May 7, 2013
Skills and Characteristics of Human Services Workers
An excellent mental health human service worker needs to have certain skills and characteristics to be of use to his or her clients. Some of these skills and characteristics include facilitation, communication, leadership, expertise, knowledge of subject matter, cultural competency, and so on. These skills and characteristics can be developed and refined as his or her experience grows, but it is important to understand them already. Knowledge and expertise are two of the most important skills for a human service worker to have. When clients come in for help, they want a worker with knowledge who will be able to help them. The client needs to feel comfortable that the human service worker he or she is seeing has knowledge and expertise on the client’s issues, especially. For the worker, knowledge and expertise benefit him or her as well. If the worker has a client coming in with an issue the worker has never dealt with before, then it would be smart for the worker to do some research on that subject in preparation. If the proper knowledge cannot be gained in the time before the appointment, it probably would be wiser for another worker who already has the knowledge to help that client. The human service worker always needs to remember that it is the client’s needs that come first, no matter whether it hurts the workers pride or not. Another important characteristic a human service worker needs to have is passion for the subject matter. If a human service worker is not passionate about what he or she is doing then it will show to his or her clients. This lack of passion negatively could impact the client as well as the human service worker. People do not do their best work if there is no passion, and when dealing with people’s lives those people expect their worker to be doing his or her best work. Cultural competence is also extremely important in human services. A worker needs to be competent with all the different cultures that he or she will be working with. Each culture is different in many ways. Some things which may be normal in one culture could be very offensive to another. Without cultural competence a worker could inadvertently offend clients; scaring them away or angering them without realizing it. Clients need to feel comfortable with their worker and something like that could ruin the relationship that had been built between the client and his or her worker. Another skill a human service worker must possess is observance. The worker needs to notice the body language, the look on the client’s face, the intonations as the client is talking, and so on. A client could be saying one thing, but his or her body language could be saying something completely different. If the human service worker is not observant, he or she would miss things like that. This writer, especially always has been a people watcher. As a child this writer was very shy, so instead of jumping up and joining in all the time, she would just sit and observe. This taught this writer a large amount about the people she watched before she even met them. To this day, everywhere this writer goes she watches all the people around her soaking up all the uniqueness of man and womankind. Empathy is another skill a human service worker must have. The worker does not always have to agree with the client, or even like the client, but he or she needs to empathize with the client. Sometimes this might be tough, but most will discover that there is usually something that he or she can empathize with. For instance, during a television show this writer was watching a client came in to see his therapist. The client’s presenting problem was that he hated fat people. He was disgusted and revolted by them, and believed it was his right to tell the people that they were fat...