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What does a Case Manager do?

By Rachel Burkot
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A case manager is a type of social worker who provides services for individuals or families to help them deal with complex circumstances. These individuals work toward a goal of helping people live the highest quality of life possible. To do so, they work closely with clients to identify their goals and needs. They use available resources, or find the necessary resources, to meet those goals while getting the most value for the client.

Generally speaking, a case manager listens to the client’s story, plans for the future, provides choices, narrows down possibilities to come to a decision, does research, helps with paperwork, monitors changes in the client’s situation, respects privacy and maintains the client’s routine and independence as much as possible. His or her ultimate goal is to point clients to the right service, organization or agency for their particular situation. After this, the person keeps in touch with the client to make sure the services were beneficial. It is the underlying belief of case management that, when a client reaches the highest quality of life, the client, family, healthcare providers, and additional support systems all benefit.

Case managers help clients manage their situations — they do not manage the clients. They can work for both public and non-profit companies, and they typically specialize in one area, such as healthcare (physical or mental), addiction, aging, disease, disability, child welfare, immigration services, or occupational services. Care coordination is a type of case management in which professionals interact work primarily with older adults, for example, in what is called geriatric care. Examples of situations that they deal with include divorce, depression, and drug addiction.

Many of these professionals have a social work or nursing background, and some have had previous healthcare careers. A good case manager understands family dynamics and problem management strategies. He or she must also be a good communicator, organized, and detail-oriented because making a plan for a client includes observing, researching, planning, and advocating to make sure his or her unique needs are met.

Certification to become a case manager differs depending on the specific focus. For example, someone who specializes in social work must have at least a bachelor’s degree, and some places require a social work license. Case management may be covered by the client’s health insurance, and non-profits may provide these services at a discount rate or even at no charge to qualified clients. Geriatric case management is usually handled as a private-pay service.

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Discussion Comments

By anon983658 — On Jan 01, 2015

I have worked as an adult mental health case manager for over 10 years and have begun to hate my job. The paperwork is overwhelming, case loads too large, and clients who drain the life out of me. Borderline PD's! I'm over 40 and seriously considering changing careers. Most of my co-workers, myself included, have had to seek counseling or go on meds, just to deal with our careers. You'll take your job home with you; I can guarantee that, my friends!

By anon973895 — On Oct 14, 2014

I am a case manager and absolutely hate it. I work for women with addiction and they are very ungrateful and demanding.

By anon952365 — On May 20, 2014

I want to become a case manager in a rehab for addicts. Should I major in psych with emphasis in addiction or should I major in human services?

By anon272531 — On Jun 01, 2012

Being a case manager is stressful. You have a case load of 80-plus people, whom you have to keep track of and coordinate care for. It is underpaid for all of the work. You have to meet deadlines to submit paperwork for each individual, pass audits, coordinate with other agencies, make home visits all while still having to have certain hours of direct client care.

For instance, I have been able to locate a client for whom I have to do a home visit, and the agency I worked for just got fined $12,000. I hate it. Make sure it's something you love, because the chances of you getting paid well are slim to none.

By anon213822 — On Sep 12, 2011

I have case management. It is useless and it doesn't help me. Also my school tested me for austim, which I never had or have.

By anon157390 — On Mar 02, 2011

I am a case manager at a non-profit organization for children under the age of 18 who have a variety of problems ranging from abuse to truancy in school. my main objective is to provide guidance for the resident, set goals, provide a plan of care, stay in contact with the child's social worker as to what the next plan of action is for that particular child, etc. there is a lot of paperwork involved in this job as well as counseling the child.

By anon121297 — On Oct 23, 2010

Answering anon question 2: in order to have your license as a social worker (or LSW) you need to have your Masters (or MSW) in social work first. The MSW is schooling. The LSW is a test you have to take. You can have your MSW without being licensed.

By anon84279 — On May 14, 2010

You can have a Master's but you still have to take a test to have your license, depending on what state you are in. most states require documentation of how many hours you have been supervised post-Masters as well as direct client contact hours. You can usually find out licensing information from NASW website or through the Department of Health.

By anon41079 — On Aug 12, 2009

What's the difference in having a Masters in Social work (MSW) or being licensed as a Social Worker?

By anon34063 — On Jun 16, 2009

i understand that this is to help people reach their goals, but is it used for helping regular children in school? and does a case manager follow the client everywhere if in a situation where the child is in high school?

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