Job Title: Psychiatric Social Worker
Type of Company: I work in the psychiatry clinic of a large teaching hospital and have a private psychotherapy practice.
Education: BA, Psychiatry, Wellesley College MSW, Smith College School for Social Work
Previous Experience: I worked in the in-patient units of two psychiatric hospital and then in the out-patient psychiatry clinic of a general hospital, and had a private psychotherapy practice.
Job Tasks: I provide evaluations, long- and short-term psychotherapy to patients who are referred to the psychiatry clinic by their primary car doctors. In a typical week, I do one evaluation of a new patient, which takes about an hour, and have about ten 45-minute therapy sessions with ongoing patients. I write notes in the electronic medical record. I participate in a teaching conference in which psychiatrists-in-training present their work to a group of seasoned colleagues. I attend a weekly staff meeting. I work at this job twenty hours a week. I am about to be laid off, because the hospital I work for no longer appreciates the kind of work social workers do in this setting and is eliminating most of the positions in my clinic. Psychiatrists will also be laid off.
In my private practice, the work with patients is much the same, but of course I am also responsible for running the business end of things. This involves billing and assorted dealings with insurance companies, which can be frustrating and time consuming. A billing service helps me with that.
The wonderful things about this work have to do with the interactions with patients and colleagues. Although often sad and or disturbing, the privilege of being allowed to share in another person's inner life is always moving and fascinating.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts are the feeling of satisfaction when patients improve or at least remain stable, and the enjoyment from regular contact with colleagues who are true friends, and who share common interests and goals with abundant humor and caring.
The worst parts are the sometimes sleepless nights worrying about someone's safety. The frustration of dealing with managed care insurance and excessive paperwork are also horrible.
Job Tips: Get a good liberal arts education.
Read a lot, especially fiction. Study literature, which has a lot to teach about human nature.
Don't expect to make a lot of money.
Consider developing an interest in geriatrics or end-of-life care, for which there will be greater and greater need.
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