Which Four Letter Word Best Describes Your Relationship with Work

Social workers and most employees use the word “love when we first start our new jobs. A regular pay schedule allows us to pay our monthly student loans when due. We learn and experience the difference between what the books say and practice realities. We get to “help people” which is the reason many of us went into the social work profession. The ability to help those in need feels good.

Our honeymoon with work lasts for about six months to a year. Everything is new and exciting. We get to know the intricacies of the inner workings of our organizations. The employer and employee become aware of each other’s interests, strengths, and quirks. The honeymoon is fun. The courtship continues. We love, love, love what we do and the organization we are with.

Then something happens. Longevity with an organization provides an awareness of the shortcomings. We begin to compare our goals, interests, and desires with that of the organization. When they do not match, we become frustrated and the relationship becomes strained.  In some instances, the relationship between the employer and employee becomes so frustrating that it sours. Think of a marriage that lasts although the two parties can no longer stand each other. Is your work relationship the same?

Are you a social worker who continues to work in a situation that is no longer satisfying? Have you started using four-letter words other than “love” or “like” to describe your relationship with work?

Many social workers cannot quit good-paying jobs. We need them to sustain our modest lifestyles. However, after five or more years on the job, some feel burned out from unmanageable workloads, hit or miss supervision, and political jockeying. Some may feel depressed because of vicarious trauma. Stress responses may be in overdrive causing edgy or anxious feelings when at work. A few social workers just check out emotionally, opting to go through the motions putting in their “eight” and doing no more than is necessary to get through.

Dissatisfaction with the workplace will continue until the social work honestly answers specific questions. Am I compelled to do this work? Am I demonstrating competence? How comfortable am I in the context of the work environment? These questions jump-start the re-tooling process for every social worker with over five years of experience.

What questions are you asking yourself?

Hospice Teaches Me Transitions Are Life

Transitions happen every day and are a normal part of our lives. Every person must learn to manage transitions, as a natural part of being a human being. Transitions include not just events that we would normally think of as grief-provoking, like losing a job, losing a pet, experiencing houselessness or personal tragedy, or even a serious illness, injury or the end of life.

Transitions also include any movement in one’s life from one situation to another, some of which bring great joy, like the birth of a child, a new marriage, buying a home, adopting a pet, meeting a friend. However, transitions can lead to emotional or psychological distress, even when the event is anticipated, wanted, and planned.

As a hospice social worker, transitions often come in the form of preparation for death, the end of life, and grief/loss of the patient whose life is ending, as well as those loved ones left behind. Each day I get to work with those facing these life transitions. How we cope with these changes determines the ultimate key to our happiness and our ability to acclimate and adapt to a changing life and being in touch with “the inner self.”

It can be tempting to dive into a new job without laying the groundwork for what the new job entails. It can also be tempting to dive under the covers after a hard day at work or an emotional evening with a spouse. It can feel exciting to rearrange your furniture to change things up or to accommodate new needs in your space.

Without appropriate forethought, however, even these transitions, which seem small and unimportant in the grand scheme of life, can leave us floating and losing tune with our inner need for structure. Having spent over sixteen years working in hospice, you might think I have this down. I don’t! Every transition needs to be thought-out, especially when I am the first line of defense to help patients and their families come to terms with a patients’ mortality; the ultimate reality. Often, we think about these major life transitions.

“Why am I doing this?” “Why is this happening?” Many people go about their day with little thought to the smaller transitions. I have found that these changes can have huge anxiety-provoking and stressful impacts on our lives. So what can we do? Prepare for transitions we can anticipate and take our time adjusting to the sudden abruptions of daily life. It’s easier to say than to practice, but it is far better to practice than to be taken unaware and be stymied by life’s little curveballs. I’ve spoken about my grandmother before and she would say, “Practice.” Even the Boy Scouts say, “Be prepared.”

Hospice has taught me to go with the flow, not to fight against the stream of nature, and to be myself. The cliché,’ “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” has a great deal of merit. Allowing yourself to feel your innermost thoughts and feelings can be hard but it is vital to have a successful relationship with change. Transitions, while often difficult, cannot be avoided or denied. Resistance is futile. Transitions are life; becoming a new you. Being a hospice social worker has taught me this.

The poet, Nikki Giovanni says, “A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.”

Governor Northam Appoints Social Worker Dr. Angela Henderson to the Board of Conversation and Recreation

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (L)

On October 19, 2018, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced Angela S. Henderson, PhD of Glen Allen, as his appointment to the Board of Conversation and Recreation. Dr. Henderson is an Assistant Professor and Research Assessment Coordinator for the Department of Social Work at Virginia State University.

She specializes in human behavior, the social environment and social welfare policy. Dr. Henderson received a B.S.W. from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 2003 and an M.S.W from Howard University in 2004. She earned her Ph.D. in social work from Howard University in May 2013.

Dr. Angela Henderson

Dr. Henderson has been recognized in the social work community as a “social justice warrior” and has dedicated her life as an advocate for social, environmental, and education justice. In addition, Dr. Henderson is committed in protecting the human rights of individuals, children, and families.

While she attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University as an undergrad she and her mentor, Professor Ernest Morant, Sr., established “The Princeville North Carolina Project” in 1999 with the support of the Department of Social Work and Sociology for Hurricane Floyd relief efforts. The department adopted the town’s elementary school to support the educational achievement and health care of the students.

Dr. Henderson is branded as the “Fixer” and she is known for her ability to accomplish complex tasks under high-pressure conditions.

She served as the Assessment Task Force Lead for Virginia State University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges Accreditation process. In addition, Dr. Henderson is the Principal Investigator for the Police Minority Recruitment Project funded by the Virginia Office of the Attorney General.

In 2012, Dr. Henderson created Congressional Research Institute for Social Work (CRISP) on behalf of Dr. Charles E. Lewis, Jr. and Former Congressman Edolphus Towns. The purpose of CRISP was to recognize the importance of the Congressional Social Work Caucus and expand the participation of social workers in federal legislative and policy processes. Dr. Henderson served as the Chief Operating Officer and her tasks included: establishing and managing the daily operations, regulatory compliances, accounting, and legal processes. In addition, she served as the social media marketing strategist.

Dr. Henderson participated in a call to action discussion with the Obama Administration and the United States Department of Health and Human Services regarding the leadership of the Social Work Community in preserving the Affordable Care Act.

Dr. Henderson will join Patricia A. (“Patti”) Jackson* of Hanover, American Heart Association and Clayton L. Spruill of Chesapeake on the Board of Conversation and Recreation.

*denotes reappointment

Indiana Social Worker Kimber Nicoletti-Martinez recognized as 2018 National Social Worker of the Year

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers is pleased to announce Indiana social worker Kimber Nicoletti-Martinez is the recipient of the National Social Worker of the Year Award for her tireless work in preventing sexual violence, particularly among often marginalized populations such as farm workers and people who are Latinx or LGBTQ.

Kimber Nicoletti-Martinez

“Sexual violence is a serious problem that can have long-term emotional effects on survivors, their family, friends, and communities,” said NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. “Prevention work in this sensitive area can also be daunting. However, Ms. Nicoletti-Martinez has brought a high level of commitment, creativity, and solid social work practice into addressing this issue.”

The NASW National Social Worker of the Year Award honors a member of the association who has demonstrated the best of the profession’s values and achievements through specific accomplishments. The award also highlights superb accomplishments in the practice of social work.

