Clinical Social Work Skills: Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Social work is a profession that aims to address the needs of the public with the goal of enhancing their well-being in response to social and economic developments. Clinical social work focuses on assessing, diagnosing, treating and preventing mental illness, emotional distress and other behavioural challenges. Knowing your skills as a clinical social worker can help you increase your chances of getting hired in this field. In this article, we define clinical social work skills, review examples of these skills, outline steps to improve them and provide tips on highlighting them on your resume.

What are clinical social work skills?

Clinical social work skills are abilities that social workers possess and may include on their resume when applying for a job. A clinical social worker is a specialist who offers counselling, evaluation, intervention and case management to people who have mental, social, familial or medical challenges. Besides their clients' emotional states, social workers also consider the social and environmental aspects that influence their clients' lives. They can work in mental health facilities, non-profit organisations, hospitals, schools or clinics. They may require soft skills to perform their duties.

Specific roles and responsibilities of clinical social workers may include:

  • observing client behaviour, determining their needs and developing therapy plans

  • diagnosing mental, behavioural and emotional challenges

  • creating and implementing treatment plans

  • consulting with doctors, therapists and other medical experts

  • organising and managing social service programmes

  • informing the client's family about their condition

Related: What Does a Social Worker Do? With Types of Social Workers

Examples of clinical social worker skills

Clinical social workers often require excellent soft skills to be effective in this profession. The following are some common clinical social worker skills:

Empathy

Clinical social workers often spend most of their time talking with clients and listening to them speak about their life events, emotional challenges and other topics. Because of this, it may be critical for these experts to employ emotional intelligence to understand various oral and nonverbal clues that can help them with their clients. This ability enables them to better understand the different aspects of their clients' expectations and ask relevant questions to get more information.

Communication

Having strong communication skills can be extremely beneficial to a social worker since they work with a wide range of people, including clients, mental health care specialists and others in their profession. Clinical social workers may communicate effectively and concisely about their clients' life events and the solutions available to help them overcome any obstacles. They can use these skills to work more closely with clients and provide detailed instructions.

Related: How to Improve Communication Skills (With Definition and Examples)

Active listening

A large part of a social worker's responsibilities may entail attentively listening to their clients' needs. It's essential for them to actively listen to their clients, understand what they're saying, validate their feelings and make them feel understood. These professionals can better understand their clients' experiences if they can reflect meaningfully on their feelings and challenges.

Critical thinking

When evaluating all the facts of a case, social workers' logical reasoning can be essential. For example, being a critical thinker can help you understand clients' needs and concerns, while creativity can help you develop compliant and efficient solutions. Analytical thinking skills may enable social workers to make informed decisions and create the best plans for their clients.

Organisation

Since clinical social workers often work with clients from several cases at once, organisational skills can be crucial. They may frequently organise paper and electronic files and update each file with the most up-to-date information. Social workers with organisational abilities can also prioritise their tasks according to clients' requirements.

Patience

Working with clients over time may require patience. As they spend more time with a client, they may recognise that a client's progress may be slow. While keeping your composure and allowing clients to develop self-awareness and well-being through internal processes might be challenging, it can be very rewarding for clinical social workers.

Time management

Good time management abilities may assist clinical social workers to efficiently address the needs of their clients. Because social workers may have a large caseload, they may require time management skills to ensure that they offer each client the attention they need. Social workers can use time management to connect with clients and accomplish administrative responsibilities.

Read more: Time Management Skills: Examples and Improvement Strategies

Cultural awareness

Social workers can provide better care for their clients by respecting and having a desire to learn about different cultures. These professionals may be culturally competent in assessing one's environment and views while simultaneously attempting to learn more about the culture and beliefs of other people. Clinical social workers may work with people from different backgrounds and provide services that are respectful to their diverse viewpoints.

Related: 10 Important Social Skills to Have (Definition and Examples)

How to improve your clinical social worker skills

Examining important areas of self-improvement can lead to advancement in your job. Here are three steps you can take to improve your clinical social worker skills:

1. Make a list of your current abilities

Assess your existing abilities to discover which skills you possess and what skills to improve. Create a plan and goals for improving certain skills. Brainstorm specific ways to improve those skills.

2. Get feedback from colleagues

Knowing your current skill set can assist you in determining which skills to improve. You can get open and honest feedback on what you do well and where you may improve from a colleague. Their opinions may prove to be insightful and offer a different perspective.

3. Take online courses

There are many courses you can do online to help develop your soft skills. Consider taking these courses and completing them on your own time. As a social worker, you may receive a lot of ongoing training and education that can assist you in developing skills.

Clinical social work skills in the workplace

It may be critical to exhibit your abilities in the workplace as a clinical social worker. Consider the following tips for demonstrating your skills at work:

  • Listen to clients and colleagues. Actively listening to colleagues and clients enables social workers to understand instructions from managers and other specialists.

  • Communicate with others. Clinical social workers may work with a wide range of people, including clients and mental health specialists. Strong communication skills enable clinical social workers to understand opinions of others and interact professionally.

  • Organise your work. Clinical social workers may work with multiple clients. Strong organisational skills ensure that all documents are well-kept and you attend to all clients' needs.

How to highlight clinical social work skills

Consider the following ideas for showing your clinical social worker skills when searching for your next job:

Clinical social work skills for a resume

Include a professional summary that details your clinical social work experience and credentials. A professional resume helps demonstrate to potential employers that you fit their job requirements. You can highlight abilities that relate to the clinical social work position to attract the employer's attention and show your fit for the job.

Related: How To Write an Executive Summary for a Resume

Clinical social work skills for a cover letter

You can explain your skill set and describe how you used it in past jobs in the opening paragraph of your cover letter. You can include skills which are relevant to the position. Include any achievements as a result of applying these skills.

Clinical social work skills for a job interview

During a job interview, hiring managers may use situational questions to gain insight into how you applied your skills in previous jobs. Consider practising these types of questions in advance. You can use the discussion to show your communication and interpersonal abilities and relevant skills to the position.

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