Addictions have been wrongly stigmatized for a long time. Unfortunately, many people suffering from addition are judged and treated unfairly by society every day. However, those who work in social and community services can aid in empowering clients to face their addictions and get the help they need.
There are many misconceptions about addiction illness. Some people believe it’s a choice, that it’s not an illness at all, or that it’s a hopeless case. But community services workers (CSWs) know that this is simply not true, and that reversing the shame surrounding addiction is actually the first step to improving an addict’s life.
If you’re looking for a rewarding career where you can help people regain control of their lives, a community and social services role may be your career calling. Read on to discover three things you should know about addiction and the recovery process.
Grads With a Community Services Worker Diploma Know Addiction Is a Disease
As a student training to become a community services worker, you may know that the Canadian Medical Association Journal classifies addiction as a disease. This is because addiction and substance abuse change the brain’s functioning. For example, every person’s body releases pleasure hormones when their basic needs such as thirst and hunger are met. When addictive substances are consumed, they cause the body to release this same pleasure hormone. Over time, addicts cannot feel normal without the drug and may also lose interest in meeting their other basic needs, as they become dependent on drugs for that same feel-good hormone.
Students in Community Services Worker Training Need to Know About Co-Occurring Diseases
The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 40.7 per cent of the US population who had a substance abuse problem also had another mental health condition as well. In addition, the study also found that people who have a mental illness are twice as likely to abuse illegal drugs compared those who do not have a mental illness. These staggering numbers clearly demonstrate the close relationship between mental health and addiction. This is known as co-occurring diseases.
Once you graduate with your community services worker diploma, you will likely encounter many clients struggling with both addiction and mental health problems during your career. It can be especially hard to assist clients who suffer from co-occurring disorders, because it may be hard to isolate their symptoms. However, as a CSW with knowledge of addictions, you could recommend that your clients look into an integrated treatment plan that works to treat both of their illnesses simultaneously.
Students in Community Services Worker Training Know to Look Out for High-Functioning Addicts
As a CSW you will work closely with families from many different backgrounds as you monitor them for warning signs of abuse, addiction, and other activities that may threaten their safety. As you take on this role, it’s important to remember that the signs of addiction are not always very obvious. Many addicts are high-functioning, meaning that they can have a stable family life, a job, and may even be a respected member of their community. As a result, it can be hard to recognize from the outside that something is wrong.
As a CSW student you will take introductory courses on crisis management and drug addictions. Some warning signs you may learn to look out for are a loss of interest in old hobbies or being unable to cope with life’s challenges without turning to a drink. With high-functioning addicts, often the best way to propose treatment is through non-threatening methods, such as having family members leave treatment brochures around the home.
Homelessness is an issue that the federal and provincial governments have made great efforts to address in recent years. Although there has been a good amount of progress, there are still approximately 250,000 people in Canada who experience homelessness every year.
As a Community Services Worker (CSW) you’d be on the front lines working with some members of the homeless population in your community trying to help them find a solution—whether that be a warm meal, a shoulder to lean on, or accommodations for the night. If you’re interested in earning a CSW diploma, you might even choose to work for an organization that helps homeless people exclusively. Read on for a few proven tips for working with members of the homeless population that might come in handy throughout your career.
1. Use the Communication Skills You’ll Develop During Community Services Worker Training
Regardless of the reasons that individuals end up homeless, it’s a situation that can really affect their sense of self-worth. When you work with homeless individuals in any capacity—from an intake interview to a full-on counselling session—it’s important to use your communication skills to take an empathic approach, rather than treating them like a number. Some homeless individuals are walked past by dozens, if not hundreds, of people a day while asking for change, so even engaging in a small conversation with them as you offer services can make a huge difference.
You’ll learn during your community services worker training that you should always try to avoid stigmatizing homeless individuals. There are many paths that lead to homelessness, and each person has a different story, so conversing with them can help set the stage towards finding the best service to meet their individual needs.
2. Pool Resources for Same-Day Help After Earning Your Community Services Worker Diploma
One of the advantages of earning a community services worker diploma is that you’ll work in positions where you’ll know about what challenges the community faces, as well as which resources are available. When dealing with homeless individuals, it’s important to have a list of resources that are immediately available to them so that they don’t have to go on a waiting list. This might include shelters, soup kitchens, organizations that donate clothing, and more.
