By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Op Ed: Myths and facts about social workers
Makala Owens
Makala Owens

By Makala Owens


You’ve probably seen those memes going around the Internet about various professions. In them, photos depict what friends think you do, what your parents think you do, what society thinks you do, what you think you do, and, in the final frame, what you really do.

As a social worker, I could make my own. My friends think I am a therapist; my parents think I am something akin to a Buddhist monk; society thinks I kidnap children from abusive situations; and I think I spread love, compassion, care, and optimism wherever I go.

The truth is more nuanced, however. To understand what the role of a social worker is, let’s consider what the profession is not.

Myth: Social workers work primarily with the poor or abused. While the practice of social work was originally rooted in helping those living in poverty, social workers today provide services to people with all backgrounds, ages, and socioeconomic statuses. They also serve as advocates for those who can’t advocate for themselves, not necessarily because of abuse, but because of life situations.

Myth: The majority of social workers are employed either in social services or child welfare. In fact, social workers work in a variety of venues, including hospitals, emergency rooms, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, mental health clinics, substance abuse divisions, prisons, private practices, schools, nonprofit agencies, welfare agencies, children and family services, and government offices, among others.

Myth: Social work is depressing because you are always dealing with people’s problems. Social workers try to improve others’ lives by helping those in need and may work with those who face disabilities, life-threatening illnesses, homelessness, unemployment, domestic violence, substance abuse, or, in the case of my employer -- Tharros Place -- human trafficking. While the work is serious and at times daunting, it is exhilarating when we can empower people to enhance their well-being and recognize their own needs, strengths, and abilities.

The reality is social workers help people cope with life’s challenges by acting as an advocate to raise awareness for client needs and connecting them to solution-based programs and services. In my role as a social worker, for example, I make sure the support systems in place are harmoniously working together and moving along to make sure our girls are transformed from victims into young women brimming with confidence, self-respect, and courage.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work is one of the fastest growing careers in the United States. In 2021, there were more than 708,000 social work jobs and the profession is projected to grow by nine percent by 2031. The increase is certainly warranted, as several states and metropolitan areas are experiencing a shortage of mental health services providers, including social workers.

As Danny Thomas, founder of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, said, “All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why. Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.”

In honor of National Social Work Month, join me in thanking all of the successful social workers who do for others. They are the ones who help others overcome life’s hurdles and live life to their full potential.

Makala Owens is a human service professional with Tharros Place, a nonprofit that supports minor victims of human trafficking in the Savannah area.