After reassuring many Highly Sensitive People that the field of Social Work significantly benefits from their unique abilities, I have decided to share with you the top reasons that your high sensitivity makes you a truly fantastic Social Worker. By the end of this blog post, you will better understand how your sensitive strengths enhance your skill set as a Social Worker.
Did you know that historically, Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) were "royal advisors" to the kings and warriors of society?
It's true! They served the vital role of taking careful assessment and giving thoughtful advice to the leaders and bold go-getters of the community. HSPs have a history of drawing attention to creative invention, social justice issues, and peaceful pursuits. (Sounds a lot like Social Work, right?)
As our society has changed over time, HSPs have adopted different titles and roles but they have continued to make these vital contributions to society. Today, they are valued employees in many professions.
But, there is a reason that Highly Sensitive Refuge named the caring professions the #1 career choice for Highly Sensitive People in their article on the best careers for HSPs! HSPs are naturally attuned to other’s needs, they are creative thinkers and often make mindful decisions rather than acting impulsively.
Which makes them fantastic Social Workers!! Here's why!
4 Reasons Highly Sensitive People Make Fantastic Social Workers
1. Highly Sensitive People are naturally empathic
HSPs have particularly active mirror neurons which allows them to pick up on the emotional states of the people around them. This ability to sense the emotions of others often means that HSPs have a deeper understanding of other people's feelings and needs, which enhances their ability to offer mindful care and support.
As a Social Worker, you most likely work with people who have been marginalized, harmed or neglected by society in some way. This ability to sense and acknowledge your client's emotions not only fosters connection, it also helps your clients feel seen, heard, and validated. For anyone that has ever felt like their feelings and needs do not matter, experiencing empathy from another person can be liberating.
For most HSPs, empathy will feel easy and natural. But this does not diminish the immense value it provides to your clients who are, like all of us, looking to feel understood and accepted for who they are.
“For most HSPs, empathy will feel easy and natural. But this does not diminish the immense value it provides to your clients who are, like all of us, looking to feel understood and accepted for who they are.”
2. Highly Sensitive People pick up on subtleties
Another characteristic of HSPs is that they pick up on subtle nuances in their environments that other people may miss.
You may notice that when you meet with a client you are aware, not only of what they are telling you, but also what they are feeling and what they may be implying without explicitly voicing. This is because you are both consciously and subconsciously picking up on their body language, tone of voice, emotional state, appearance and likely MANY other things, and processing all of this on a deep level.
Noticing all the complexities of each individual's concerns is part of the reason HSPs pause and reflect, rather than making hasty decisions. You know that people's struggles are complex, as are the solutions. When you integrate all the subtleties you have picked up when collaborating with your clients, you are able to create comprehensive treatment plans that address the whole person, not just one area of their life.
3. Highly Sensitive People are creative
HSPs are able take all of the stimuli they pick up from the world around them, process it deeply, and craft truly beautiful things. They are creative problem solvers who often bring different ideas to the table than non-HSPs due to the fact that they experience in the world in a different way.
Many HSPs are drawn to artistic professions like painting or music, but creativity is an essential strength in Social Work as well. As you know, the human experience is complex, and working with people often means there are no clear answers. Every person you work with will need something a little different, and your sensitivity sets you up to find creative solutions for each one.
You may also thrive in creative endeavours such as developing new programs, groups, or even policies! There are many areas of Social Work that require creativity.
“HSPs are able take all of the stimuli they pick up from the world around them, process it deeply, and craft truly beautiful things.”
4. Highly Sensitive People thrive in careers with meaning and purpose
For HSPs, a mundane job acquired to simply pay the bills can be draining at best and soul sucking at the worst. HSPs ability for empathy and desire for meaning in their lives, means that the social justice aspect of Social Work is particularly rewarding for them. Caring deeply about people, HSPs feel drawn to help others and to create world that is more just. This aligns with one of the core values of Social Work; the pursuit of social justice for the overall benefit of humanity.
If you are already working in the field of Social Work or are studying to become a Social Worker, you likely followed a sense of passion or purpose to find this career path. Like other sensitive souls, you likely thrive when you engage in employment that aligns with your values and serves a greater purpose.
Some things to keep in mind
A challenge for most HSPs is finding the career that offers meaning, while not being overstimulating. So, while your sensitive strengths make you a fantastic Social Worker, your sensitivity also puts you at higher risk of burnout in environments that are fast paced with high caseloads.
If it takes you a few tries to find which Social Work position holds this balance for you, THAT IS OKAY!! Having a supportive team that encourages healthy boundaries and work-life balance is particularly important for HSPs. Some sensitive Social Workers chose to create their own positions/passion projects/non-profits, that allow autonomy and while also giving back to their communities. Private psychotherapy is also a great option for HSP Social Workers as you can create a schedule and caseload that matches your capacity.
Whatever area of Social Work you work in, it is important that you learn to honour your sensitive needs by creating boundaries around your time and emotional energy. This will help prevent chronic overstimulation that leads to burnout. It may also be helpful to seek out support through peer support groups, clinical supervision and/or therapy.
Keep your eye out for future posts about how to make boundaries as a sensitive Social Worker! In the meantime, check out my last blog post for tips on managing your energy as you transition from work to home.