The accomplishments of Kimber Nicoletti-Martinez, MSW, LCSW, are impressive. She developed the Multicultural Efforts to End Sexual Assault (MESA) at Purdue University’s Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education.  MESA is a statewide program in Indiana committed to preventing sexual violence in multicultural communities and other underserved and underrepresented populations in Indiana, including people who are Latinx immigrant, Native American, or LGBTQ.

Nicoletti-Martinez created the first farm worker child sexual abuse prevention effort and is a member of the Just Beginnings Collaborative which is a platform created to advance the movement to end child sexual abuse.  She also developed sexual violence prevention programs targeted specifically to farmworker communities; Indiana’s first campus-based violence prevention program aimed at people who are LGBTQ; and bilingual and bicultural mental health services in community health clinics.

Her work has already gained attention as she was recognized by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the first sexual violence prevention advocate focused on migrant farmworker communities. She was also named NASW Indiana Chapter Social Worker of the Year in 2017, Inspirational Leader at the Indiana Coalition Ending Sexual Assault and was recently profiled in Latina Magazine.

“NASW is proud to honor Ms. Nicoletti-Martinez with the Social Worker of the Year Award,” McClain said. “She is an exemplary social worker who has had the courage and integrity to be a champion, an advocate and a voice for people our society often marginalizes.”

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

Non-traditional Students Require Non-traditional Policies for Field Placements

I am only six weeks away from completing my BSW degree; a degree that has taken nearly twenty years to complete.  As I am nearing the end of my current educational journey and in the final hours of my field placement, I have found myself becoming quite reflective about my educational experience.

Now, I am not your traditional BSW student, and as such, my experience is dramatically different from many individuals who enter a BSW straight out of high school.  I have never sat in a physical class or classroom; I have never met any of my classmates and my professors or instructors face-to-face.  I am thirty-six years old with two children, and I work full-time in a field where I have spent the last sixteen years in.  No, I am not your traditional BSW student; I am a new breed of student, an older nontraditional online student.

Advances in technology have flung wide the doors of innovation in higher education. Online programs, developed in the last ten years and refined in the last five, have drastically changed the face of higher education for non-traditional students like me, who would have had no other opportunity to complete a degree.

Due to their ability to offer flexibility to students, online programs have become a permeant feature on the higher education landscape, and their popularity and student population are growing at an exponential rate. The academic training of future social workers has not been exempted from the advancements in technology and education. My soon-to-be alma mater and one of the leading online social work programs in the nation have reported a 34% increase in the number of students enrolled in the online BSW program this year alone.

While there have been major leaps forward in distance learning and online education, there has been little to no innovation regarding CSWE accreditation policies concerning this new breed of students, especially as it pertains to their field placement.

As it stands, all CSWE accredited schools, including non-traditional online programs function under the same blanket policy regarding field placement. Students enrolled in BSW programs are required to perform a minimum of four hundred unpaid hours of field placement at a social service agency. The policy also requires that field placement hours be served in conjunction with educational direction.

The CSWE considers field placement the “signature pedagogy” of social work education as it offers future practitioners the opportunity to apply theories learned in the classroom by exposing them to all sorts of problems and situations.  There is no debate concerning the importance of the field placement experience.  Incongruence occurs, however, due to a lack of nuance in policy when it comes to the unique needs and strengths of non-traditional learners.

Many non-traditional students, like me, who find an educational home in online BSW programs, are typically older adults either seeking to complete a bachelors degree they forsook earlier in life, seeking to further their current career, or shift their career entirely into a new filed.  While the reasons non-traditional students have for returning to school through an online program vary, one thing is common for us all.  Each student brings many years of life experience and employment history to the program.

Personally, when I started my online BSW program, I had over sixteen years of social services experience; working for years in a therapeutic boarding school for teenagers on the verge of incarceration, pastoral ministry, and serving as the Executive Director of a large non-profit social services organization.  I am not alone in bringing this level of experience in my current distance learning program.

In an informal survey conducted by current and former students of my school’s online BSW program, sixty percent of students reported that their resumes reflect positions comparable to that of social workers with fifty percent of responders stating they were employed by a social services agency while also performing their field placements. Students reported they have or are serving in capacities such as SUD Therapist, Program Coordinator, Outreach Specialist, Case Manager, Addiction Recovery Specialist, Youth Career Specialist, and Parent Mentor.

It is safe to assume that students from other online programs would report the same data. As such, it is important for the current CSWE and school policies concerning field placement for online programs be reviewed and discussed to create the most effective learning environment for these unique students. If the current policies are followed, older non-traditional students will not have the desired experience as CSWE and accredited schools for BSW students.

If there is no change in how these students are viewed and the policies surrounding their placement, the CSWE and institutions of higher learning run the risk of non-traditional students viewing their service hours as a mere assignment that must be completed to graduate.

To be honest, this has been my thinking on more than one occasion during my field placement. While I have learned a substantial amount about the agency I have worked in and it has been truly informative, I have also found myself questioning whether this experience was truly fulfilling the mission and vision the CSWE and my school had in mind when policy was crafted concerning BSW field placement making it the signature pedagogy.

Often times in my placement, I found that due to my life and employment experience, I was more qualified to perform the duties and tasks than those I was shadowing and being supervised by. I do not relay this out of a sense of arrogance, but sheer professional experience.

Due to the nature and requirements of my field placement setting, I have spent a majority of my time shadowing new social workers or others who do not have a BSW at all. There is much to be gleaned by working with these individuals in an agency setting and hearing about their roles and responsibilities.

There is also great value in navigating through interpersonal issues that arise in a field placement setting. This aspect of placement has been invaluable to me.  What has become cumbersome, however, is trying to relate to my agency, my placement, and my future practice of social work as if my life experience and employment history were non-existent and as if the position I may potentially secure after placement will be my first professional job.

The current framework concerning BSW field placement is to provide students with experience in generalist practice with the hope that after field placement and graduation, students will secure jobs in social services agencies as entry-level generalist social work practitioners. This is a fine and noble objective to have, but the reality is a majority of older non-traditional students will not seek entry-level positions.

As their resumes reflect extensive knowledge and experience, the addition of a BSW degree will only elevate them to higher levels of employment.  To use a professional metaphor, these older non-traditional students will most likely not be starting at the “bottom of the ladder.” With that being the case, it would be prudent and wise for these students to be placed in advanced practice settings with more intensive supervision, settings that will mirror the level they will be entering the profession of social work in.

While this may not be true for everyone enrolled in online programs, it is true for many; and those individuals deserve to have a field placement setting and experience that will rightly prepare them for the work they have before them in the professional field.

I am by no means suggesting for a cessation of field placement for older non-traditional students. Field placement is imperative and a means by which students safely test theories and gain invaluable experience.  I desire to open a dialogue concerning the needs and strengths of the non-traditional students and how to best serve them during this crucial time of learning.

However, a new examination of the CSWE requirements, policies, and procedures of institutions of higher education with a manner of nuance should be given to this growing student population. It will ensure these older non-traditional students who are finishing their degree and entering the practice of social work receive a placement that meets their educational and professional needs rather than being an exercise in futility to complete a requirement.

Change Never Ages

As the second-oldest state in the nation, West Virginia is in dire need for professionals who can work with its aging population.

To meet this need, the School of Social Work at West Virginia University has launched a new undergraduate gerontology minor.

The minor is an interdisciplinary program geared toward understanding the biological, social and spiritual aspects associated with the aging process.

“The biggest thing the minor will do for students is set them apart from other applicants in their job search, making them more marketable and helping them receive higher consideration for jobs,” said Kristina Hash, professor and director of the gerontology certificate program and minor.

There are several courses in the diverse program, including online options and a General Education Foundation course that can count toward a student’s major or another minor.

