You’ve already made a big decision. You know that you want to work in a field that allows you to directly help people on a day-to-day basis. Narrowing down the choices in health care and human services can be challenging, especially since there is a lot of overlap in certain careers.
Basics of the jobs
First, let’s explore the basics of these two roles. Someone who has taken an addictions and mental health program will be focused exclusively on helping individuals with mental health issues and substance addictions. Education programs to gain skills in this role will look at mental health issues and addictions as separate issues as well as looking at them as concurrent issues. This type of work will focus on improving a person’s health, aiding in prevention and encouraging harm-reduction strategies.
Those who have taken a personal support worker program will have a different, but slightly overlapping focus. As a developmental services worker, individuals aid others in creating more fulfilling, independent lives. This comes in the form of exploring a variety of personal life areas including mental health, developmental disabilities, communications and behaviours.
In both jobs, there is a keen awareness of mental health and how working with any individual on personal matters involves exploring the way they think, how they are feeling mentally and emotionally and improvements that can be made to create a more enriched life. There is also a look at behaviours in both roles. This is an area where education can help significantly. Understanding what certain undesirable behaviours mean being able to assist the support worker in assessment and helping the client change.
Ongoing involvement and differences
Where the differences between the two jobs show up is in the very early analysis stages and in the later stages after a relationship is formed.
For example, in the role of a mental health and addictions support worker, there will be a lot of time spent at the start of the interaction to better understand the mental health and addiction issues and some of the behaviours around them. The individual may not have been diagnosed, may have been misdiagnosed or may have new challenges. The support worker will attempt to unravel the current situation and past issues.
Mental health is complex and when interwoven with addictions, it can become increasingly challenging to determine the issues and how to start treatment. Once the characteristics of the individuals’ issues are defined, the relationship expands and the work to treat the conditions really gets underway.
People a development services worker works with will generally have an existing diagnosis of a disability, behavioural issue, impairment or other challenges. Mental health will be explored in the early stages of forming the relationship, but as the care worker and the individual get to know each other, mental health will be dealt with along with other areas of growth.
This could be the case when a support worker is at a residential group home with individuals who have a range of disabilities. The support worker would initially need to get to know the individuals, understand their specific cases and needs and begin developing a relationship. As the relationship progresses, trust is built and the case worker can start adding various techniques into daily life to encourage more independence or satisfaction in life. This may include tools around mental health or mobility, life skills or training or a number of other elements.
The job market is strong
Another area where both mental health workers and developmental services workers are aligned is in the growth of the number of jobs. Providing individuals and families support are high demand areas, therefore there is a growing need for trained, skilled support to improve lives.