11 April 2011

Difference Between Social Work & Family Social Sciences

This past week I volunteered at the Rotary Career Fair in Winnipeg.  I have been there for the past three years and absolutely love it.  I especially enjoy the Wednesday night shift, this is where people who are considering career changes come.  It's not the freebie frenzy that it is during the day shifts.

The number one question I get it is: What is Human Ecology? (Which I wont address today) However the second most asked question is: What is the difference between Family Social Sciences and Social Work?  I want to address this question here because I am a graduate from the Family Social Sciences program.
As a little background, when I was starting my undergraduate degree, I was accepted into Social Work and Family Social Sciences.  This was a pickle, it would have been easier to be accepted into one. Nonetheless, I had to choose between the two.  I had consider my goals, wanting to work with families.  Which Social Work and Family Social Sciences grads do.

When I looked at the course titles and outlines, I noticed a major difference. Social Work (SW) focuses more on Social Policy, an outside in approach, and has it's own particular Social Work paradigm.  Family Social Sciences (FFSc) focuses more on family dynamics, and inside out approach, and has it's own Human Ecological model. Obviously, I chose FSSc over SW.

The best way to describe the differences between FSSc and SW is with a little analogy.  Let's say there is a village, and by this village there is a cliff. Unfortunately in this village a lot of people have been falling off of the cliff and getting severely injured.  The village has been thinking of ways to solve this problem, so that people will stop getting hurt.  They have come up with two options.  One, is to build a hospital at the bottom of the cliff, that way when someone falls, they can be taken immediately into the hospital and have their wounds treated.  Two, is to build a fence at the top of the cliff to prevent people from falling off.  Option one, is a reactionary approach; option two is a prepare and prevent approach.  SW is more in line with the first option, whereas FSSc is like the second option. (Note: Of course there are SW's that are preventative, and there are FSSc's that are reactionary, but primarily I feel that these are the roles of each).

I once spoke with a SWer about her job.  She mentioned in her position, when she sees families, they are in crisis, and her visit puts them into a higher level of crisis (Note: Yes I am aware not all SWer's work for CFS and take children away).  But it is that point of she puts her clients into crisis.  If that is something you can do, and want to do, by all means do it. For many people, though, they want to work with families but not put them in crisis.  This is where preventative approach is nice, because you work with families before they hit that point of crisis.

Another aspect that students point out to me is that Social Workers can do counselling. This is another area that is unfortunately misinformed in our society.  SWers do not undergo rigorous clinical training, nor do FSSc.  Neither of the masters programs go through counselling training, unless the MSW is clinically based.  We just have come to believe that if someone is a RSW, they can provide counselling, this is not the case.

The Registry of Social Workers is new in Manitoba.  It used to be that if a student was looking for post graduate professional recognition, only FSSc could provide that as a Professional Human Ecologist/Home Economist.  PHEc's have been regulated since 1990.  However, with the new RSW recognition, both can provide professional recognition.

However, in spite of me wanting to recruit future students to my faculty, I always tell students to keep their options open.  Don't start University closed minded, that may back-fire.  I share with students how I first wanted to do Accounting, that changed to Psychology, to Astronomy, to Social Work, to Family Social Sciences.  Always keep your options open.

For more information please go here for Faculty of Social Work, Registry of Social Work, Faculty of Human Ecology, and Professional Human Ecologists/Home Economists.