Kristin Hash

“Usually people come to gerontology from a personal place,” Hash said. “Students might take a course or complete an entire minor just to learn about their aging loved ones. “We have something for everyone, regardless of career goal or major.”

As the baby boomer generation comes of age in the United States, it brings with it the “Floridization” phenomenon. By 2020, the population distribution of the United States will be comparable to that of the state of Florida.

Because of the shifting population, there is a shortage of trained professionals working with older adults. The shortage includes not only physicians and nurses, but the entire helping health profession.

“It’s a crisis at both the national and state levels, and it’s only going to get worse,” Hash said. “That’s where the jobs are going to be.”

This cohort of older adults is different than previous generations because they are healthier and seek more opportunities for recreation and learning. As a result, nursing homes and senior centers are beginning to change by adding new features like coffee bars and Wi-Fi to meet the evolving needs of the cohort. This is opening more employment opportunities than ever before in new markets, such as insurance, marketing, and tourism.

“This particular cohort are people who march for equal rights, who stand up for their beliefs, who question—they are not going to be passive. The baby boomers are pushing the envelope,” Hash said. “In response, many other fields are also changing to prepare for the aging population, leaving a lot of entry points into the sensation that is aging adults. It’s not just social workers and nurses and physicians and pharmacists—it’s economists, marketers, interior designers and urban planners, too.”

The gerontology minor is available now. Students interested in studying gerontology or working with older adults are encouraged to contact their academic adviser to learn more or visit http://eberly.wvu.edu/students/majors/gerontology.

Self Help Tips and Advice For Social Workers

There is no denying the positive impact social workers have on hundreds of families and individuals throughout their career. They will tell you about the rewarding experiences they have helping others in need. Unfortunately, for every success, there is at least one case in which they could not help. Social workers see the best and the worst of society every day, and even the strongest among us can crack under the pressure. That is why self-care is so important. Being mindfully aware of your needs as well as the needs of those around you can keep you healthy and able to be there when you’re needed.

What is Self Care and How Can You Do It Every day?

Self-care is a practice that becomes a lifestyle. Understand and commit to the idea that it is not something you do once, it is something you do every day. The key is to be mindful and aware.

It is important to be mindful of where you are and what you are doing as you go about your day. Whether you are in a meeting or at the grocery store, notice how you are feeling in the moment. This can range from listening to your body and noticing your state of health to recognizing an emotional situation in your life.

Become aware of your breathing. When we are feeling stressed, emotional, or run down, we forget how to breathe. Our breath can become fast and shallow which deprives our bodies of the oxygen it needs. Pay attention to your breathing and focus on slowing it down. Allow the air to fill your abdomen, not just your lungs. You will find that mindful breathing exercises calms your thoughts, allows for greater clarity, and lessens your anxiety.

Now That You Are Aware, How Do You Improve?

It’s one thing to be mindful and aware of how you are feeling, but doing something about it is another matter. Improving your physical and emotional state requires some life changes as well.

Many social workers have the stress relieving habit of smoking or grabbing an unhealthy snack from the vending machine. It makes us feel like we’re taking a moment for ourselves. Instead of grabbing a cigarette or a bag of chips, try an e-cigarette starter kit or grab a granola bar. This gives you a moment away while making healthier choices through controlling the nicotine and sugar you intake. The idea is not to deprive yourself but to make small changes that will make you feel better over time.

Changing the way you approach daily tasks is another life change that will give you some added peace of mind. For decades we have been taught to multitask but all we’ve learned is how to start tasks but not finish them in a timely manner. By focusing on one task at a time you’ll allow yourself to finish a job before moving onto something else. This creates a sense of accomplishment and boosts your confidence at the job you are doing.

Maintaining Your New Found Awareness

Creating a support system is important when attempting to care for yourself. By relying on your friends and family you are willingly accepting love and nurturing that you simply cannot give to yourself. When meditating on an issue in your life doesn’t result in answers, one of the best things we can do is turn to our support system for help. It’s not necessary to face every challenge alone and often times, they can see from a perspective that you cannot. You may also find that the more willing you are to receive care from others, the easier it becomes for you to provide care for the people you’re working to help.

Self-care is difficult for those who spend their lives taking care of others. By allowing yourself the care you need you will find that it not only feeds your soul but it will improve your ability to care for the people around you.

Social Work Degree: To Be or Not To Be

There are many benefits of being a social worker, and this article is going to focus on how and why you should get your social work degree. Start looking at social work personal statements examples and get a feel for what is expected early. You will also be able to measure your own enthusiasm versus that of the author. The personal statement for social workers is the most important part of your application because this is where you can shine outside of your academic results. It is a reflection of who you are. Let’s get into it and see how and why you should consider a career as a social worker.

Time management

The social work degree is going to be a lot of work and you might have to start learning how to manage your time properly. Your social work personal statement will be the first challenge and after that it is going to be a daily challenge. This is great in life in general and when you start working in your career at a later stage, it will also come in handy. There are things we learn that might not directly link to studying, but more add to your life skills.


Being able to research any topic is going to help you a lot with your degree. There will be different topics discussed and it is important that you do your best. If you have researching skills, you are going to be able to take on any topic and cover it as far as possible. This is going to serve you well in your career going forward because as a social worker you will have daily challenges and some if it might be foreign to you. This is where your research skills come in and you are able to do well as a social worker.

Manage your finances

Studying for any degree costs an arm and a leg to say the least. Many students are on a strict budget because of paying for school fees, textbooks and living expenses. If you want to have a pleasant experience, you are going to have to learn to manage your money properly. There will come a time when you can spend some more money, but for now it’s about living a minimalistic lifestyle. Another normal thing for students to do is to find a part-time job. You can take up waitressing or any interesting part-time jobs in your area. Just make sure that you have the time and that it does not conflict with your school times.

Your life is not yours

Before you decide to become a social worker, be sure to look into the life of a social worker. It is no party and many social workers work long hours and sacrifice their personal time for those of the people the work with. You also need to be emotionally prepared for some of the difficult cases you will be faced with. Are you ready for all of that? If not, it may be time to reconsider. Be 100% sure that your motives behind this is right and you should be good.


If you are passionate about doing this with your life, you are going to make a great social worker. There are no short cuts because you are working with others and this is important. Working with other people is what this job is about. You will be required to find a solution to others problems. There will be days when you feel like you are carrying everyone else’s problems on your shoulders, but you have to be able to do it from a place of love.

Being a social worker is a great thing and you can achieve this goal if it is what you want. There is no reason as to why you cannot complete your degree. Hard work and dedication will take you far in life and by giving this studies your all, you will soon be one of the best social workers out there. Be precise in your studies and take away as much as you can from this experience. Visualize your life as a social worker and before you know it your dreams would be realised. During your studies, try and find some time to enjoy the process. Yes, you will work long hours, but there is also satisfaction that comes from it because you are helping other live a better life.

Social Work and Rare Disease Day

by: Emily Walsh and Deona Hooper

In honor of Rare Disease Day, the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance is working with Social Work Helper to spread awareness about the effect that rare diseases can have on a person and their support system and also what resources are out there to help ease some of the added strain. Rare Disease Day is an awareness campaign that was created by EURORDIS in 2008 that shares information relevant to rare diseases that affect people all over the world.

Though each individual rare disease affects a small percentage of people, 1 in every 10 Americans suffers from such a disease, making it a more prevalent issue than many would think. Why does having a rare condition differ from having a more widely known disease and what resources are there to support those who find themselves in need of help?

