5 Important Characteristics of a Social Worker

5 Social Worker Characteristics for Success

  • Patience
  • Perceptiveness
  • Dependability
  • Empathy
  • The Ability To Set Boundaries

There are a number of important social worker characteristics that anyone looking to get into this profession should possess. Social workers do a lot of good in this world and help many disadvantaged people. It is one of the few professions where you always know you will be making a real difference in people's lives. Below are five characteristics that make social workers so special.

1. Patience

Social work cases can drag out for months or even years at a time. They are also often very complex, sometimes involving people with competing, diametrically opposed interests. In addition to that, it can take a long time to make progress with a patient. Social workers have to have extreme levels of patience in order to really get to the root cause of a person's issues in order to help them.

2. Perceptiveness

Your clients won't always be keen to tell you everything. You will have to infer a lot based on what you already know, what they do tell you, what they don't tell you, their facial expressions, body language and more. You also can't be too brazen, or you may run the risk of your client closing off to you. Good perception will tell you when is a good time to bring up a subject and when it is not. With skill and practice, you can use this ability to connect with your clients, discover what they really need and help them.

3. Dependability

Social workers must be dependable because building trust with clients is key. They must be willing and able to respond to clients when needed, sometimes at odd hours. You will have to be a pillar of strength for your clients in a crisis, because they will look to you for guidance in a number of matters. These include legal, personal and other areas where they might need help. Even if they do something you don't like or don't agree with, you must continue to support them.

4. Empathy

Perhaps the most important characteristic of a social worker is empathy. Almost everyone a social worker works with are vulnerable and under emotional duress. No matter who they are or how different they are from you, you will have to empathize with them and what they are going through. The ability to do this effectively will make anyone an outstanding social worker. You will also need to have the ability to see the whole person, rather than just parts of a whole or a single issue, as the Houston Chronicle points out.

5. The Ability To Set Boundaries

As important as getting emotionally involved in the lives of your clients can be to earn their trust, it's equally as important to set boundaries for yourself. The life of a social worker can be hard and you can only do so much. You will have to find ways to avoid becoming so empathetic that your work begins affecting your personal life. If you do, your professional life is sure to suffer as well. Accept the limits of what you can do and what can be accomplished during the time you have with your clients.

Related Resource: 20 High-value BSW Degrees in Metro Areas with Top Salaries for Social Workers 2018

Some intrinsic qualities do make better social workers. They are worth developing and nurturing for anyone who wishes to choose this career. These important social worker characteristics can help you determine if this is a profession worth pursuing.