Military veterans Social Work specialization helps to connect service members and their families to resources during and after deployment. Military life is fraught with all kinds of challenges and new experiences. These events can impact a service member’s physical and mental well-being, social functionality, and much more.
How do Social Workers Help Military Families?
The difficulties faced by our active duty and retired military personnel are as diverse as military life itself. Long periods of isolation from friends and loved ones, chronic stress disorders, fatigue, culture shock, depression, and financial struggles are among the most common problems that have affected military service members for centuries. Veterans often have to deal with the long-term effects of these unaddressed issues and inadequate benefits at the same time.
Thankfully, military service members and veterans can now benefit from the assistance of a military social worker. These professionals help combat the swirling cocktail of new and often confusing issues. So, what exactly is a military social worker, and what do they do? Read on to learn more.
The Broad Definition of Military Social Work
Like most social work specialties, military social work is very targeted. These workers serve a specific population and provide specific services. Military social workers provide therapy, education, counseling, and many other services (listed below). They work with veterans, active duty service members, and their families.
Put most simply, military social work is a specialty designed to meet the various needs of military service members. These specialists can work at military bases, standalone clinics, healthcare facilities, and other locations that provide services for military personnel. Military social workers can be positioned throughout any stage of the service member’s career, from enlistment to long after deployment. They diagnose behavioral and psychological disorders, refer to other specialists, prepare service members and their families for deployment, assist with relocation, and much more. The setting in which they practice and their duties can both vary based on training and education.
Becoming a Military Social Worker: Training and Education
A social worker with a bachelor’s degree, regardless of specialty, is bound to work with military clients. To qualify for the full range of positions available in this specialty, however, a master’s degree is required.
Social workers with a master’s degree can join the military as officers. They can work directly with other professionals in the field, especially when beginning their career, to learn everything they can about the practice of military social work from an up-close perspective. Military social workers can also work in the military reserve, working with military populations before, after, and between deployments.
This specialty is no exception to the all-important matter of research. Even without daily, face-to-face interactions with service members, sociological researchers can be of great assistance to the field. They can expose new ways to identify, assess and treat the various challenges that military service members face.
What Does a Veteran Social Worker Do?
Since they address such a broad range of issues in such a broad number of ways, military social workers are often mislabeled or misunderstood in terms of what they actually do. Consider the following examples as an introduction to the field, but know that this is but a small sample of the military social worker’s scope.
Mental Health Services:
Both active-duty personnel and veterans can qualify for behavioral, emotional, and any other psychological support they need. Also, some military social workers provide therapy directly. They can address mental health issues for service members throughout all points in their careers, before, during, and long after deployment. Typically, the mental health issues military social workers treat include the list below.
- Grief counseling
Military Support Programs:
Military social workers don’t have to work on a base or with a specific unit to affect positive social change throughout the service member population. There are currently dozens of military support programs across the country that provide assistance to active and retired military personnel. For example, the Vet Center Program specializes in readjustment counseling for post-deployment military personnel.
From readjustment to depression counseling for wounded veterans, military support programs are an ideal environment for the social worker who wants to work with a diverse range of clients.
Organizational Leadership Roles:
Military social workers with more leadership experience may pursue more managerial positions in military veteran support organizations. Depending on education and experience, a military social worker can become a program manager or department director. Job duties would include such things as:
- Directing teams to create, manage and also increase access to military support services.
- Consulting with other teams or organizations to improve the quality of their services.
- Training and educating social workers, counselors, and other personnel relevant to the organization.
- Securing funds for support projects and assisting with lobbying and advocacy efforts.
Military social workers create classes and workshops to address commonly occurring issues in this population. For example, a military social worker may lead a workshop that provides advice and support for entering the civilian workforce. Similarly, instructors can specialize in peaceful conflict resolution, drug abuse, and any other topic that needs attention.
In addition to the needs of the service member themselves, families also need support. The families of deployed service members often struggle with a broad range of logistical problems. Balancing a work schedule with child care and transportation, for example, is difficult with only one parent. For example, moving, handling legal issues, managing finances, and other normally routine undertakings are twice as difficult with one person.
On top of all of this, family members often suffer from psychological problems, especially when young children are involved. To meet this wide array of needs, family support organizations like Blue Star Families offer support services in many forms.
Military Social Work Specialization
As a military social worker, you would be responsible for connecting family members with these resources. Even more importantly, you would assess their needs and determine the best selection of services to keep the family unit as functional as possible in the absence of the service member. After and before deployment, these organizations are still very active in their support.
The military social work specialization is an exemplary stage for the social worker to develop and display the skills inherent to the overall trade. Social workers in this area must combine research-based interventions, counseling, advocacy, and mental health training in order to serve this diverse population.
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