Written by Jack Levinson

What is Human Services?

Human services, collectively, are an interdisciplinary set of social assistance programs that include everything from healthcare and counseling services to food and shelter offered through government and nonprofit agencies and designed to contribute to the welfare and happiness of communities by delivering a broad range of help and support to individuals and families.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term many different images and ideas arise when they hear the term Human Services. So, then what is Human Services? The field of Human Services is vast and has many varying definitions, however it can be summed up as the interdisciplinary practice of servicing your fellow human beings, whether individuals or groups such as families or communities in order to alleviate stress and change to help them function at their highest capacity. There are many professions which fall under the umbrella of the Human Services field. They range from medical service providers such as nurses, to Child Welfare Case Workers, Psychologists and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) and many more.

The field of Human Services is one that is focused on helping one’s fellow Human Beings overcome adversity through strength based approaches that empower the recipients to make positive life choices that allow them to reach their full potential. This model is one that can be found at the heart of almost every Human Services profession.

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In some ways it might be easier to understand what Human Services is, by looking at what professions fall under this umbrella term. Some examples of Human Services professionals include, but are not limited to:

You can see from the above list that this is a very wide open and comprehensive field that includes a tremendous diversity of professions that all have at their core providing services to their fellow human beings. In most cases, a Human Services worker is providing a service to a client who is experiencing some degree of hardship. Whether it is an acute or crisis situation or more of a chronic condition, the Human Services worker provides services that help to mitigate difficulties and provide relief for the individual undergoing the hardship.

Usually, this is done in such a way as to empower the client to make important lifestyle changes that will allow them to change their challenging situation into a more stable and healthy environment for themselves and their loved ones. While there are exceptions to this such as Hospice where the focus client is approaching death, most Human Services work is performed in such a way as to help the client to adjust to difficult situations in life and find improvement through self-sufficiency.

Regardless of their particular niche, most Human Services professionals have certain traits and skills that are universal throughout the field. Traits like compassion and empathy are extremely helpful if one wishes to maximize their potential in Human Services. Without a true internal drive to help one’s fellow human beings, the job simply becomes a series of rote actions instead of its highest potential of helping to profoundly transform people’s lives through strong rapport and understanding. Some of the skills and traits that are desirable for Human Services professionals include, but are not limited to:

  • Excellent active listening skills
  • Ability to put people at ease and give them a sense of safety
  • Cultural competency
  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • A desire to help your fellow human beings
  • Attention to detail
  • Being knowledgeable in your field
  • Ability to quickly establish rapport
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Understanding the nature of human systems
  • Depth of understanding about how to bring optimal results through strength based approaches to client empowerment
  • Consistent ability to plan
  • Showing skill in recognizing what interventions best serve a client to reach their goals
  • Strong ability to maintain personal boundaries
  • Having process skills that allow one to explain processes to clients in an easy to understand manner.
  • Being able to understand and follow complex procedures and rules that are common within Human Services organizations

There are many places that one can work as a Human Services professional and for most occupations the job outlook for the next decade is extremely strong and on average superior to the economy as a whole. If you feel called to help your fellow human beings by empowering them to be successful through strength based approaches to attaining goals and self-sufficiency, then a career in Human Services is an excellent fit for you.