Knowledge and skills to be possessed by a mental health social worker

By Priya Chetty on October 26, 2011

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.


In fact, every man is insane in one way or the other. There are, however, some people whose emotional levels are quite extreme when compared with normal human beings. Those people are said to suffer from mental illness or psychosis. These people when given immense love and looked after with utmost care could definitely be cured of their illness. It becomes possible for these people to recover from their illness, under proper care and medication. A mental health social worker is a qualified professional who is meant exclusively for dealing the people suffering from mental illness and help them come out of their ailment. It is not possible for everyone to become a mental health social worker. There are certain skill sets required to be possessed by an individual to become a mental health social worker. Let us analyze the skill sets and knowledge one needs to possess in order to become a mental health social worker.

Who is mental health social worker

A social worker as everyone is aware of is a person who does social service. A mental health social worker as the name suggests deals with people who suffer from mental illness. Here “mental illness”, collectively denotes all types of psychological problems such as:

  • Disorders caused due to anxiety
  • Disorders caused due to fluctuating moods
  • Phobia
  • Trauma
  • Problems in relationship
  • Depressive psychosis
  • Conflicts in family and in workplace
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Self sympathy
  • Emotional imbalance

A mental social worker is an individual who can understand the feelings and emotions of the people who are affected by emotional imbalance, handle them carefully and help them come out of their nightmares.

Knowledge to be possessed by a mental health social worker

The qualification criteria for a mental health social worker vary from one country to the other [Metteri A, 2004]. Some countries have mental health social work courses as a part of the academic curriculum and some other countries do not have. For those countries that do not have mental health social work courses as a part of the academic curriculum, a person has to undergo practical training in any psychiatry hospital or pandemonium in order to become a professional mental health social worker. Nowadays, almost all the countries have academic courses to train the students and make them social workers by profession.

Skill set to be possessed by a mental health social worker

Holding a professional degree does not mean that one is smart enough to serve as a social worker. The above-mentioned things just stand as a basic eligibility criterion. It is that additional knowledge and skill set of an individual that makes the individual a cut above the rest [Chenoweth L, 2005].  The following are the additional skill sets a person has to possess in order to shine as a mental health social worker:

Understanding the patients

This is one of the most important skills that a mental health counsellor must possess. A practitioner must be able to instantaneously judge an individual at the first counselling session or meeting. This skill set could be developed over a period.

Cater to the needs of the patients

The mental health practitioner must be able to treat the patients according to their needs. Some people get relieved out of their problems in the first two or three sessions. Others may require a longer duration to recover [Maidment J, 2004]. The practitioners must possess enough facilities to house those individuals as in-patients and treat them until they recover.

Proper counseling and follow-ups

The most important skill set that a mental health social worker must possess is to give proper counselling. The professional must have the ability to create trust with the patients. The patients should feel comfortable about interacting with the practitioner. The practitioner also must ensure that regular follow-ups are made with the client until the client recovers, completely.

Being a social worker is one of the noblest professions. All professions focus on making great money, whereas this profession intends to serve society by creating a positive impact on the individuals under distress [Pritchard C, 2006]. Relieving an individual from mental stress creates peace of mind and changes the life of that individual. Changing the life of an individual can change a society and changing the society, ultimately creates a change in the entire world. A mental health social worker has thus got the power to change this world [Ramon S, 2005]. Apart from the basic educational qualification if a mental health social worker possesses additional knowledge, skill set a mental health social worker can certainly change the entire universe into a land of peace and harmony!


  • Suite101, Available at, Accessed on 2nd October, 2011
  • Lesley Chenoweth, Donna McAuliffe, The road to social work & human service practice: an introductory text, Cengage Learning Australia, 2005
  • Jane Maidment, Ronnie Egan, Practice skills in social work and welfare: more than just common sense, Allen & Unwin, 2004
  • Anna Metteri, Social work approaches in health and mental health from around the globe, Routledge, 2004
  • Colin Pritchard, Mental health social work: evidence-based practice, Routledge, 2006
  • Shulamit Ramon, Janet E. Williams, Mental health at the crossroads: the promise of the psycho social approach, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2005

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