Social work is a professional field aimed at assisting people and groups in overcoming personal and social difficulties through support, protection, and rehabilitation. The task of specialists in the area is to mitigate social contradictions and improve mutual understanding between people. Such activity has a positive impact on society, develops tolerant relationships, and a culture of effective communication. For a community, in which aggressiveness and intolerance in personal relations are typical, social work is a necessary component. The professionals of this field often deal with families to help cope with their challenges (Collins, Jordan, & Coleman, 2013).
Family therapy is a similar area of service but with some critical differences. Family therapists are generally concentrated on improving interpersonal relationships, whereas social workers help gain access to resources that might help overcome the challenges. While family therapy involves skilled psychologists, there are some situations where their skills are not relevant when working with family problems. In such circumstances, there is a strong need for family social work.
Situations Where Family Social Work is Crucial
Imagine a real-life scenario involving a family that is experiencing constant struggles because of a lack of financial resources. There is a tense atmosphere within the family, and both parents and their children are often aggressive toward each other. A family therapist, as a skilled psychologist, might only recommend how they can remedy their relationships, but will not be able to give any recommendations about their financial situation. Also, therapists’ interventions only occur in office circumstances, which may not be feasible for the family members. The involvement of a family social worker, however, will be relevant because they need support with their resources, and not with how they treat each other.
Family social workers can also work with children to assess their behavior. In fact, they have many overlapping responsibilities with family therapists. However, it is more helpful to see the child in natural circumstances to conduct an accurate analysis of their activities. Family therapists can only offer in-office meetings, and the child might be reluctant to speak in such a setting (Sexton & Lebow, 2015). Social workers, on the other hand, can provide home services and study the child without intervening with their regular activities (Collins et al., 2013). This attribute makes them more suitable than family therapists when it comes to resolving childhood behavior problems.
There can be situations where family members often argue with each other, but no definite source can be identified. To find the root of the problem, a professional, be it a therapist or a social worker, must reach a particular level of intimacy with the family and involve themselves in the family’s everyday life. Family therapists, unlike social workers, are not available around the clock and in the home, which makes social workers more preferable for this kind of service.
Both family therapists and family social workers aim to help overcome challenges and solve problems. They both demonstrate a sufficient amount of knowledge in psychology and human interactions, but there are critical differences in how they approach family issues and what types of services they offer. Family therapists consider families as systems and prefer a systematic approach, without concentrating on an individual family member. Social workers, on the other hand, deal with more specific problems and are available both for in-office and in-home meetings.
Collins, D., Jordan, C., & Coleman, H. (2013). An introduction to family social work (4th Ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Sexton, T. L., & Lebow, J. (Eds.). (2015). Handbook of family therapy. New York, NY: Routledge.