Multidisciplinary Settings and Social Work

Guest Authored By Annie M, LCSW

Multidisciplinary care is increasingly popular and becoming the gold standard of care in many healthcare settings. Multidisciplinary care aims to coordinate dynamic treatment among professionals with a variety of professional backgrounds and training in an effort to treat the “whole” person. Namely, multidisciplinary treatment allows many and at times complex needs of clients to be fulfilled in one environment. This is compared to having to travel or arrange for services across different systems, locations and organizations.

Multidisciplinary care is often associated with interagency collaboration, partnership tasks, and informed advocacy. Social workers in multidisciplinary settings can offer a unique set of skills, varied perspective, and coordinating resources. Social workers provide perspective rooted in assessing the biological, psychological, and social factors an individual experiences in their environment that could impact any presenting challenges. Social workers can offer assessment, counseling, crisis intervention, case management, education, advocacy, and clinical expertise in many psychosocial areas.

Multidisciplinary care can be especially beneficial when treating individuals who experience challenges in more than one focus area. For example, children with autism can benefit greatly from applied behavior analysis (ABA) to support them in appropriately engaging socially and actively in the world around them. However, if the ABA provider observes that a child is having trouble articulating their words, that provider may feel a referral to a speech therapist may be beneficial for them. In a multidisciplinary team, that ABA provider could collaborate with the organization’s speech therapist to connect with the child’s family to coordinate an appointment with that provider. This process — compared to searching for providers in the community, having to fax/mail/email a referral, verifying insurance, and other laborious parts of referrals — is efficient and effective. As providers, it is imperative to be able to support a client such as this collectively with other needed providers in an efficient manner to target various treatment goals.

Social workers can also support providers and clients in coordinating appropriate resources. If working in a setting that serves a population that is seeking support in connecting to resources like supplemental nutrition assistance, special supplemental nutrition assistance for women, infants and children, health insurance, voting registration, social security, social security disability insurance and other similar resources, a social worker can support clients in understanding and accessing those services.

Social workers can also serve as mediators among disciplines. Social workers are trained in a variety of techniques that prioritize active listening and  empathic discussion, all underscored by using a strengths-based perspective approach. When different disciplines clash or offer differing perspectives, clinical social workers are trained in creating boundaries and spaces for all individuals to be heard and understood.

Multidisciplinary treatment is comprehensive, efficient, and client-centered care. In this setting, social workers in multidisciplinary settings offer a unique set of skills, varied perspective, and support in coordinating resources.