David vs. Goliath

When a person receives a diagnosis of a rare condition or form of cancer, such as mesothelioma, it can often be difficult to know where to begin. Doctors can provide guidance, but often those providing the initial diagnosis are not specialists in that particular area. It then falls to the patient to follow through with receiving a second opinion from a specialist, who could be located several hours away in the nearest large city or even in another state.

Once an appointment can be made, the waiting period often leads patients to research their condition online. The internet can be a blessing and a curse when pertaining to medical information. Science based and medically sound websites can provide a wealth of information, but there is also the possibility of finding false information or statistics that may seem alarming. However, there are also support groups that can be found, where patients can discuss their concerns with others who have been in their situation.

Even with support of doctors, family, and friends, receiving a rare disease diagnosis can feel insurmountable, but there are resources available that can help.

How are social workers able to help?

Being diagnosed with a rare disease or chronic health condition can be extremely taxing both physically and mentally. Many hospitals, doctor’s offices, and palliative care centers have social workers on their care teams to connect patients to information, services and resources in order to help them navigate through this difficult time. Social workers are there to help the patient and family identify barriers to treatment and achieve their overall wellness plan.

There are also oncology social workers who specifically specialize in assisting patients with a cancer diagnosis such as mesothelioma. “Oncology social workers provide information on resources, medical and insurance coverage, and how to talk to your family and the children in your lives about cancer,” Penny Damaskos, Director of the Social Work Department at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.”

Long term care for chronic conditions not only affects the physical and mental health of the patient, but it also impacts the mental wellness of their caregivers. Social Workers provide approximately 60% of all mental health services in the United States, and engaging in individual and/or group therapy should be considered as part of the patient’s holistic wellness plan. Telemental health services maybe also be an option for patients and family members who have financial and/or transportation barriers preventing them from engaging in traditional face to face therapy.

What are some social worker resources for those who have rare diseases?

Knowing where to look for information and resources during a crisis can be overwhelming especially if Google is your only ally. Although a staff social worker is the best access to information, it may take sometime before you are connected.

Social Work Helper has created a mobile app to help individuals and families find highly recommended resources and services in their local area ranging from mental health services, low cost prescription drugs and palliative care services to food banks and other social services. Download here!

Justin Trudeau: How One Person Can Positively Change The World


Political ideology is not something everyone thinks about, but for Social Workers it is infused in our profession whether we like it or not. As an eclectic profession whose founders borrowed from psychology, psychiatry, sociology, economics, and political science, we have a long history of working to ameliorate the impact of the political ideology of any given time.

Yet, before the creation of Social Work as a profession, we were born out of altruism and charity work.  Most of us learned about the creation of the modern-day social welfare state which formed as a result of the industrialization of society and the need for help for those who were in one way or another marginalized and/or alienated by the machines of “progress”.  

Progress and industrialization undeniably changed the individuals, families, communities, and nations of our ancestors.  As a social work undergraduate student in the early 1990’s, I wasn’t initially clear on the purpose and connectedness of learning about the history of western social welfare.  

But 25 years later, it is clear social work’s cultural roots continue to inform practice and theoretical understanding of the core difficulties helping professionals face in trying to ameliorate injustices on a daily basis.  Despite the continued modernization of society, helping professionals continue to try and mitigate the numerous costs and effects of working and living in a capitalist, technologically advanced, and alienated communities and nations.

A little over a year ago, Canada elected Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister, and the media is now filled with the typical polarized assessments of Trudeau and his governmental leadership. However, if I had to summarize the rhetoric surrounding the assessment of Trudeau, I would say the press and even the neoconservatives who previously governed Canada are shocked at how someone can unite a diverse Country and in many ways impacting the World. In short, the feeling from the left is that Justin Trudeau is too good to be true.  On the other hand, many of us Canadians believe Trudeau is a dream come true.

For the majority of the last couple of decades, Canada and many of its Provinces have been governed by Neoconservatives.  The traditional Progressive Conservative Party of Canada imploded many years ago and was replaced by a hybrid conservative party which was ideologically very neoconservative. Provinces and Canada as a whole under the neocons lost a lot of ground in terms of our social welfare policy and social innovation.  Neocons convinced people through propaganda that the poor and disadvantaged in Canada were that way because of some type of character flaw –  essentially lazy or weak or both.

While I don’t personally know Justin Trudeau, I feel like I do.  I suspect that the same is true for many Canadians. Justin reaches out to us via social media – imagine a Prime Minister on Facebook!  Leaders of government have never gone out of their way to seek the opinions of the common classes, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does.

Although he has inherited many societal problems such as Canada’s poor treatment of our First Nations, Trudeau is trying to correct the damage done to the fabric of Canadian society by past governments. What I see and feel as a Canadian and as a social worker is that Justin Trudeau intends to help our country become benevolent again. Trudeau knows adversity, and he knows the value and strength of diversity and inclusivity.

Under the current political climate, I have often mourned the loss of truly professional politicians. What I mean is political science and ideology were once legitimately held in high esteem by those who sought to figure out how to best govern a population. Political debate was about reason, ideology, rights, and freedoms. But politics has become about personal attacks and quite simply behaving inappropriately and using power and control to get a desired outcome. Our political system in the West at least is not the one envisioned and practiced by our ancestors.

I have high hopes for Justin Trudeau, and he has already accomplished a lot in a short period of time.  I am once again proud to be Canadian.

Four Social Work Practice Models

To best assist clients as they work to overcome whatever challenges they are facing, a social worker must employ proven techniques. Different clients have different needs, and each of the following techniques approaches social work from a slightly different perspective. Social workers can choose the technique that best resonates with them, and their clients, to offer the most effective assistance possible.

Task-Centered Practice (TCP)

Sometimes referred to as one of social work’s original “evidence-based” practice models, TCP has been around for nearly 40 years. At its core, TCP asks social workers and their clients to come up with specific, achievable goals in order to treat target problems.

Task-Centered Practice uses a four-step process to do this.

  • Define the problem
  • Establish goals
  • Work on goals
  • Review goals

Once the problem has been defined, the process guides the social worker and client to establish goals to deal with the problem, creating a contract between them. They then engage in several sessions over some short period of time during which the clients and social workers share the outcomes of their work toward these goals, and how well those outcomes have succeeded at overcoming the initial problem.

Narrative Approach

The narrative approach to social work involves helping clients to talk about their problems as if they were a story. This has several effects. First, it helps clients view the problem as external to themselves, rather than some intrinsic part of them. Second, it helps them see how the problem affects their lives both in negative and positive ways, and it can assist them in developing compassion for themselves and their own situations. Finally, it presents the opportunity for the social worker and client to come up with alternate stories as a way for the client to envision what his or her life might be like without the problem in question.

The primary benefit of the narrative approach is in helping the client gain distance and objectivity in regards to the problem. The narrative approach can also be used to guide clients into discerning the causality that led to the problem, which in turn can help inform their future behavior.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)

SFBT assumes that clients are the experts on their problems and that they are the makers, to some extent, of their own reality. The corollary to these assumptions is that clients already have the solutions to their problems and just need help recognizing them. SFBT then focuses on helping clients come up with their own solutions.

Much of this is done through hedging language, such as “I wonder what would happen if…”, and coping questions, such as asking clients how they manage to fulfill their daily obligations, even with the problem in question in the way. The “miracle question” is also a common technique, wherein the social worker asks a question like, “Suppose some miracle happened tomorrow and you no longer had this problem. What’s the first thing you’d notice?” By asking these questions in this way, the social worker and client work together to come up with achievable solutions and goals to help overcome or deal with problems.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

The basic principle of CBT is that our thoughts and feelings shape our reality and by changing how we perceive the world, we can change how we experience it. For example, a person with anxiety might believe that everything is going to go wrong during a given day. This preconception then leads this person to pay disproportionate attention to things that go wrong, which confirms the belief and strengthens it. CBT challenges the client to confront that belief, to try to see things in a different way and be more aware of how things are, rather than perceptions.

