Sean Erreger is currently a Clinical Case Manager for youth with a mental health diagnosis.I have a decade of direct social work practice experience including adolescent day treatment, psychiatric emergency room, adult inpatient, and foster care prevention. Blogging and sharing social work resources at Stuck On Social Work
On February 2, 2016, I had the pleasure of going back to my social work Alma Mater, and I made an appearance on their radio show called “The Social Workers” which can also be found on Twitter at @SocialWorkersFM .
Hosted by Dr. Eric Hardiman and Alyssa Lotmore, The Social Workers highlight local and national happenings in social work. The Social Workers Radio Show was started about 5 years ago and the current hosts have been there for about two years.
Through social media, I have found that Social Workers can have a “voice” in many ways. This radio show is one of the more interesting ways to literally project our Voice out onto the airwaves. The co-hosts teach a course about being a “Media Savvy Social Worker”, where they learn basic interviewing skills and ways to engage with the public. This has such value and was great to be a part of this experience.
I got to talk with them about social media and various ways it is relevant to social work, mental health, healthcare, and suicide prevention. Below you can view our conversation. Also, I want to provide some of the links to the resources mentioned and some things that I wish I had included.
My Favorite blog post – The Language of Borderline Personality (My second favorite blog post is Virtual High Five and The Power of Social Media – got a high five via Twitter by Dr. David Jobes, suicide prevention leader)
How to Participate in Live Twitter Chat: Tips For Social Workers by Dr. Laurel Hitchcock
Here are some of the tweet chats I mentioned and their blogs
In the end, they asked me what is the value of social media. I talked about some of the resources learned from professionals. What I failed to mention is connecting with people who receive mental health and health care services. Their tweets and blogs have been a large part of my professional development. If you venture on social media be prepared to learn from recipients and patient advocates who have a strong presence on social media.
Also, another wonderful place to hangout is the Social Work and Technology Group on Google plus. Articles, videos, and the latest evidence are shared on how social work can utilize technology and social media.
The debate about micro versus macro concentrations within the social work profession continues to rage on. For me, it was not that much of a debate until I began engaging with social workers around the world via social media. Since then, it has changed my lens of how I view the world into more of a macro thinker.
Up until the last year, I was happily living in my own microbubble. The trend or message from others on social media is that Macro Social work has lost its appeal or the profession is being skewed into a clinical/micro focus. There also continues to be a lot of discourse about social workers’ roles on a larger stage. When students take Intro to Social Work, are we fully explaining the interconnectivity between micro, mezzo, and macro levels of analysis in social work?
Has our role been stymied by this Micro and Macro separation? In my opinion, the strength of social work is its versatility, but the profession can’t seem to get out of its own way. Rather than widen the debate, we need to strengthen the two concepts, and Social work programs need to focus on “the space between”. Mezzo social work also referred to as “meso” in other disciplines, is often left out of the conversation. Micro, Mezzo/Meso, and Macro are levels of analysis that are the cornerstones of ecological systems theory and practice. The application and understanding of these levels are not only germane to social work, but they are integral in the analysis of business, finance, politics, science, and more.
According to Social Work Degree Guide website, it has this to say about mezzo-level social work:
Instead of working with an individual or a familial group to promote individual change, you will work with groups to focus on promoting cultural or institutional change. Because social workers practicing mezzo work face unique challenges, they generally will have experience in both micro and macro work and use this experience in tandem. You will need to be experienced with both interpersonal relations and community involvement when you choose this level of work. Read More
In a recent Twitter chat about Sustaining innovation in macro social work, the importance of macro social work came up. Most importantly, Carly Levy responded to the chat stating that “Our desire to be recognized as licensed clinicians dominates social work culture and distorts macro social work purpose”. As a direct clinical provider with a growing appreciation for Macro work, this perfectly illustrates the impasse social work is facing. Rather than clinical social work distorting macro social work, we need to examine ways clinical social workers can enhance the macro process as well as ways macro theory can enhance clinical practice.
To illustrate my point, the first therapy group I ran was about 4 years into my career. I had already been practicing family and individual work for quite some time. During this time of clinical growth in groups, the individual skills I learned dovetailed well with group work. Also, I was learning more about group work theory which enhanced my family work. Although working in groups enhanced my thinking about organizational change and the tone an organization sets, facilitating organizational change is where social work can excel. Taking clinical skills and growing them into macro skills can make for a powerful combination.
Individuals with Macro social work skills for systems analysis, community organizing, grant writing, and coalition building in policy-making positions will affect how we practice. Community Organizer, Mozart Guerrier, stressed in his TedxSyracuse talk the need for listening and consensus making. He says without listening to what people need, it will limit trust and change will not happen.
As social workers, we are often referred to as “change agents”. Change can happen through direct practice but also can be achieved through change at the organizational and community level. There is a huge space between what happens in an individual therapy session and what happens on Capitol Hill. We should attempt to get away from where change happens but how it happens.
No matter what our concentration is in graduate school, social workers all have a notion of how change happens. By making the micro distinction this distorts how change happens, and we have the tools and the talent to make change happen at many levels. It is where micro and macro meet that can cause a significant amount of change. Utilizing the macro, mezzo, and micro levels of analysis in all of our practice areas is the best holistic approach to helping our profession and our clients improve outcomes.