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Identity of Social Work

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    Individuality is an aspect that constantly changes as you figure out what career path you are looking for and what professional life you pick. People can classify a bunch of characteristics of who they want to be. The setup of social workers identities include characteristics of social workers, whereas professional identity can be formed and articulated. This form of identity is not a stable, it is an ongoing process of development that can be shaped by environmental, education, an cultural systems. So many things can happen within your career to change your identity. As mentioned by Locklear(2017), “ professional identity development requires general self-reflection or introspection about the profession and use of self”. This paper will discuss the differences and similarities among the social work and professional identity. Including some interviews that will go along with it.

    “ Identity is dependent upon the context in which we immerse ourselves: school, family, relationships, political parties and religious groups “(Rodgers and Scott, 2008). Students who are aspiring social workers will need to consider the characteristics that a social worker may have. Developing a social work identity embraces helping and engagement skills workers must have to assist client’s needs. Tools that comply with the identity of a social worker can be empowerment, caring, advocacy, and compassion. Additionally social workers who understand the dynamics of reflective listening, knowing the difference between empathy and sympathy, giving affirmations to relate to clients.(Shulman, 2016) Both forms of identities will help establish the social worker.

    According to Mancini, Caricati, Pinari, and Tonarelli 2015, identity and self categorization includes personal and social dimensions that consists of a combination of inter-individuality and intergroup processes. Within the model that was developed and expanded by Marcia 1966, included two behavioral indicators that help form a professional identity. Exploration is an indicator where students begin to pursue that act of questioning and considering many identity alternatives before making decisions about values and the the goals they want to achieve. Asking questions to get more information is also something that will help establishing a professional identity. With thinking about these aspects it can help you point out characteristics such as critical thinking with students who are forming their own identity. Also another one is commitment which includes making relatable choices that can relate to one’s own identity. Keeping in mind relatively choices that can help form on honest replication of ones identity.

    Additionally, according to the study by Mancini, Caricati, Pinari, and Tonarelli 2015,they found that students who do not make relative commitments to their own identity they may began to realize they need to find more stratifying and relatable commitments. Some students may feel pressured when making educational or career choices in their life. It is important to make commitments you can really relate to when forming one’s professional identity. Making commitments that you can not relate to can negatively affect your future outcome. It is important to consider how much you relate to what you choose to commit to in your life. This will show how serious and passionate you are in the work you do.

    Professional identity begins to form in early adulthood. People first consider what their interests and career goals are and then begin to figure out their identity. However it is important to consider yourself and objectives when coming up with a professional identity. Professional identity develops over time and involves attitude, values, knowledge, beliefs and skills shared with others within your professional field.(Beddoe, 2013) Throughout the undergraduate degree students begin to take classes that will help their their professional career that they want to have. Students who want to become social workers take classes on social policy, poverty, cultural competence, families in crisis, family counseling, and many more. All these classes will guide students to get an understanding of what social work is all about.

    A social work identity should show clients how culturally competent you can be, understanding the different values and beliefs. Grant and Kinman 2012 stated that social workers regard it as “unprofessional” to admit that traumatic cases affected them emotionally and that not mixing your personal life with work is considered “being professional”. The NASW code of ethics is a big part of social work, you will see it everywhere.


    Brad Forenza 2016 conducted eight video interviews with social workers who disclosed information about their social work identity. All of the social workers recognized the most common goals by making a difference and empowering their clients. Social work is all about working with people and include all parts of their life to do so. The social workers identified with common values and concepts of the profession. For example, they were asked “what aspiring social workers should consider before entering and during the field?” All of the eight of the social workers expressed how important self-care is. There is such a high burnout rate for social workers and those in the helping professions. Self- care is very important when being in the helping professions and can help with the burnout rates.

    One social worker revealed” a social worker should take themselves to a mentally safe place.” (RK, 2016) Many professionals and individuals claim self-care can be difficult to do. Spending time to understand and get to know yourself is a way of self-care. (AM, 2016) In life no matter what the circumstances are we always are trying to stay on top of things and feel the need to push through. Self-care and self-renewal are very important and needed in the helping professions. Taking care of yourself is what will help you in being coming stable, healthy and helpful in social work.

    A new question that was important in the interview was “ would a non-social worker be able to identify you as a social worker?” This was really interesting because most social workers characteristics are similar to one another. For example, BW 2016 says “ due to my high caliber of interpersonal skill sets of listening, communicating and helping people hint out to people that i am a social worker”. Another way a non-social worker can identify a social worker is by the way an individual connects with people and the characteristics of the person. (AM, 2016) Social problems among society was another question that was brought up in the interviews. AJ 2016 stated “ racism perpetuates poverty”. Poverty is more seen in communities of color and minorities. To help with these things they have created social policies to be followed. Policies give social workers an understanding of the relationship between their clients. For an example having confidentiality between the social worker and the client. These policies are there for a reason and is important they are followed.


    Almost all social workers that were interviewed possess relatable experiences to the population they work with which is an important to the social work identity. Working in a population and community you are familiar with can lead you to have improved client outcomes. Having a sense of competence and the use of empathy with the population social workers may not be familiar with is another aspect that could lead to a positive identity. Knowing that professional identity in social work is an area that is made up of beliefs and attributes in early work experiences and the workplace. Developing a social work identity can embrace helping and engagement skills workers must have to help with client’s needs. Tools that go along with the identity of a social worker can be empowerment, caring, advocacy, and compassion. Even though social work revolves around ethical values it also exits in everyday life and other professions. Professional ethics and being accountable are also important to social workers.

    There are so many things that future social workers should take into account before pursuing their careers. They need to figure out their values and beliefs and what kind of person they are. They need to understand they need to focus on not just the environment but the individual as well. Social work is not an easy career choice and can be very overwhelming. Putting an emphasis on self-care and how important it is to have. Explain there is a high burnout rate but with self-care it can keep you on the right track. There will always be someone you can talk to in your career when having feelings of a burnout.

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    Identity of Social Work. (2022, Jan 03). Retrieved from

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