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NASW protests definition of social worker in Harvard Men’s Health Watch Article

Photo courtesy of Harvard Men's Health Watch.

Photo courtesy of Harvard Men’s Health Watch.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has asked Harvard Men’s Health Watch to correct a definition of social workers in its May 23 article, “What Men Gain from Therapy.”

The article from reporter Matthew Solan described various professions that provide mental health services. Here is the inaccurate definition of clinical social workers:

Similar to a counselor in terms of education and training, a social worker focuses on solving social problems, connecting clients with appropriate resources, and helping with referrals to other professionals, if needed.

NASW sent the following note to the publication seeking a correction. We will update you on the response:

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) respectfully requests you correct the definition of social workers in the May 23 Harvard Men’s Health Watch article, “What Men Can Gain from Therapy.” Your publication’s definition of clinical social workers is inaccurate and does not convey the full scope of services social workers provide.

Clinical social workers are the largest group of mental health care providers in the United States. They do far more than “solving social problems, connecting clients with appropriate resources, and helping with referrals to other professionals, if needed,” as your article states.

Social workers also follow educational and licensing requirements and an NASW Code of Ethics that sets them apart from other mental health professionals, including counselors. Part of the Code of Ethics calls on social workers to provide services to all, no matter their income, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or gender expression.

Mental health social workers assess and treat people living with mental illness and substance abuse issues. Such services include individual and group therapy, outreach, crisis intervention, social rehabilitation, and teaching them skills needed for everyday living.

They also plan supportive services to help clients ease back into society.

Mental health social workers, who may be known as clinical social workers, work in various sectors. These include the U.S. Veterans Administration, in hospitals, family service agencies and local governments.

Please change the definition of social workers in your article to reflect this information.

UPDATE: Harvard Medical School’s Health Publications graciously amended the definition of clinical social workers in the article to address NASW concerns.

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8 Comments

  1. Please note, the correct title is Department of Veterans Affairs, not Veterans Administration.

  2. I am wondering if MSW or BSW aka social worker is title protected…a person with a BA in sociology tried to pass herself off as a social worker!
    Thanks
    Dana

  3. Oh dear, we do so much more. I have assessed children and adults for suicide/homicidal risk, recommended to courts on terminating parental rights, keeping someone on probation vs. prison, advocated for policy changes, assisted clients in cutting through red tape to receive benefits, housing, and other services. I have counseled mothers who lost children to violence, counseled gang members who have committed homicide, made recommendations on whether someone should be hospitalized, worked with clients to end domestic violence, to end their cycle of sexual abuse, created safety plans for people thinking of suicide, brought birthday gifts to children who are state wards and have no visitors while in residential treatment, advocated for children at school so they have their special needs met, comforted a 13 year old who just lost her friend to gun violence, advocated for decent housing for clients, just to name a few things. Oh and on at least three occasions, took phone calls from physicians who were looking to me for advice on what to do with their patients.

  4. Thank you for your successful effort. I am continually amazed at the medical communities misunderstanding of clinical social work.
    Frederick MacDonald PhD, MSW, ACSW

  5. Thank you for your successful effort. I am continually amazed at the medical communities misunderstanding of clinical social work.
    Frederick MacDonald PhD, MSW, ACSW – See more at: http://www.socialworkersspeak.org/cheers-and-jeers/nasw-protests-definition-of-social-worker-in-harvard-mens-health-watch-article.html#comment-1097896

  6. I am a social worker and I agree with the first publication put out by Hsrvard. The objection is simple minded and the fact that Harvard amended the publication only shows us social workers to be petty and makes us look like we are splitting hairs over a NON ISSUE.

  7. So true, its time for us as Social Workers to continue to share light on the work that we do which is sometime misunderstood with in the medical communities. Just to add to the contributions above Clinical Social Workers work with people affected by war related trauma and complex grief and loss.

  8. It would have been helpful, as well, to include in the description of “social work” that in most states licensed clinical social workers are also allowed by statute and scope of practice to actually diagnosis mental health issues.

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