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Fields of Practice

The information below is provided in preparation for your field placement.  The descriptions are meant as guides to help you select the population and type of agency within which you will be placed.  Other factors will come into play and these will be discussed with you in depth when you come to the Office of Field Instruction for your interview with Field Faculty. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT GRADUATE FIELD EDUCATION

AGING

The skills related to working with individuals, families, groups, and communities in assessment, counseling, planning, and research are all needed in providing services to older persons and those responsible for their care.  A major function performed by social workers in this field of practice is to link the individual, group, family or community with needed resources--internal and/or external.  The student will gain knowledge of the physical and psychological aspects of the aging process, of the needs and conditions of the elderly and the complex network of legislation and programs serving this population.  Issues of bereavement, loss, and loss of independence and preparation for death are central to work in this field.

Typical Settings:  In-home services, hospitals, hospice, counseling services, senior centers, case management within local departments of social services, and nursing homes.

Range of clients:  Typically, persons over 60 years of age; services are also focused on helping persons in the care-taking role of aging relatives.

Interventions/modalities:  Based upon the student's year in the program, the student will become familiar with:  assessment, discharge planning, crisis intervention, advocacy, brokering, individual, family and group counseling, interdisciplinary collaboration, planning, administration, community organization and research.  Home visiting is often utilized.

 

CHILD WELFARE

Child Welfare as a field of social work practice has traditionally been concerned with the service needs of children and their families when parental functioning is impaired or when the child, because of developmental, emotional, or behavioral problems, may not be able to function within their family setting.  This has resulted in a focus on a protective function.  There is an evolving parallel focus on strengthening the family in order to maintain the child within the family.  Services are conventionally divided between those provided to children in their own homes and those provided to children removed from their parents' care and placed in substitute living arrangements.   Social workers who specialize in child welfare seek to improve the well-being of children and youth and their families.  

Typical Settings:  Service for children in their own home, day care, adoption, group home care, foster family care, residential care, protective and preventive services for children and services for unmarried parents.

Range of clients:  Children and youth, their parents and/or guardians.

Interventions/modalities:  Based upon the student's year in the program, the student will become familiar with:  assessment and treatment planning, crisis intervention, individual, family and group work, advocacy, collateral work with ancillary agencies.  Program development, community organization, research, development of assessment tools, and development of training and educational programs are also available in some settings.   Use of confrontational techniques and work with mandated clients occurs within most settings.

 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/CORRECTION

Services range across a continuum of services with a focus on those individuals within or at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system.  A prime function is to serve the court in assessment, determination of sentencing, and ensuring due process of the law, in the steps from arrest to trial to imprisonment and release.  The focus of intervention within the jail system is to offer proper placement, educational training, housing, recreational facilities, and contact with significant others.  The assessment of the appropriateness of granting of parole and recommendations for work release programs, pre-release guidance centers and halfway houses are aspects of the social work role.   Sentence diversion programs are a common aspect of the work done with this population.  At the other end of the continuum are a range of preventive programs aimed to serve those at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system.

Typical settings:  Juvenile and family courts, adult criminal court, jails, probation, or community based services and alternative sentencing programs.

Range of clients:  Anyone who is involved or at high risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system.

Interventions/modalities:  Based upon the student's year in the program and concentration, the student will become familiar with:  Assessment, crisis intervention, individual, group work and some family work.  Interdisciplinary collaboration, educational programs, community organizing, program development and research are also available in some settings.  Use of confrontational techniques and work with mandated clients occurs within most settings.

 

DRUG AND ALCOHOL/ADDICTIVE BEHAVIORS

Concern for the effects of addiction on the client and family is the focus of this field.  This focus centers on the study of addictive behaviors and how to intervene to break the cycle of addiction.  Primary prevention in the form of education and community outreach is an important aspect of this field of practice.  Philosophies and models of addiction will often define the nature of a program's interventive choices.   

Typical settings: In-patient and out-patient drug and alcohol treatment centers and programs, methadone maintenance programs, eating disorder units.

Range of Clients:  Persons suffering from addiction and their families.

