How social workers work

Social workers partner with people to address personal difficulties and structural barriers in their lives. They work with individuals, families, groups and communities.

Many social workers also work in non-people-facing roles, either as an employee or consultant in government or community organisations.

Social workers celebrate differences and the social work role itself is incredibly diverse.

Social workers may support clients through: 

  • one-on-one counselling and case work: working directly with individual clients
  • group work: including health promotion groups, groups aimed at reducing social isolation, shared experiences groups (on topics such as managing addictions, bereavement or sexual assault) and age-specific inclusivity groups such as older persons or adolescence groups
  • community development: implementing programs focused on community wellbeing through targeted and enhanced engagement, for example health promotion activities or specific age cohort activities
  • advocacy: including with, and on behalf of people experiencing domestic and family violence, housing stress, financial and legal issues
  • policy: developing evidence-based policies to inform government legislation, social work practice and government/community services
  • research and education: creating change by developing new ideas, evidence and ways of doing and knowing through research and education.

Social workers deliver support on a one-on-one basis and also via group counselling. Social workers are trained to listen to people and support them to address personal difficulties and structural barriers in their lives. Many social workers will offer you a choice between face-to-face sessions and telehealth appointments. 

Your social worker will guide you through your sessions. If you are having one-on-one counselling, the first session is an opportunity for the social worker to gain an understanding of the support you require. They may ask a number of questions about your history/background and current circumstances, including work, family and relationships, housing, and physical and mental health. As your sessions continue, your social worker will look at all aspects of your life and partner with you to discuss possible solutions, supports and pathways. 

Seeing a social worker is a two-way conversation and you should feel free to ask questions too.  

If you feel nervous about your session with a social worker, you can choose to write down a few notes to help you prepare. This can help you remember the key points you want to talk about and ensure you get the most out of each session. 

Use AASW’s Find a Social Worker tool to locate a social worker with the skills and experience to support your needs.