Many soup kitchens throughout Canada are happy to provide meals to anyone in need
During your career, it will be important to maintain relationships with various organizations that offer meals, shelter, medical attention, and more to the homeless to build a helpful support network. Even if you can’t help find someone a bed for the night, you may be able to at least direct them to where they can get a meal or a pair of shoes. Your ability to act fast will depend on your ability to stay organized with the resources that you can guide people to within the community.
3. Work on a Case-by-Case Basis After Community Services Worker Training
CSW training will teach you how to create and maintain all the important documents that go into people’s individual files. When working with homeless people, working on a case-by-case basis will be important since different individuals will require different services.
While some homeless individuals might require work skills training, others may be suffering from addictions, or require mental health services. Working case-by-case means keeping track of the services offered to each individual and maintaining an organized file on them so that you can also track their progress. While following up some time later, you’ll be able to see how people benefit from the variety of services offered within a community, and adjust the level of support they receive accordingly.
The decision to pursue a community services worker diploma is a really amazing decision to make, given that this career path involves so much positive human interaction and altruistic action. Community services workers often work with those in the community who need help the most. From those who are dealing with addiction to others who may be battling disease, a community services worker is truly a local super hero making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. But in order to help others, one needs to ensure that they are in good shape themselves. In our rapidly changing world, with its busy schedules and expanding technology, keeping a proper balance can be difficult. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways that community services workers can practice self-care.
Read on to discover three of the best tips for self-care in a community services worker role.
1. Meditation is a Great Way to Stay Balanced in Community Services Worker Careers
Meditation has been practiced for several thousand years for a reason—it is a very effective tool for eliminating stress! In addition, it’s also quite easy to get started. Begin by choosing a quiet and relaxing corner, it can be as simple as sitting in a favourite chair. Then, all you have to do is close your eyes and focus on your breathing. This will help you destress after a busy day.
This practice can even come in handy when studying towards your community services worker diploma. A recent Harvard study demonstrated via MRI imaging that meditation actually changes the physical make-up of the brain and boosted areas in charge of memory, self-awareness, introspection, and learning. Try it out during your studies and throughout your career so that you can feel focused and refreshed.
Meditation is a great way to alleviate stress and make sure your ready for the day!
2. Schedule Some ‘Me’ Time After You Become a Community Services Worker
When graduates enter their community services worker careers, they will often help those in their community that need it most. As you begin this rewarding career path, you’ll help clients from all walks of life battle addiction, navigate stressful crises, and more. And while the positive impact you have on your community will be its own reward, it’s important to remember to schedule in some “me” time too.
It can be difficult to schedule in some self-care time when you spend so much time caring for others, but it’s an important part of staying healthy and refreshed. Throughout your career, make sure to take the time to do the things that you love and make you happy. If you love baking pies, for instance, don’t put that off! If you enjoy concerts, make sure to allow yourself the time to do that too. Even if it’s just a relaxing walk or a quick coffee with a friend, scheduling in some personal time helps to ensure that your work/life balance remains intact.
3. Try to Maintain a Good Diet Once you Become a Community Services Worker
Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly is important as it helps you reduce stress and boost energy levels. Countless studies have demonstrated that exercise lessens the impact of stress on the body and improves overall health. While it might be tempting, try to avoid staying up late, snacking on unhealthy foods, and other unhealthy habits that could sap your energy and leave you feeling drained.
Diet and exercise can help keep you feel energized throughout your career
Meditating, maintain a good diet and taking the time to enjoy some “me” time are all smart steps to making sure you stay relaxed throughout your career as a community services worker.
The term mental illness refers to a wide range of disorders that can affect a person’s mood, thinking and behaviour. Mental illness can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological and environmental factors.
One in five Canadian adults will suffer from mental illness in their lives. Unfortunately, because there is a stigma attached to mental illness, many sufferers are stereotyped by their communities. This can prevent them from fitting into communities, and it can also deter them from receiving proper diagnosis and treatment.
Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational backgrounds and cultures. In fact, it touches the lives of many in one way or another—whether an individual is diagnosed, or he or she has family or friends who have been diagnosed.
If you are planning to pursue a community services worker career, read on to learn about a few types of mental illness you might help treat during your career.
