Difference Between Social Work and Psychology Services

Published on in Diabetes News

For a child with diabetes, social workers and psychologists can offer important services that will make diabetes easier to manage and minimize the potential for negative impact on day-to-day life. Do you know how these roles differ, and what each expert can help you with?

What is a social worker?

A social worker is an expert in navigating the health system and in behavioral health who will help you and your child:

  • Adjust to living with diabetes
  • Figure out best parenting strategies for a child with diabetes
  • Negotiate peaceful solutions around family struggles with diabetes
  • Get family members on the same page with diabetes
  • Identify healthy coping strategies
  • Deal with guilt/feeling sorry for your child
  • Manage your reaction to diabetes
  • Put diabetes in its place in your life
  • Evaluate anxiety and depression in the parent and child

Access resources

  • Navigate complicated insurance situations
  • Work with schools to access resources and accommodations (create a 504 plan)
  • Transition patients to adult endocrinology
  • Access community resources (insurance options, family diabetes support, FMLA)
  • Suggest other services to help you and your family
  • Access and coordinate outside mental health care when needed

What is a pediatric psychologist?

A pediatric psychologist is a doctoral-level expert in psychosocial and behavioral aspects of living with diabetes, child development, family systems, and research-supported behavioral health assessment and treatment who will help patients and families with:

  • Coping with distress related to having diabetes
  • Improving motivation to complete diabetes management behaviors
  • Teaching parenting strategies to assist with limit setting and compliance around diabetes tasks
  • Setting age and developmentally appropriate expectations for who completes which diabetes tasks in families
  • Assessment of psychosocial aspects of living with diabetes and explanation of how different factors (e.g., parenting, peers, blood sugar numbers) affect your child’s mood and behavior 
  • Diagnosis and treatment of mental health symptoms (e.g., depressed mood, anxiety, oppositional behavior) that commonly occur for youth with diabetes

Do you need extra support?

Your child’s doctor may recommend that you or your child meet with a social worker at some point during diabetes care. But if you ever think the support of one or both of these experts would help, don’t be afraid to ask for an appointment! The sooner you recognize and address a challenge, the less likely it is to turn into a bigger issue.