Updated December 2023
Community services workers (CSWs) help people dealing with serious personal and social problems. But this career is about so much more than that.
CSWs work with some of the most neglected, forgotten, and stigmatized people in our society.
From teens dealing with addiction, to homeless populations, to battered women, to ex-offenders: community services workers are trained to offer compassionate, practical, hands-on support where it's needed most.
There is no doubt that this work is challenging. But it's also incredibly rewarding and inspiring. Right on the front-lines of our neighbourhoods, CSWs literally change and save lives on a daily basis.
Looking for a career where you can really make a difference? Read on to discover four powerful ways you can transform your community, one person at a time, as a CSW.
1. Working with At-risk Youth
Many graduates of community services working training choose to work exclusively with at-risk youth. These are kids and teens who are facing serious challenges, like domestic abuse, addiction, and mental health issues.
The work CSWs do at youth centres and community outreach organizations is absolutely crucial to the well-being of these kids. CSWs run crisis intervention programs, counselling and life skills coaching, organize foster care, and coordinate recreational activities—all geared toward young people.
The goal is to protect at-risk youth from harm and ensure they have the help and tools needed to live healthier, happier lives. CSWs help create new opportunities and fresh hope for kids and teens who have suffered great hardship.
There is no doubt that the work they do can completely change a young person's story. By offering compassion, practical help, and ongoing support, community services workers empower kids to find meaning, direction, and a more secure future.
2. Helping Ex-offenders Make a Fresh Start
Most people realize that spending time behind bars can mark a person for life. In our society, there is a powerful stigma associated with incarceration. After serving time and being released from prison, it can be very difficult to find work, a place to live, and in general, acceptance within one's own community.
The purpose of our correctional system is to rehabilitate, but as a society, we don't always give ex-offenders the chance to show they've reformed and are ready to start fresh. They're kept on the edges of our communities and in the shadows, without the tools and support needed to re-integrate and live meaningful lives.
This is where CSWs step in with the work they do at halfway houses. A halfway house is a place where eligible ex-offenders can stay after serving out their sentence or being released on parole.
At the halfway house, CSWs help deliver a range of programs designed to help ex-offenders find safe housing and employment, and transition successfully into the local community.
The three main types of programs offered at halfway houses are:
1. Housing. CSWs work with local building owners, residents, and the city to find ex-offenders safe and affordable places to live.
2. Addiction counselling. Problems with gambling, drug, and alcohol addiction are common among people who have served time in prison. Community services worker training teaches students how to conduct assessments and offer counselling to help people successfully manage their addictions and maintain sobriety.
3. Education and employment programs. This is a key aspect of any transitional plan between a halfway house and independent living. Ex-offenders often need training and job search support to help them find paid employment after prison. CSWs use their training in life-skills coaching, community outreach, and motivational counselling to prepare ex-offenders for the workforce, and connect them with local job opportunities.
This work has been proven to change lives for the better. Halfway houses reduce rates of recidivism (ex-offenders who commit new crimes) and keep people out of our jails—which in turn, lowers the number of tax dollars spent on prisons.
Plus, there's the obvious benefit of helping deserving people get a second chance in life. For CSWs, nothing is more rewarding than watching an ex-offender find a new path, and make a fresh start.
Learn more here: Working at a Halfway House After CSW Training
3. Supporting Survivors of Domestic Abuse
Domestic abuse has a long, dark history of secrecy and shame. Women and children, in particular, have suffered domestic abuse in silence, fearing they had nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help.
Fortunately, community resources for battered women have improved over the years. There are shelters and programs designed to offer safe haven, hope, and opportunities for survivors of domestic violence.
Many shelters offer both emergency and permanent housing for women and children fleeing abuse. They also offer a wide range of programs designed to help battered women regain confidence, empowerment, and independence.
Community services workers help design and deliver these programs, which typically include:
- Developing action plans for each woman, which reflect their individual situations, needs, and goals
- Helping women make short and long-term goals
- Helping women transition into safe, affordable housing
- Connecting women with local resources, including healthcare providers and training opportunities
- Providing mental health services to help promote emotional and spiritual healing
- Safety planning, so women can leave abusive relationships for good
- Addiction counselling
- Employment readiness (identifying special skills, resume writing, job searching, interview preparation, etc.)
There is no doubt that the work CSWs do at women's shelters literally saves lives. But it's about more than merely escaping violence. This work is about empowering women—helping them find confidence, peace of mind, opportunities, and the dignity they deserve.
4. Addiction Counselling
Addiction impacts our society at every level. It destroys individuals, families, and the very fabric of our communities.
People who choose to work in addiction counselling after CSW training are uniquely positioned to fight the scourge of addiction at its source. You would work on the front lines at a detoxification centre or with an organization that includes rehabilitation services (like a shelter, youth program, or halfway house).
CSWs design individual treatment plans, deliver counselling, organize recreational activities to rebuild health, and provide life skills coaching. Many detox programs also include family counselling sessions, art and music therapy, meditation and yoga, nutrition counselling, and a range of other recovery strategies.
Helping someone achieve and maintain sobriety is like giving them a new lease on life. Not to mention, successful recovery has positive ripple effects on every person connected to your client—spouse, children, friends, colleagues, extended family members, and society at large.
We all benefit from beating addiction. This is a very powerful way CSWs can make lasting, positive changes in their local communities.
Are you considering a career in social services?
Your next step is to speak with admissions about training options. Herzing College offers CSW training online. The program is no more than 12 months long and includes an internship at a community organization.
Find out if this program is right for you. Chat live with an admissions advisor now, or click below to explore the program in more detail. We're here to help!