Interventions/modalities:  Based upon the student's year in the program, the student will become familiar with:  assessment, treatment planning, individual, family and group work, educational series, program development, community organization and research.  Use of confrontational techniques and work with mandated clients occurs within most settings.

 

EDUCATION/SCHOOL SOCIAL WORK

Traditionally this field of practice is carried out in partnership with schools.  Social work was introduced to this setting in response to the realization that emotional factors often impede learning.  Focus centers around compulsory school attendance, adjustment to the classroom, and more broadly, preventive interventions regarding developmental tasks and adjustments (socialization, substance abuse, teen suicide, etc.).  Recent developments regarding special education components within school settings have focused social work interventions with this population. 

Typical settings:  School districts, alternative high schools, BOCES learning centers, and pre-school settings.

Range of clients:  Children, youth, and their families.

Interventions/modalities:  Based upon the student's year in the program, the student will become familiar with:  Assessment, crisis intervention, group work, individual work, preventive training, peer mediation, program development, grant writing and program evaluation.  Family involvement will vary from setting to setting. 

 

FAMILY SERVICES

This field includes services addressed directly to families and children.  This field has traditionally addressed a more preventive focus from that of the field of Child Welfare.  Goals are focused on strengthening family life.  Services may be in the form of counseling or education addressing issues of personal and family growth and development.

Typical settings - Family service agencies, YMCA, YMHA, neighborhood service/community centers. 

Range of clients - Anyone who is a family member -- adults or children in need of family supportive services (prevention); family service agencies are often contracted to serve clients from the protective service agencies and to provide mandated counseling.

Interventions utilized - Based upon the student's year, the student will become familiar with crisis theory, long term and brief focused counseling, assessment, networking, Individual, family and group counseling, program planning, community organization, advocacy and research.

 

HEALTH CARE / PUBLIC HEALTH

Traditionally the focus has been on different aspects of medical illness, assisting in diagnosis and treatment through the assessment of the patient in his/her social situation, and interpreting this information to the medical team.  More recently this emphasis is phrased in terms of a holistic concept of wellness and prevention.  By definition, social work practice in the health field reflects the goals and functions of the institution in which it exists.  A major emphasis is placed on networking, advocacy and brokerage of the biopsychosocial aspects of the client's and family's situation within the broad spectrum of the continuum of health care service provision with particular emphasis on the unserved and underserved.  The changing face of health care provision is affecting the parameters of social work service delivery.

Typical settings: hospitals, health centers, public health agencies, community based health agencies, nursing homes, hospice care and rehabilitation centers.

Range of clients:  People suffering from acute and chronic illness and their families.  Unlike the specializations of medicine, social work does not organize around specific illnesses although some hospitals organize their social workers within specific services such as: OB/GYN, Alzheimer’s patients, pediatric oncology, AIDS, etc.  As prevention becomes a primary focus for intervention, the range of those served is broadened but is often targeted to certain vulnerable populations for example: the aged, the poor, or the prevention of teen pregnancy, the unserved and underserved populations. A focus on public health issues examines issues of well being for the total population.  Examples of public health issues are AIDS education, Accidental Injury to children, Violence Prevention and Harm Reduction Interventions. 

Interventions/modalities:  Based upon the student's year in the program and concentration, the student will become familiar with: crisis theory, short-term and brief-focused counseling, assessment, networking, interdisciplinary collaboration, team practice, discharge planning, epidemiological research, development of preventive programs and advocacy.

 

HOMELESS

Social work has responded to the growing problem of homelessness by serving the population of individuals and families who have fallen victim to this phenomenon.  Primary prevention is an important function of service and aims at protecting individuals and families at risk of eviction and/or harassment and identifying affordable housing opportunities. 

Typical Settings:  Programs serving persons living in Welfare hotels, or shelters; Housing Rights Organizations, Section 8 housing.

Range of clients: The homeless and their families, persons eligible for Section 8 services and/or emergency housing.

Interventions/modalities:  Based upon the student's year in the program, the student will become familiar with: crisis theory, short-term and brief-focused counseling, assessment, networking and advocacy.