CBT techniques often incorporate meditation, mindfulness, relaxation and out-of-session homework, in addition to traditional talk therapy. Through these techniques, CBT teaches clients to take control of their own therapy and their own world, to be more present in the moment and to be more aware of the reality around them.

Becoming a Social Worker

At Campbellsville University, the online Master of Social Work provides students with the knowledge and field practice for careers assisting people in need. Campbellsville also offers an online Bachelor of Social Work where students gain foundational skills for the profession. Learn in a dynamic and engaging online environment that allows you to advance your career on your schedule.

Sanctuary for Families Appoints New Deputy Clinical Director

Teens, staff, and survivors from Sanctuary for Families joined together to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge for the Teen Domestic Violence Walk via Facebook

New York, NY – Jelaine Altino, LCSW, has been appointed Deputy Clinical Director of Residential Services at Sanctuary forFamilies, a leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gender violence, where she will manage Sanctuary’s transitional and crisis shelters, outreach initiatives, post-shelter care and clinical administrative matters.

In this new role, Ms. Altino will also serve as the Director of Sarah Burke House, New York’s first and largest transitional shelter for survivors of domestic violence with a state-of-the-art facility including group rooms, a library, a large and cheery children’s space and an outdoor play area. Sarah Burke House, located in the Bronx, houses 58 families.

Jelaine Altino, LCSW,

A veteran in the field, Ms. Altino has worked in the social services for over 25 years and has extensive experience in the development and implementation of large homeless family residences.

In her previous position at Sanctuary for Families, Altino served as the Director of Crisis Shelters, where she managed the Crisis Shelter Program to ensure fully functioning 24-hour safe and confidential shelter for approximately 60 domestic violence survivors and their families every year.  A resident of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, she holds a master’s degree from New York University and is a licensed clinician.

In her new role, Ms. Altino will administer all facets of Sanctuary’s residential program, including operations, programs and community relations.  She will ensure the provision of social services to the women and their children who live within the shelter program and for those who participate in the shelters’ post-shelter programs.

“At a time when approximately one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime, the work we do at Sanctuary for Families must continue to strengthen and expand.  We are confident in Jelaine’s expertise and applaud her commitment to providing life-saving services to our clients,” said Judge Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families.

“Every year, Sanctuary assists nearly 15,000 survivors and their children through direct services, while our education and awareness-building initiatives connect with more than 40,000 additional people.  I am thrilled to be named Deputy Clinical Director, and to continue Sanctuary’s important work,” said Altino.

Before joining Sanctuary for Families’ team in 2011, Ms. Altino served as the Clinical Coordinator of Career Network in the Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS).  There she played a critical role in the implementation of the supportive employment program within the mental health housing services, among many other responsibilities.

Ms. Altino succeeds Ted McCourtney, a valued member of Sanctuary for Families for more than 10 years.

Sanctuary for Families provides a wide range of support to survivors of gender violence including shelter, clinical, and legal services; children’s and youth programs; economic empowerment programming; as well as training and advocacy.

3 Simple Letters To Make Social Workers More Productive

Nate Crowell 3 Simple Letters

I have never heard a social worker say, “I don’t have enough to do. . . things are really slow right now, I get paid too much for the work I’m doing or I love that ‘Let’s make America great again’ guy.” Maybe you’ve had different experiences.

When I talk with a lot of social workers, the conversation sounds more like this:

  • “I have so much to do right now, I can’t possibly do it all.”
  • “I can’t believe I get paid this much.”
  • “American politics are depressing and tragic.”

If you are reading this article, you can probably relate more to the last three bullets, and I imagine you probably have at least one of these three things going on:

  1. You have a full or part-time job.
  2. You are caring for a child, children, or an aging parent or relative.
  3. You are in undergraduate or graduate school for social work.

I’m right there with you:

Like any good social worker, I’m fluent in TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms).

But somehow the acronym for this productivity approach had escaped me.

GTD, short for Getting Things Done.

GTD has been a game changer for the way I manage all the personal and professional commitments in my life.

In today’s article, I’m going to introduce you to GTD and how you can use it to be a more productive and less stressed social worker.

You ready? Let’s do this.

What is GTD?

When I say gettings things done, let me clarify what I’m not talking about:

larry cable guy skitch dropshadow

I’ve been known to yell a “Git-R-Done” in my southern drawl.

**(Interesting sidenote: if you’ve you have hip dysplasia, you may want to check out Larry’s foundation)**

But that is not the GTD I’m talking about. The type of GTD I want you to know about is this one:

david allen gtd skitch dropshadow

Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity is New York Times Bestselling book written by author and productivity consultant David Allen.

An updated version was published in 2015, so an obvious first step would be to buy the book or check it out at your library.

GTD is Allen’s influential text where he outlines his detailed methodology and approach for keeping priorities, to-do lists, projects, and calendar managed and your mind relaxed.

The GTD premise is this: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax.

Allen says this another way:

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” – David Allen

Allen suggests most stress you experience comes from inappropriately managed commitments.

Commitments to others and commitments to ourselves. When left undone, our commitments become “open loops” in our brains that yearn to be closed.  

I don’t know about you, but this was the story of my life.

Let’s do a quick mental exercise:

Step 1) Grab a paper and pen.

Step 2) Write down a project, problem, or situation that is at the front of your mind right now . . . the one thing you can’t quit thinking about.

For example:

  • You’re working in child protective services and just received a complicated new referral.
  • You’re a hospice social worker with a caseload of 95 patients.
  • You want to must take a week vacation before you have a full-blown meltdown.
  • You’re planning your daughter’s birthday party.

Whatever is dominating your psyche right now.

You got it? Good.

Step 3) Now, in one sentence clarify what a successful outcome would be for that project or situation. Get a clear mental picture of what finished would like. Don’t worry . . . I’ll wait on you.

You got it? Good.

“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.” – Elbert Hubbard

Step 4) What is the next physical action you can take to move the project or situation forward? Jot it down.

For me, it’s usually one of these:

  • Read, write, or send an email.
  • Make a phone call.
  • Type a note or report.
  • Research something online.
  • Meet in person with someone.

If you’re like me, the first time I did that exercise I had one overarching feeling afterward:


Now imagine if you had that feeling with all of the stuff floating around in your head right now:

So let’s look at how you can do that now.

Five Stages of GTD for Social Workers

GTD is based on five simple steps to help you apply order to your chaos.

1. Collect: Capture all tasks, priorities, ideas, commitments, projects. . . in short all the “stuff” in your inbox of life. And I do mean any and every input in your life: phone calls, emails, birthday parties, sports practice, ideas, errands, getting groceries. . . EVERYTHING. If you don’t, your mind starts to say to you, “don’t forget, don’t forget, don’t forget.” The first time you do this it may seem challenging and could take a long time. Do the work and drain your brain of all your stuff; trust me it is life changing.

2. Clarify: Next you need to process everything you captured. You start by asking yourself this question: Is it actionable? 

If the answer is yes and it takes less than two minutes, do it now.

This is called the “two-minute rule” and has been a huge win for me. If not doable in two minutes, delegate it (if possible), or add to a “next action” list (see point 3 below) to do when you can. If the answer is no and not actionable, you have three choices: trash it, incubate it (put on your calendar to review on a specific date), or file as reference.

