That is the theme of Social Work Month, a national awareness event that occurs every year in March. During this time of a pandemic, we’ve learned a lot about essential workers: workers who support the fundamental underpinnings that help society to function but are often overlooked by most people.  Truck drivers are a good example. Social Work Month honors another profession that is often overlooked or misunderstood, but is essential to community wellbeing.

Social Workers and social justice

Professional Social Workers hold graduate degrees like the Master of Social Work or a similar graduate degree.  They have been trained to help people address both personal and systemic barriers to optimal living and achieving their potential. Uniquely among the helping professions, they are trained to assess the “person in the environment”, recognizing how environmental issues and social determinants to health and wellbeing affect their clients and patients.  For over 120 years Social Workers have often used their collective power to help pass laws and policies that improve the quality of life and making society more equitable, just, and inclusive.  For example, over the years, Social Workers have successfully advocated for Civil and Voting Rights, the Minimum Wage, Safer Workplaces, laws to reduce the Exploitation of Children, expanded Employment and Reproductive Rights for Women, Marriage and Employment Protections for the LGBTQ community, and many other causes that have resulted in social progress.

In fact, Social Work is the only helping profession that requires social justice advocacy from its members as part of its professional code of ethics.  Therefore, Social Work is a large national workforce of over 700,000 (3 million worldwide) people mandated to advance the cause of the most vulnerable members of society.  And, like the most vulnerable people they serve, Social Workers are too often overlooked and misunderstood.

Is a shortage of Social Workers looming?

Social Work is actually a fast-growing profession according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a shortage of trained Social Workers may soon occur.  That could bode poorly for mental health care in the US. This is because Clinical Social Workers are a vital component of mental health care services.  This subset of the profession holds state licenses as Licensed Clinical Social Workers or LCSWs, having been clinically trained to diagnose and treat mental health and substance misuse conditions. They are the most numerous and widely dispersed of the mental health professions, so a shortage could affect care for many people, especially in inner cities and rural areas.

But Social Workers don’t just practice in the mental health care field as part of multidisciplinary treatment teams or as owners of consultative practices.  Professional Social Workers can also be found in federal, state and local government, and in industries like education, healthcare, social services, the military, in corporations as Employee Assistance Professionals, and in criminal justice systems.

I’d like to salute the professional Social Workers on the Espyr team.  They are:

  • Adrienne Moberg
  • Allison Thurschwell
  • Donita Frink
  • Elise Antrobus
  • Jennifer Pinos
  • Katelyn Gartin
  • Lauren Drake
  • Liz Bonet
  • Shelbie Hilliard
  • Winston-et Brobbey
  • And Espyr’ Social Work Interns: Annie Martin, Kenley Fincher, and Unwana Udoko representing Louisiana State University, Kennesaw State University, and the University of Tennessee, respectively.

Odds are whether you’ve thought about it or not, you, your family and your employer have benefited from the efforts of Social Workers. If your organization employs Social Workers, or if you know a Social Worker, March is a great time to acknowledge how essential they are.   If you or an aspiring Social Worker wants to learn more, I suggest you visit Social Workers.

About the Author

Norman Winegar, LCSW, CEAP, NCAC II is the Chief Clinical Officer at Espyr For over 30 years, Norman has practiced in mental health, substance misuse, and EAP settings. He has also worked in leadership positions in both public and private sector behavioral health organizations. An author of four books, he is frequently called on for presentations and as a panelist to share his expertise and experience as a mental health professional.

About Espyr

For over 30 years Espyr, has provided innovative mental health solutions – solutions like our AI powered chatbot, TESS – to organizations operating under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized counseling, coaching and consulting solutions help people and organizations achieve their full potential by providing mental health support and driving positive behavioral change. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.


National Association of Social Workers

Social Workers are Essential.