 

MENTAL HEALTH

Psychiatric social work has developed from in-patient settings to include a range of services in the community for prevention and aftercare.  Mental Health clinics are characterized by their focus on five levels of service as mandated by legislation:  emergency service which is designed to respond to a crisis which requires immediate attention such as a suicide attempt, an acute psychotic episode, or a serious family problem; out-patient service which offers treatment services to people who have emotional problems but who can remain in the community and continue to function in other areas of their lives; the partial hospitalization service which is conceived as an alternative to full-time hospital care; the in-patient service which is available for those who have a psychiatric crisis of such severity that they cannot be maintained in the community; and community education which is not a direct client service.  The settings in this field traditionally employ a variety of disciplines in order to meet the individual client's needs.  The worker acts a part of the treatment team which includes psychiatrists and psychologists.  As such, the worker offers counseling services to the client as well as facilitating linkage to other services required to meet treatment goals.  The social worker also assumes a monitoring function in the client's discharge and adjustment to the community.  A move toward evidence based interventions and a recovery model are newer developments within this field of practice.

Typical settings:  Psychiatric hospitals, mental health clinics, clubs and day treatment centers, residential group homes, supported living apartments, ACT teams, IPRT.

Range of clients:  Individuals and families suffering from the impact of mental illness.

Interventions/modalities:  Based upon the student's year in the program and concentration, the student will become familiar with: crisis theory, short-term and brief-focused counseling, assessment, networking, interdisciplinary collaboration, team practice, discharge planning, research, development of preventive programs and advocacy.

 

MR/DD

Services focus on offering direct services to the individual suffering from mental retardation or developmental disabilities.  Often services are provided to this population by other disciplines with social work offering supportive counseling to the individual's caregivers/guardians.  Service may be based within school or agency settings or in the client's home. 

Typical Settings:  Developmental Disabilities Educational sites, In-patient and out-patient facilities, Pre-school and school based services (BOCES), and OMRDD, Residential facilities or group homes.

Range of Clients:  Individuals suffering from Cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome, epilepsy, mental retardation and autism and their families.

Interventions/modalities:  Based upon the student's year in the program, the student will become familiar with: crisis theory, short and longer term counseling, assessment, networking, interdisciplinary collaboration, team practice, research, development of preventive programs and advocacy.

 

STUDENT-COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

This is a specialization offered within the School of Social Welfare which trains students for work in settings of Higher Education.  The program requirements are described in the School’s Bulletin.  The concept of the program defines the campus as community; a community with needs and social problems like any social environment.  Social workers are trained to offer interventions on a individual, group and community level toward the creation of programs and supports to address the specific concerns of a particular campus.

Typical settings: Educational settings of higher education.  Students will be placed within campus counseling centers, campus health centers, student union, career centers, disability support services, EOP/AIM programs, etc.  

Range of clients: All those who comprise the campus community - students, faculty and staff.

Interventions utilized: Services provided fall within the range of program planning and implementation, research, education around prevention issues regarding date rape, violence, and other campus community concerns.

  

WOMEN

Services and programs designed to meet the special needs of women.   

Typical settings:  Women's centers, women's health programs, County Offices for Women's Services, programs for pregnant teens, Planned Parenthood, Programs serving victims of domestic violence.

Range of clients:  Women and their children.

Interventions utilized - Based upon the student's year in the program, the student will become familiar with crisis theory, long term and brief focused counseling, assessment, networking.  Individual and group counseling, program planning, community organization, and community outreach, preventive education, advocacy and research.

 

YOUTH

Services and programs designed to meet the special needs of this population are often geared to prevention and outreach interventions whose focus is to help young people achieve their developmental potentials.  They often focus on educationally oriented recreation, handicrafts and sports activities designed to help youngsters keep physically fit and emotionally healthy while learning social skills, practical coping strategies and moral conduct.

Typical settings:  Youth Bureaus, YMCA, YM-YWHA, Community or Youth centers, emergency shelters, suicide prevention programs, and Job training programs.

Range of clients:  Although the focus is on Youth, some programs will also serve families and attempt to help bridge the communication and behavioral problems between youth and their families.

Interventions utilized - Based upon the student's year in the program, the student will become familiar with crisis theory, long term and brief focused counseling, assessment, networking.  Individual, family and group counseling, program planning, community organization, and community outreach, preventive education, advocacy and research.