3. Organize: Many actions won’t fit the two-minute rule. You need to park those next actions on the correct list or it goes back into your psyche. Allen refers to your groups of lists as “collection buckets”. Some examples of your collection bucket lists may include:

  • Calls to Make
  • Emails to Send
  • Errands to Run

If you’re not sure about an idea or project, put it on a Someday/Maybe List.

4. Review: Set a specific time to go through your collection buckets weekly and review. Review your lists to evaluate what didn’t get finished and review as often as you need to feel comfortable. Make the weekly review time sacred. My review time is Thursday at 2:00pm CST.

5. Do: Use your system to take appropriate action with confidence. When you can trust your system to capture and organize “stuff” in your inbox of life, then you can be confident that you are doing the right things at the right time.

It helps to see the workflow visually:

GTDcanonical dropshadow

Source Wikipedia: Getting Things Done

Here’s the deal:

The beauty of GTD is it doesn’t require fancy tools. You can do it with pen and paper.

My friend Josh does an incredible amount of GTD workflow with Post-It notes. I use a combination of pen and paper, smartphone, and a laptop.

Use whatever tools you have and work best for you, but be consistent.


Don’t worry, I get it: GTD is not for everyone. The approach works best when you stick to the principles. I’m not going to pretend I can summarize an entire 250+ page book in one article. The book connects a lot of the details, so again, I highly recommend reading it to get the full picture.

You may be on top of all your projects to-dos, and commitments in life. If so, by all means, keep doing what works. But if you’re like me, and you like a system to help you stay on track and manage all you have going on in life, give GTD a try.

Have you ever tried GTD? Leave a comment below and let me know.

The Law of Digital Attraction: How to be Personal, Authentic and a Warm Person Online

Social Workers often struggle with their visibility, and by nature many don’t like the spotlight and prefer to put others in front of the stage like our clients or our volunteers while we stay rather invisible.

This is a world-wide problem. When we are invisible, we say, “We are not worthy to be seen.” It’s like digging our own grave. And even this is not what we want. This is not how we feel. And in a way, we create our own problem.

Why are we doing this? Are we stupid? No, we are not! Social Workers are smart people. But there’s another phenomenon that’s keeping us imprisoned: we are modest. We are too modest! And many Social Workers are real introverts which may sometimes be to our detriment. Have you ever done the Myers & Briggs test to find out? Go here and you’ll know it in a second >>>

There’s nothing wrong with being modest. There’s a Dutch saying: “bescheidenheid siert de mens,” which translate to “modesty is a virtue.” But when modesty is causing invisibility, a problem arises.

IMG_5992There were times when invisibility was not an issue. Our jobs were respected. There was enough money. And no one discussed the results of our efforts. In times of prosperity, there is less need to be critical. But in times of scarcity, people start to ask critical questions, do we really need this? Do we really need Social Workers?

Times have changed. And with the internet being widely popular, our society is more transparent. The economic crisis caused money to be scarce. And stakeholders suddenly want to know more about us. They ask questions like:

•Why does this cost so much?

•What are the results of your job?

•How about your education and licenses?

These questions can cause social workers to crawl into a shell and don’t share the answers. It can cause them to retract to their offices and hide from the world. This is not the time to do so!!!

Social workers have to show up and advocate for their profession. They must be visible and crystal clear about their values. 

The law of attraction says like brings like and focusing on positive energy will attract positive thoughts and reactions. So social workers have to show up and be visible to attract clients, money, success and wealth. But first, you have to plant seeds, water and nurse it. It all starts with showing up in a way that you want others to respond.

I’m aware that this might be a huge shift for you. That this could be something you’ve been struggling with. And let’s be honest, we’re not going to solve this in one blog post. But one beneficial tip that could go a long way, start with your digital attraction. Most social workers are online. They log in to their Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest accounts. This is a great chance to boost visibility. Use this as a time to show your friendly faces, share posts about your passion, results of your job and share stories about happy clients.

Too often social workers who have profiles on different platforms, aren’t using them to their full potential. But for modest people like us, it’s the easiest way to start. Look at your profile picture! Is this you? Are you showing a friendly face? Does it look warm and professional? If social workers present themselves online as personal, authentic, warm and loving professionals, they will reap the benefits.

Global Social Work Agenda and Social Development


Recently, I had chance to watch “The Inequality Movie” narrated by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich where it outlines how the United States has one of the poorest distribution of wealth in the world. This was a great movie highlighting the need for change on the legislative and policy levels. Although the film focuses on inequality in the United States, it is no surprise this is an issue faced by many societies around the globe. In response to the inequality around the world, Social work has developed it’s first global response to the issues of inequality and the distribution of wealth.

F1.mediumIn the last four years, three lead organizations facilitated conversations on each developed continent to address the cause and solutions for those most effected by inequality. Through the leadership of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) and International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), social workers from around the wold are attempting to problem solve and develop actionable measures to address inequality.

The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development: First Report -promoting social and economic equalities at first appearance seems like a humongous effort, but it demonstrates the ability of the profession to works towards collective impact in coordination of efforts to improve outcomes for those we serve.

The report examines the unique conditions of each continent and how social workers presented their solutions. Policy changes and macro interventions were at the heart of this report.


Social Workers in this forum called upon the UN to develop regulations to curb this process. They also noted that there was a huge disconnect between social policy and those most affected by it.  Solutions need to be more locally driven.

Asia Pacific

Social work is getting more organized in this region focused on disaster relief, more direct engagement with consumer groups, and respect for indigenous peoples.


The primary problem is drastic cuts in programs since the economic crisis in 2011.  The group gathered evidence of how these programs being cut increased suicide, joblessness, and homeless rates. They have placed emphasis on health inequalities to treat these issues are more of a public health problem.

Latin America Caribbean

Politics in this region have often quieted more macro-efforts  however their  voice is getting louder. The focus has been on more community organization and involve clients in more decision making.

North America

The CSWE (Council on Social Work Education, USA), NASW (National association of social workers, USA) and Canadian Association of Social Workers developed several guidance documents to deal with issues of inequality and poverty.


As a result of these conversations the theme became “Asserting Your Voice“.  The Global Social Work agenda about Promoting Social and Economic equality will be based on the following values and actions:

•• The cornerstone of a thriving economy is a stable, well-resourced and educated community.

•• People are happier and wellbeing is better for all in more equitable societies.

•• When people have a collective voice, they are more able to advocate for their rights and participate in decision-making processes resulting in better wellbeing.

Social Work clearly have a lot to offer the world. The theme of inequality is at the heart of our practice. Problem solving inequality seemed like a grandiose project, but the global social work community broke it down into manageable steps.  I hope this inspires you to let your voice and the voice of the individuals you serve be heard.


Wilkinson, R. and Pickett, K. (2009) The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. Harmondsworth: Penguin

Common Job Interview Questions for Therapists


There are plenty of websites that focus on general interviewing skills and questions you may encounter in an interview, but here are a few questions specific to the mental health and social work field.

Despite the importance of interviewing, very few people practice their interview skills.  Most people do three things to prepare for an interview.  They start by developing a list of questions they think they will be asked.  They then prepare answers to those questions.  Finally, they research the company where they will interview. – The Importance of Interview Practice

1. What is your theoretical orientation?
With this question, you want to not only impress your potential employer with your knowledge, but also demonstrate how you will apply it to the specific position for which you are applying. You may have a background in several theoretical orientations that are excellent and evidence-based, but not evidence-based for the population for which you will work if given the position. Use your knowledge of theory and how you will apply it to this position to this specific population.

