en français

REGISTERED SOCIAL WORKERS  were here for you before COVID-19.. We're here for you now.. #YouAreNotAlone

Thanks for Celebrating With Us

Social Work Week 2021 was a tremendous success, affording us a timely opportunity to highlight and celebrate the profession! It also continues to provide our membership and social workers across the province with a chance to gather virtually to take part in high-quality education and professional development, including through OASW’s Spring Seminar Series. We are very grateful for the exceptional leadership of our Local Engagement Ambassadors and Local Engagement Networks in planning and delivering over 15 virtual events across the province during Social Work Week. We also wish to thank our many partners and members who shared the essential role of social workers through stories and posts, including in their social media and within their organizations (employee-facing communications). Social Work Week Month extends through March and we look forward to your continued support and recognition of the profession.

We look forward to celebrating 2022 Social Work Week from March 7 to 13, 2022.
Stay tuned for more details!


Check out some of the content shared through our #SocialWorkWeek2021 and #YouAreNotAlone hashtags.

• Twitter: #SocialWorkWeek2021 | #YouAreNotAlone
• LinkedIn: #SocialWorkWeek2021 | #YouAreNotAlone
• Facebook: #SocialWorkWeek2021 | #YouAreNotAlone

In Case You Missed It

Standing with You. Standing for You.

This March over 20,000 Registered Social Workers (RSWs) across Ontario are celebrating Social Work Week. This year's campaign takes place when OASW members are actively working alongside Ontarians, providing access to support for mental health and addictions, caregiver distress, poverty, grief, and homelessness, to name a few. Complicated with the effects of the pandemic, social workers also continue to support Ontarians across communities and settings in need of chronic and acute care in their homes and who rely on outpatient, long-term and palliative care.

Want to see more? Watch OASW CEO, Dr. Deepy Sur’s Interview with Global News

This year's Social Work Week campaign theme You Are Not Alone underpins the values inherent in social work practice to advance diversity, inclusion, and social justice, and address inequities through the promotion of accessible and essential supports. It also provides us an opportunity to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of social workers, including those on the front lines of COVID-19 who have gone over and above their duty in service to their clients and communities.

RSWs, including those members profiled here, work tirelessly alongside their peers and colleagues across various settings, including those supporting Ontarians’ mental health, and will continue to do so as the effects and consequences of the pandemic extend into the future generation. They are among thousands of members who through a network of community supports or within private practice, are supporting the unique needs of individuals and families. The stories we are sharing here are but a few of the many examples that capture how social workers are helping individuals improve their resilience and wellness, including leveraging technology such as virtual counselling in tandem with unique training and expertise.

We hope you are part of this historic Social Work Week, which affords us a unique window to recognize the essential role and importance of social workers locally and across the province involved in supporting all Ontarians’ emotional, mental, and physical wellness both individually and collectively. Here, you will find tools for use by employers to help you recognize social workers who are among your valued colleagues and team members, along with answers to frequently asked questions about the important role social workers play across systems and settings.

Recently, we asked Ontarians to share with us how COVID-19 was affecting their mental health and their resiliency. Many confirmed they considered seeking supports for mental health this past year, including receiving help from a social worker if access was more readily available. You confirmed that advocating for access to social workers and helping to shape innovative models that support a more efficient, equitable and community-based system focused on helping all Ontarians thrive must remain our number one priority.

The road to wellness is within reach. We know the challenges many of us are facing far too often seem unbearable. It's okay to admit that it's been hard. It's okay to ask for help. We are here for you. You are not alone. On behalf of OASW and our members, thank you for taking part in this year's Social Work Week and thank you for turning to us when it matters most.

Social Workers: Real Experts for Real Life.

The Year in Review

On the front lines of what matters most to you
Thriving People » Healthy Communities » A Better Society

Here When You Needed Us Most

From Private Practice to Community Care, Real Experts for Real Life


Your Questions Answered

Registered Social Workers (RSWs) provide a variety of services to help people of all ages, backgrounds, and income levels to resolve issues that affect their day-to-day lives. As the largest regulated profession who provide in-person and virtual counselling and psychotherapy services in Ontario, RSWs support children, youth, and adults to:

  • Manage stress, anxiety, depression, trauma and substance-use disorders.
  • Address workplace bullying, harassment, and employee stress/burnout.
  • Improve relationship challenges and family conflict.
  • Adjust to life crises such as illness, disability, and caregiver stress.
  • Manage grief and loss.