Community Service Workers Help Treat Anxiety Disorders
Professionals in community services worker careers often help treat people with anxiety disorders. Experts know that there are multiple types of anxiety, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and more.
Clients with anxiety disorders respond to certain people, objects, or situations with irrational levels of fear or dread. Along with these feelings, they may also experience physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, dizziness and sweating. An anxiety disorder is generally diagnosed when a person’s response to a given situation is extreme, or if a person’s anxiety interferes with his or her normal functioning.
Professionals with CSW Training Help Treat Clients with Mood Disorders
Community service workers often help treat clients with mood disorders (also referred to as affective disorders). Clients with mood disorders usually experience prolonged feelings of sadness. However, they may also experience severe mood swings, or periods of uncharacteristic bursts of happiness.
During your CSW training, you’ll learn that one of the most common mood disorders that many people suffer from is depression. Community service workers know that a person experiencing depression copes with feelings of severe sorrow for an extended period of time. Depression can affect all aspects of a person’s life including their relationships, physical health and emotions.
Other mood disorders include bi-polar disorder and cyclothymic disorder. While a person with bipolar disorder can be subject to extreme feelings of sadness or irritability as well as episodes of mania, someone with cyclothymic disorder can experience less extreme versions of these mood changes.
CSWs Help Clients Affected By Addiction Disorders
Addiction disorders are another common form of mental illness. Individuals suffering from addiction are typically unable to stop using addictive substances like drugs and alcohol. They grow dependent on such substances and this dependence begins to interfere with their ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships and health.
Another form of mental illness, known as impulse control disorder, refers to the inability to resist a temptation, urge or impulse that can cause harm to the individual or to others. Impulse control disorders can include compulsive gambling, eating disorders, stealing and more.
Earning a Community Services Worker (CSW) diploma can open the door to several rewarding career options; each one presenting a unique opportunity to make a positive impact in your community. Say you find work in a halfway house, this would make you an integral part of a team that aims to help criminal offenders reintegrate into their communities, once they have served their sentences.
If you are planning to pursue a career as a community services worker, read on to learn more about halfway houses, and the role CSWs play in helping criminal offenders find meaningful roles within their communities.
CSWs Know that Halfway Houses Provide Support to Offenders
A halfway house is a facility which offers housing and support to offenders who are in the process of integrating back into their communities. In Canada, halfway houses are either governed by the Correctional Service of Canada or run by private organizations. These facilities have been serving communities as part of the Canadian culture for over 100 years.
Halfway houses are usually staffed with mental health professionals, social workers and of course, experts with community services worker training. These facilities provide places for offenders to live while they undergo counseling, work skills training and a variety of other reintegration programs. Once a criminal offender has been released from a correctional facility, he or she will typically reside in a halfway house. In some cases, staying in a halfway house is an alternative way for offenders to serve the remainder of their sentences. Prior to being admitted into a halfway house, individuals are carefully assessed and screened to ensure they meet certain behavioural standards.
Aside from participating in counseling sessions and other programs within the halfway house, residents are permitted to leave the facility during the day to go to work, attend school or receive medical treatment. However, they are required to respect curfews and abstain from consuming drugs or alcohol.
The Role of a Community Services Worker in Halfway Houses
Community Services Worker courses will help you develop the skills you’ll need to manage individual cases and keep track of an offender’s progress during his or her time at the halfway house. In some cases, CSWs will schedule regular meeting with halfway house residents. This will provide them with the opportunity to have helpful one-on-one counseling sessions.
With a Community Services Worker diploma, you might be required to help create some of the programs that halfway house residents will follow. Although they may vary, programs for groups or individuals usually fall into the following categories:
Life skills education and mentoring
Employment skills and retention training
Substance abuse education and counseling
Once you become a CSW, you might decide to help residents reintegrate into the community by referring them to local businesses or other facilities and helping them find employment. In fact, you may be able to help them find paid or volunteer work, or perhaps find additional support by introducing them to therapists and support groups in the area.
Studies show that halfway houses in Canada can contribute immensely to the safety of a community. Many offenders who have stayed in halfway houses, and have gone through the stages of reintegration, have shown a much lower risk of relapsing into criminal behavior.
Are you interested in becoming a community services worker? VisitNAHB for more information or to speak with an advisor.