2. How do you stay organized and stay on top of documentation?
This question is very common for both bachelors and masters level positions. This question is asked because it is so easy to get disorganized and get behind on documentation requirements. You will need to give your potential employers examples of how you stay organized and stress your commitment to keeping on top of your documentation requirements.

3. What experience have you had with inappropriate boundaries and HIPAA violations and how have you corrected them?
Your potential employer wants to know that you are committed to following the regulations for PHI and that you are knowledgeable about these requirements. This might be the time to mention how you avoid dual relationships, deal overly friendly clients, or how you dealt with an ethical dilemma in the past.

4. How do you maintain the confidentiality of clients?
Your potential employer wants to know if you understand confidentiality laws and that you are committed to following these rules to protect your clients. Remember that in order to maintain confidentiality, it is never appropriate to speak with a client in public, speak with them on the phone in a public place, not keep confidential materials locked, carry confidential material on a thumb drive that does not meet HIPAA requirements, text or email clients or about clients without using encrypted email or initials, keep files in your car especially if they are not locked or if they are out in the open where they can be seen, etc. Let your potential employer know you are careful and mindful of the potential for breach of confidentiality.

5. How do you utilize your supervision time?
Supervisors want to know that you are willing to learn from your supervisor, who is your mentor while you are working toward your unrestricted license.

6. What experience have you had with crisis situations and how did you handle it?
When working in positions in which there is a high likelihood of clients with suicidality, suicidal ideation, self-injury, delusions, command hallucinations, etc, it is important for you to be able to keep a level head and be able to handle the situation calmly and in an organized manner. It is also important that you maintain the dignity and self-determination (as long as they aren’t in danger of hurting themselves or others) of the client in this situation.

7. What experience do you have with cultural competency and trauma-informed care?
Your potential employer wants to know if you are current with the research and that you will be able to treat your clients who come from a diverse background and who may have a history of trauma. Remember that bilingual does not mean bicultural. Let your employer know what populations you have worked with that have given you experience for the job for which you are interviewing.

8. What do you do for self care?
This seems like a really personal question and an odd question to ask in a job interview, but really for the mental health field it makes a lot of sense. Your potential employer wants to know what you do for yourself so that you don’t burn out in your career helping others. This would be a good opportunity to let them know about some appropriate hobbies you have or maybe throw in that you are into mindfulness or yoga, as these are things that are very supported by the mental health industry. Your potential employer wants you to work hard, but they don’t want you to work so hard that you are not taking care of yourself.

Are We Afraid of Developing Technology for the Elderly

I work for a hospice program providing palliative care which means we attend to the emotional and spiritual needs of terminally ill patients at an inpatient facility or at the patient’s home, and I see lots of people near the end of their life. Some of them are too lethargic to use an iPad, but many are not.

birdbeard-300x300Though all of my clients are dying, they are otherwise able to function normally for a person their age. Those who are not lethargic or in their last days often tell me how bored they are!

They speak about their inability to find anything that entertains them. So, I did a little research on the subject thinking “Well maybe a computer for older folks might help.” Turns out there are some, the options are not great, and I have yet to see one in an assisted living facility.

So why has Apple not attempted to make iPad adaptable to Seniors’ needs?

Personally, I want to be able to browse the internet when I am seventy, and I want to be able to keep up with the news when I have arthritis and can’t swipe properly. Below are some reasons why we don’t have it and why we are going to need it.

Generational Gap

The affordable personal computer came out in the 80’s which means those who grew up with computers are now just entering their early to mid 40’s. To everyone else, computers were new and confusing.  However, this doesn’t excuse the lack of technology for those who are older, but it does help to explain the lack of attention to this market.


In-fant-til-ize-a-tion: To treat or condescend as if still a young child

Would you let a baby play with your expensive iPhone? If the answer is yes, you have more money than I do. Most people are afraid their child will break their expensive toy. They are not wrong either most children will. We assume the same of older adults, that they will either break it out of frustration or will not be able to comprehend its use. Neither is true. There are many older adults who know how and enjoy using computers to entertain themselves


Likely the worst offender, we refuse to make these adaptations to technology because doing so would be admitting our own mortality. It would require acknowledgment that we will grow old and may eventually need these devices ourselves. Once we can admit we are growing older as a society more and more of these devices will be present.

That’s it for now, but I can’t wait for the Angry Bird’s senior edition to come out. In the comments below tell me about what you want on your computer when you are older!

Realities of What a Traumatised Teen Might Have on Their Resume

Recently on a cloudy August morning, I was simultaneously texting a young person to see if they were okay after collecting their exam results the day before, whilst also putting together a resume for another youngster who had been struggling due to being excluded from school a few years ago.

I found myself getting quite upset on their behalf as they are both bright, remarkable young people who have survived abuse and trauma many of us cannot imagine. Yet, the same survival instincts and coping strategies their brain and body had to learn in order to survive has been what ultimately made accessing their education a very real challenge.

As it turned out, the exam results were not good according to ‘national standards’ and the resume proved tricky given the permanent school exclusion and the lack of understanding from the young person about what had led up to it. So, whilst putting the resume together with her, I got the urge to write a ‘real’ resume, so we can all understand and value these young people’s achievements and their life and work experience.

Key Skills

Keeping myself and my brother and sisters safe

Comforting a distressed and depressed parent

Keeping things secret to protect my parents

Knowing when to run or keep very still

Knowing how to hide evidence of living with alcoholic parent

Being able to read signs that trouble is coming

Caring about and for someone who scares me daily

Working hard to keep opinions and feelings to myself

Work Experience

Regularly clearing up broken glass and spilt food

Keeping a scary parent happy and a scared parent safe

Repeatedly getting self and siblings to school every day despite being awake most of the night

Helping drunk parent to bed

Ringing emergency services and securing assistance

Regular storytelling to keep things hidden

Qualifications in:



Protecting others

Detection of mood changes

Cleaning and clearing

High levels of discretion

Ducking and diving

No one would want a resume like this, but it is very sadly the reality for too many young people in the care and child protection system. Yet, they still have hopes and dreams despite their traumatic early years.

As professionals and society, we need to understand their journey fully, see them and advocate for them in the context of their achievements, courage and resourcefulness. We must help them identify their qualities, skills and tenacity, and how it will serve them on their onward journey.


Therapy 101 Series: Lesson One is Knowing Your ABCs

If you’re a therapist, ideally, you have access to intervention training and a good clinical supervisor. What if you don’t? Many new therapists, social workers, and other psychosocial professionals enter the field without concrete psychotherapy intervention training, and most without sufficient experience to know  how to immediately implement it in every unique presenting situation. One may be an intern and are hopefully closely supervised and guided. Another may have earned an entire, relevant graduate degree without specifics on evidence-based psychotherapy practice included. There is hope, however, since this is where most of us started either way. Being a therapist may wrack your nerves at baseline.

Articles in the Therapy 101 series will focus on tips, tricks, and tools that can help get you started if you can’t get intervention training immediately and/or you can’t use clinical supervision to get you over the anxiety. What follows is only the beginning, and does not necessarily make you more qualified, magically clinically licensed, and does not offer specific intervention training.

Please note: This series is not intended to endorse practicing therapy without intervention training, licensure, or good clinical supervision, but rather empower social workers without the tools and resources to get needed training keep their therapy job, and get to the next, best practice step.

So where to start?

If you’re not new to providing therapy, imagine the last time a client said something that really threw you for a loop. You didn’t know what to say. You didn’t know what to do. Maybe you sputtered a bit. Maybe you were just silent. Maybe you communicated volumes with shocked nonverbal cues. Either way, you felt like there was a void or crisis you couldn’t adequately fill or resolve. If you are new to providing therapy, this may very well describe your day job! Congrats! It’s pretty exciting even with that semi-regular feeling of helplessness.

