations last week that highlighted how social work practice has changed in the last thirty years. The values and principles of the profession have not changed, but certainly “where” and “how” we do our work is different. I come from an era of long-term treatment both in outpatient and inpatient settings. There was the luxury of time to get to know our clients, do assessments and formulate intervention plans. Today people might be out of an inpatient unit in three days and outpatient services are often dictated by insurance and managed care companies. We now have courses in the curriculum like “Crisis Intervention” and “Brief Treatment.”
These changes not only impact clients and service providers but also social work education. Our various accrediting bodies provide standards regarding “competencies” that must be addressed in schools of social work. Agencies and organizations in which social workers provide services have their own issues of budgetary restraints that affect services as well standards and competencies from their accrediting bodies. Social work students go into field placements trying to integrate the “theoretical” from the classroom and “practice” in the real world with real clients whose lives are much more complicated than the case examples in textbooks.
These are not necessarily new issues but ones that need to be given careful consideration from all stakeholders in the provision of social services. The biggest problem may be “so much to do with so little time….”