5 Characteristics of a Great Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Working as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) is much more than just another job. It is a professional career and a calling. Choosing a career in social work means committing to a life-long vocation.

Social workers help others navigate personal challenges, such as readjusting to life after challenging illnesses and injuries. Across the United States, demand for qualified and licensed social workers increases.

When it comes to caring for the elderly, LCSWs find employment in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Their day-to-day tasks revolve around looking after residents’ physical and mental well-being, but the details can vary widely depending on the facility and its residents. Despite the variety, there are several characteristics great LCSW have in common.

Skills for Clinical Social Workers

Those licensed clinical social workers who traditionally succeed in their chosen profession have five traits in common. Here are five things that make an LCSW great: 

  • Competency
  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Respect
  • Self-Awareness

Skill #1: Competency

Working in any complex profession requires a thorough foundation of knowledge. Social work is no exception in this respect. Being effective as a social worker requires a solid education and professional training. Without either of those, it is hard, if not impossible, to understand the principles and apply the techniques necessary to manage their cases. 

Most LCSW start their career with a bachelor’s degree in social work. This degree is an excellent starting point, and it becomes the foundation on which to build professional experience. Most social workers complete hundreds of hours before they meet licensing requirements for clinical social work. 

Apart from the practical skills social workers need to succeed in their job, it is also essential to understand the private and public social welfare systems. Moreover, top social workers have an uncanny ability to connect with and motivate many different types of people. To build their skills to that level, most professionals choose to add a master’s degree to their bachelor’s degree.

Skill #2: Patience

Academic knowledge is essential for a career as an LCSW, but personal skills and competencies are equally critical. One of those skills is patience. 

Social workers help their clients overcome complex personal challenges or address destructive behavior patterns. Addressing those challenges and instigating meaningful change takes time. For that reason, patience is among the key characteristics of a social worker. 

In this career, professionals need to accept that there will be setbacks. Not all their clients can achieve a linear progression. They may make progress for weeks and months, only to revert to bad habits or behaviors when exposed to specific stressors. 

Dealing with those situations and showing patients a way out of them takes patience. But seeing progress despite tricky situations is also extremely rewarding. 

Skill #3: Empathy

Social work is a care profession, and without empathy, it is almost impossible to care for another human being. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. More colloquially, empathy refers to a social worker’s ability to walk a mile in their client’s shoes. 

Within the context of assisted living for elderly residents, empathy means understanding that seniors may feel ambiguous about moving into this type of facility. Intellectually, they may be well aware that they need the support, but that does not take away from the emotions caused by nearing the end of their lives. 

An empathetic clinical social worker will understand that new residents will likely experience a wide range of emotions, not all of which are positive. As professionals, they provide the tools and guidance to help their charges work through their situation. 

Skill #4: Respect

No matter the underlying causes, being in a situation where they require the help of a social worker makes people vulnerable. Most clients will be reluctant to reach out and ask for help. Some might take months before they finally see a social worker. 

Social workers must treat their clients with respect. Being respectful encompasses a wide range of things. Concern includes maintaining professional boundaries and adhering to a code of ethics. 

A respectful clinical social worker avoids rushing to judgment and keeps an open mind, especially when working with clients from underprivileged backgrounds or different cultures. Being respectful and curious at the same time is essential to establishing a client relationship that is built on trust.

Skill #5: Self-Awareness

Clinical social work can be challenging, especially when progress is slow and clients face tough situations. 

Burnout is a real problem within the profession, and having self-awareness allows LCSWs to notice when they need a break. Perhaps their caseload is too high, or they are not setting professional boundaries. Those are not signs of a bad social worker. Instead, they are occupational hazards in a profession built on empathy. 

In assisted living facilities or nursing homes, social workers have to deal with their clients’ failing health or even death. Self-awareness is a critical skill to keep themselves healthy. At the same time, LCSWs have the power to raise their clients’ quality of life in these settings. Their work can make a difference that is noticeable every day. It is also crucial to increasing occupancy and retention in assisted living facilities. 

How LCSW Contribute to Occupancy and Retention in ALF

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of professional social workers in assisted living facilities or nursing homes. LCSWs influence the quality of care a residential facility can offer its elderly clients. Their work can make the difference between the outstanding or below-average quality of life of residents. 

Consequently, LCSWs are instrumental in the economic and financial success of their place of work. A social worker’s profession includes building relationships with their clients. When those relationships are positive and productive, they help retain residents in an assisted living community. 

Retention of existing residents contributes to high levels of occupancy, which keep the community financially viable. One of the most effective tools available to social workers is behavioral health care. Helping residents within a community establish positive habits contributes to both the quality of care and quality of life that an ALF can offer. 

Finding qualified and licensed clinical social workers is not always easy, especially for smaller assisted living communities. Teaming up with an established partner like TrueCare™ is an ideal solution for many.

Our comprehensive behavioral health care program benefits residents by measurably improving their quality of life. 

At the same time, the community raises the level of care it can offer, allowing you to set yourself apart from competitors. As a Medicare-approved program, TrueCare™’s offering comes at no additional cost to the facility or its residents.

About TrueCare™

TrueCare™ is a nationwide Health & Wellness platform for families and businesses providing end-to-end solutions for COVID-19 testing, screening, vaccination, home care, and corporate well-being services.