RSWs also help people connect to important resources in their communities and assist them with navigating challenging systems. RSWs can be found working with teams of professionals to support mental health, well-being and advocating for social justice, diversity, and inclusion in many community-based settings such as schools, community health centres, hospitals, long-term care homes and within correctional settings, to name a few. RSWs can also be found working independently or with teams of mental health professionals in private practice as well.

Registered Social Workers (RSWs) bring a unique perspective to their work because they consider the person within the context of their families, workplace, and community, as well as the connection between personal problems and larger social issues, when formulating a plan to assist. This is especially useful in complex situations when someone is experiencing a challenge in more than one area of their life. RSWs will begin by assessing your unique situation and help you to identify the source of stress or problems, strengthen coping skills and find effective solutions to improve your mental health and well-being. RSWs work to provide supports that are culturally sensitive as well as provide linguistically and culturally appropriate resources, linking you to these should they be of interest.

Social workers have at least one or more university degrees in social work and may posses a: Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), Master of Social Work (MSW), and/or doctoral degree in social work (PhD). Social work education, training and expertise makes them uniquely qualified to deliver a range of counselling, psychotherapy, and case management services. Additionally, as a part of their education, social workers have training in anti-oppressive and anti-racist practice. Therefore, they are able to assess and address the impacts of racism, oppression, and discrimination on mental health. Finally, as a part of their continuing competency requirements, Registered Social Workers (RSWs) seek out annual continuing education to remain up-to-date in their area of practice and many RSWs have specific training and experience working with unique populations such as members of the LGBT2SQ+ community, children and youth; older adults; those individuals who live with neurodiversity (i.e. supporting those with ADHD and Autism) and eating disorders, to name a few.

Yes, many social workers have disclosed their race, ethnicity and/or sexual orientation because this provides them with a unique and in-depth understanding of the needs of BIPOC and LGBT2SQ+ individuals and families. If you would prefer to work with a social worker from your own community, we encourage you to seek out or request a social worker who you are most comfortable working with. Several websites which may assist you in your search for a BIPOC and/or LGBT2SQ+ Registered Social Worker (RSW), can be found below.

Registered Social Workers (RSWs) are regulated by the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. This means that RSWs have a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice that they must follow. To use the title "social worker" an individual must be registered with this College. If someone is registered, the initials RSW (Registered Social Worker) will appear after their name. To check that an individual is an RSW, visit the Online Register at OCSWSSW.org. Alternatively, you can contact the College via email at [email protected].

Social work services are generally not covered by OHIP unless you are referred to these services through your local health care provider, such as your Family Health Team, at the hospital, or within long-term care and home and community care. Additionally, social work services can be requested and accessed at no cost through several publicly funded organizations such as at your child’s school or at community-based agency that offer such services. You do not generally need a referral to engage an RSW in these cases however, you may wish to discuss the circumstances you are facing and request a referral. To access community-based public services: Dial "211" or visit https://211ontario.ca

Registered Social Workers (RSWs) in private practice are self-employed and therefore this means that they do charge an hourly fee for their services. These fees are not covered by OHIP, but they may be covered under a private health plan or employee your group benefits plan. Visit www.FindASocialWorker.ca for a listing of social workers in private practice.

Within Ontario, the majority of insurance companies do provide coverage for psychotherapy and social work services provided by Registered Social Workers (RSWs). However, each employer individually negotiates the services included in their group benefit plan with the insurer. It is ultimately up to the employer to decide on plan design and types of coverage. If you are uncertain if your extended health benefits include psychotherapy and social work services provided by RSWs, it is important to contact your insurance provider to inquire about this before beginning service. If psychotherapy and social work services provided by an RSW is not currently on the list of professional services covered in your insurance plan, you may wish to ask that it be added.

Virtual services have grown and become a part of our everyday lives, and this includes how Registered Social Workers (RSWs) are ‘seeing’ and supporting their clients. With the increasing demands of alternative ways of communicating, RSWs frequently provide virtual counselling and psychotherapy services to their clients through electronic and digital technology while maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of any information collected or stored. RSWs are required to use a virtual platform that is compliant with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA), which governs the manner in which personal health information may be collected, used and disclosed in Ontario. RSWs are also required to ensure that any client information that is transmitted by electronic means is done so in a secure manner which facilitates confidentiality.


