Social workers are on the front lines of some of the nation’s toughest challenges. They help individuals and families recover from tragic situations and live fruitful lives. They often face situations such as:

• Poverty
• Abuse
• Unemployment
• Addiction
• Mental illness

Social workers are skillfully trained to manage such situations and can work for a variety of organizations. Prisons, military, schools, and mental health facilities are just a few places you’ll find a team of professional social workers. No matter where they work, however, here are three of the most challenging obstacles they face every day.

1. Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a common problem among clients. It’s incredibly challenging to help individuals who suffer from addiction and provide them with adequate care and treatment. The clients must be willing to pull their weight and put in the effort needed for a full recovery. Social workers can only do so much; they can’t carry their clients or monitor their every move.

Plus, addiction typically creates a downhill stream of problems. Financial instability, increased medical expenses, broken relationships, unemployment, and criminal activity often follow. Social workers are not only in charge of helping their clients turn away from a life of addiction, but they also help clients deal with the surrounding challenges that substance abuse creates.

2. Conflict

Clients come from a variety of backgrounds and have a range of living situations that create challenges for forward progress. The role of the social worker is to help clients face each unique situation using the resources and services that their organization provides. Oftentimes, this requires the social worker to be on the front lines of conflict resolution and negotiation.

Negotiation and mitigation are not always innate skills. It can take time and experience to develop fine-tuned tactics to resolve disputes and create an emotionally safe environment conducive to open communication. If you’re a social worker or considering a career in social work, you might want to research how a degree in conflict resolution can help you negotiate and mediate disputes. The more education and strategies you have, the better you can handle unexpected and tough situations.

3. Communication

Effective communication is necessary to facilitate a case, yet there are many barriers that prevent productive conversation and the spread of important information. Social workers are always trying to point their clients in the direction of services that help each specific situation, but they need more support and communication channels to successfully reach their clients in need.

Fortunately, almost everyone is on social media these days. Social media has become more than just a way to keep in touch with personal contacts; it’s also a means for organizations to reach their clientele. Social workers use social media to expand their influence and promote programs and services to their current and potential clients. Check out the infographic created by Case Western for a visual summary of how social media helps close many communication gaps within the social work field.

A Rewarding Career

Despite the challenges, social work is a rewarding career where you directly help individuals improve their lives. If you have a desire to make a difference in the world and enjoy serving people in need, you might consider becoming a social worker yourself.