10 Obstacles Every Social Worker Must Overcome

Social workers face challenges on a daily basis. It's a part of the job description. You are there to help people with their problems. These problems are not always easy to deal with and neither are the people who have them. Here are 10 obstacles every social worker must overcome.

Diverse Clientele

Social workers interact with a diverse clientele. This means they have to figure out how to best interact with different people with different backgrounds. Doing so effectively can be difficult.

People With Bad Attitudes

Even though social workers are always trying to help, the people you meet can have bad attitudes. They may be resistant to help, they may be unkind, or they may be flat out mean. Helping someone who can be cruel to you is never easy.

Personal Prejudices

Social workers are just people and have their own prejudices. You have to learn to work through these or at least push them aside so that you can do your job.

Dangerous Situations

It is not uncommon for social workers to face dangerous situations on the job. Going to any job where you face the risk of physical harm is stressful. Going to one where the people you are trying to help may do you harm and you don't have much protection is even worse.


Unemployment rates are sky high and this makes the jobs of social workers more difficult. Trying to get people back on their feet is hard when so many people are having trouble finding jobs. This is just another challenge that makes social work more complicated.


Because of unemployment and underemployment, poverty levels have risen too. Not only is this a problem in itself but it also creates a lot of stress for those with financial problems. For those who do not know how to handle stress in a healthy way, this is a prime time for them to turn to unhealthy and destructive behaviors.

Seeing The Unpleasant Side Of Life

As a social worker, you will see the dark side of human nature. You will see people living in squalor, drug and alcohol abuse, and physical and emotional abuse. Seeing abuse of spouses, the elderly, and children is beyond difficult. Seeing people who think that saying cruel things or that hitting people is acceptable can be unbearable.

Not Being Able To Help Everyone

You will have to face the obstacle of not being to help everyone. You will be able to do great things as a social worker but you will not be able to help everyone. It can be hard to take knowing that people who need help desperately might not get it.


The issue of guilt is common too. To see people and children living without enough money or food when you have more than enough can cause feelings of guilt. This guilt can be a heavy burden.


Burnout is common among social workers because of all the things you see on a daily basis. Seeing some of the worst things that people and life have to offer can wear anyone down.

T. Rheinecker often blogs about common career choices for students who hold a social work masters degree.

1 comment

  1. Your statement about not being able to help everyone reminded me of this little story. A guy's walking down a beach covered with starfish. He picks one up and throws it back in the water. He continues doing this one starfish at a time. A gentleman that had been watching him for sometime asked him what in the world he was doing, after all he was wasting his time. He could never save all the starfish. The younger man picked up another starfish and as he put it back in the water he said "But I saved this one."


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