Poll Uncovers Mental Health Realities, Virtual Counselling Attitudes and Barriers to Accessing Mental Health Supports

March 1, 2021, TORONTO, ON― More than half of Ontarians (53%) recently surveyed about the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health say it was very good or excellent prior to the start of the pandemic. A year later, two-thirds (64%) report that the pandemic has led them to be more resilient, while about half (45%) report COVID-19 has caused a negative shift in their mental health that will be long lasting. Of particular concern, younger Ontarians (those under the age of 35) and those who already stated their mental health was poor are significantly more likely to have seen a downward shift in their mental health because of the pandemic. The Leger poll of 1,000 Ontarians ages 18 and older, conducted on behalf of the Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW) released today, also uncovered attitudes related to mental health and respondents’ perceived barriers and willingness to access mental health care, including virtual and in person supports. The release of these findings marks the start of Social Work Week (March 1-7) across the province.

“While social work supports are individualized considering a person’s unique environment and context, it’s vital we uncover the major trends if we’re going to be successful at addressing the depth and severity of the mental health challenges facing the province,” says Dr. Deepy Sur, Chief Executive Officer, OASW. “As the largest regulated provider of psychotherapy services in the province, social workers are vital to helping navigate Ontario’s path forward out of this historic crisis.”

Six-in-ten say they will be able to bounce back from these challenging times, especially older Ontarians (those over the age of 35). Just over half (52%) say they would bounce back more quickly if they had access to regular mental health support and four-in-ten (39%) say they have considered getting mental health support in the past year. Although those under the age of 35 are more likely to be struggling with their mental health, on a positive note, this group is significantly more likely to feel they could bounce back faster if they had access to regular mental health support. In addition, this group has considered getting such support and agree that mental health support is a vital part of their health.

Over one-third (37%) of the respondents say they would access mental health support through virtual counselling. Further, 74% say providing mental health supports virtually is a great way to speed up and improve access. Whereas 23% say they would only seek support in person.

Nearly half of the Ontarians surveyed (44%) say they would consider seeking support from a social worker. Respondents cited cost as the prime factor preventing them from getting mental health support, more than twice the barrier than those related to a lack of familiarity with how to access supports. Additionally, those that rate their mental health as ‘bad’, are significantly less likely to say they are aware of how to access mental health support, compared to those who rate their mental health as better.

“In time mental health access and deployment will overtake headlines on vaccine access and deployment. We can’t let an individual’s financial situation dictate their access to mental health care and ability to bounce back,” Dr. Sur adds. “We’re looking out ahead and leaning on our expertise in the system, understanding of the complexity of mental health today and the requirement to address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Ontarians. With 6,500 OASW members in every niche of society, we have a unique vantage point.”

Social workers have been essential on the front lines across many settings and within acute and long-term care, supporting their healthcare colleagues facing unprecedented levels of stress and burnout, and families facing heartbreaking loss. During Social Work Week, 20,000 Registered Social Workers (RSWs) practising in Ontario, including over 6,500 members of OASW, will embark on a “You Are Not Alone” campaign raising awareness of the increased needs for mental health support for the individuals they serve and some of those whose needs are compounded by the effects of the opioid crisis, victims of human trafficking, and so many other emergency situations, many made worse by the pandemic.

OASW works to promote access to social workers through government supports, private insurance plans to help Ontarians who may struggle to get the supports and help they need as part of the province’s comprehensive Roadmap to Wellness. The Association led a rapid response with the first lockdown in March 2020 to ensure social workers' ability to respond to the need for virtual counselling. Information on working with a social worker and on virtual counselling can be found at oasw.org.

About OASW

OASW is the voice of social work in Ontario. It is a voluntary, bilingual, non-profit association representing approximately 6,500 social workers. All members have a university degree in social work at the bachelor, master, or doctoral level. OASW works to actively speak on behalf of social workers on issues of interest to the profession and advocates for the improvement of social policies and programs directly affecting social work practice and client groups served.

About the Leger Survey

An online survey of 1001 Ontario residents was completed between February 12-14, 2021, using Leger’s online panel.

For information contact:
Gabriella Nobrega
[email protected]

Building Your Resilience…

We asked Ontarians about their mental health after living with COVID-19 for one year, their views on barriers to access and supports. You told us…

*Source: An online survey of 1001 Ontario residents was completed between February 12-14, 2021, using Leger's online panel.

... in a Connected World

Since Spring 2020, with the support of the Ontario Government, OASW has provided training to over 10,000 Registered Social Workers. These specialized trainings have made it possible to meet the shifting demands and mental health needs of Ontarians during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Significant focus has been placed on rapidly meeting the needs of social workers providing comprehensive virtual counselling care to communities, individuals, and diverse populations.

Celebrate With Us!