What is therapy anyway?

Therapy generally defined in the dictionary is “medical treatment of disease”, but since you are probably a social worker or social work student, we will assume you are more likely to be curious about psychotherapy, which we will refer to simply as “therapy” for the rest of this article, and which the National Alliance on Mental Illness defines:

Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy,” is when a person speaks with a trained therapist in a safe and confidential environment to explore and understand feelings and behaviors and gain coping skills.

That could very easily be you with or without specific intervention training. If you have a Master of Social Work degree, you are trained in Human Behavior in the Social Environment and Social Work Practice, at the very least. That me be little consolation to you as a new or inexperienced practitioner of therapy, so what do you do first when you don’t know what to do next?

Know Your ABCs

  • A for Affect – How do you feel? What emotions are you experiencing?
  • B for Behavior – What do you do? What actions do you take or have you taken?
  • C for Cognition – What are your thoughts? What are you thinking?

These are the most core questions you will ask any client/consumer and once you connect them to a trigger/context, you’re one hop, skip and jump away from many forms of therapy. They can come in any order. In fact, many psychotherapy styles specifically focus on thoughts, feelings, actions, and behavior so being comfortable asking these questions, or falling back to them when you’re not sure what else to say and the “strategic silence” you improvised or rationalized is going on a little too long.

Imagine a client describes something you have never heard about before, have never heard described to you by someone who experienced it, or is quite clearly traumatic. You may picture yourself as the perfect therapist knowing just the right question to ask to pop the clearly present keg of catharsis. Chances are, you will not have the perfect question in a situation like this. But you can always ask the following:

“What are your thoughts on that?”

“How do you feel about that?”

“What did you do beforehand? Afterwards? As it was happening?”

These three questions can (almost) literally be repeated into infinity:

What did you think and feel after you did that thing?

What thoughts and feelings led up to doing that thing?

What did you do/think/feel next?

How often do you think/feel/do that? When was the first time?

If you’re not careful, you can actually end up asking questions into infinity, because clients and everyone else tends to really enjoy when someone sincerely asks them questions about themselves. Stay tuned for a post on setting boundaries on your allotted time and everything else in a future post.

Also, don’t forget the other “A”

The above does not include the trigger or as Albert Ellis stated it “activating event.” The questions above will become less random and purely reactive to the client’s responses as you organize them around triggering events, people, situations, activities, and places.

Albert Ellis, who established Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, had his own ABC’s which can be similarly helpful if you’re first trying to wrap your head around how to provide therapy: A for Adversity or Activating event, B for Belief about the Adversity, and C for Consequences.

I know and am comfortable with my ABCs: What next?

A previous mentor once suggested picking a “home” theory and/or technique to fall back on when you’re not sure where to start. Different theories and techniques are certainly more effective with different client populations, so there’s nothing wrong with being a bit eclectic, but as a therapist you will be working with people who are their most overwhelmed, anxious confused, angry or sad. It’s likely you won’t always know where to start or what to say. This makes sense, because it’s likely for many new to therapy that they don’t know what the “right” thing to say is either, and they’re the premier expert on themselves.

There are many options with which to start:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy forms (rational emotive behavioral therapy, trauma focused CBT, etc.)
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Psychodynamic/psychoanalytic (many models including brief psychodynamic therapy)
  • Solution-Focused Therapy

Once you have decided what theory and intervention you want or need to start with, seek certified training. Some of the links above will take you official training for each style, which will ensure you are actually getting the training that has been studied to be effective for that style.

It is great and best practice to do the full training and receive certification in whatever theory’s intervention you select, and if that’s an option you should certainly do it. Many therapy programs do not reimburse your extensive training in a therapy discipline. If that’s the case, and you can afford a three day, single day, or couple hour training in an intervention style, you may be able to use techniques, if not the entire intervention. You could use open-ended questions, affirmations, reflective listening and summaries, but not be implementing the actual Motivational Interviewing intervention.

Therapy 101

Posts in the Therapy 101 series focus on tips, tricks, and tools that can help get you started as a social worker practicing as a therapist. They do not necessarily make one more qualified, a licensed, clinical therapist, and does not provide specific intervention training or information.

This series is not intended as an endorsement of practicing therapy without intervention training, licensure, or good clinical supervision, but rather empower social workers without the tools and resources to get needed training keep their therapy job, and get to the next, best practice step.


Opportunities for Social Workers Expand Under Obamacare

Millions of Americans breathed sighs of relief upon hearing the Supreme Court’s decision to leave in place subsidies in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the insured in states where the federal government created the marketplace exchanges. Six of the nine justices believed it was Congress’s intention to provide a healthcare system that would cover as many Americans as possible. Among those waiting to exhale were social workers who are a critical component in the reformation of the healthcare system under the ACA.

President Obama reacts to hearing news of the Supreme Court’s decision (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama celebrated the validation of his signature legislative accomplishment with his closest staff. Conservatives were appalled by the decision that—for all intents and purposes—institutionalizes a system they derisively named and now is commonly known as Obamacare.

Most Americans know the law for providing healthcare insurance for millions more Americans through affordable premiums and expanded Medicaid. On a larger scale, the ACA is transforming the entire way we look at health and healthcare.

While discussing social workers involvement in the transformation of the nation’s healthcare system with Dr. Darla Spence Coffey, President and CEO of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), she pointed out that since the enactment of the ACA the focus of health and healthcare has moved from individualized medical care to an integrated model that includes behavioral health as well as primary care while factoring in social determinants of health.

This is social work’s approach to healthy living that takes into account the biopsychosocial and spiritual dimensions of human existence. As a result of the new direction for healthcare, there is a greater appreciation of the value social workers bring to the process.

CSWE and the National Association of Social Work (NASW) are partnering on a number of initiatives that will expand social work in healthcare settings. One that includes the Society for Leadership Social Work Leadership in Health Care (SSWLHC) is an agreement with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to train Certified Application Counselors (CACs) to enroll the millions of Americans eligible for healthcare insurance who have not yet signed up. Another initiative funded by the New York Community Trust called Social Work HEALS: Social Work Healthcare Education and Leadership Scholars Program, provides scholarships for social work students at 10 universities.

Social workers are receiving training through the Health Resources Services Administration’s (HRSA) $26.7 million Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training for Professionals program. Sixty-two schools of social work received $19 million of the funding that will allow about one-fourth of accredited MSW programs to provide scholarships to 4000 students at $10,000 each over the next three years. Additionally, CSWE’s Gero-Ed Center presented a series of five webinars on opportunities for social workers under the Affordable Care Act.

Dr. Coffey says the shift to more integrated healthcare service delivery has spurred greater interest in inter-professional education. CSWE’s annual survey which will be released soon, found that 40 of the 223 masters programs that offer joint degrees reported having a MSW/MPH dual degree option. She reports the number of students specializing or pursuing a concentration in healthcare is on a steady incline. The health and integrated health field setting is the second most common setting after mental health. The health/integrative health and mental health setting for baccalaureate students is now the fifth most populated setting—moving up from sixth last year with 400 more students reported for that setting.

Social workers are regaining influence in discharge planning in hospitals as the determinants of health are understood to be more than a menu list of medications and activities. “There is a greater appreciation for social workers in hospital settings,” Dr. Coffey explained, “because hospitals will be penalized for excessive readmissions under the Affordable Care Act.” The ACA contains a provision that reduces Medicare payments to hospitals with higher readmission rates. Having social workers involved in case management and discharge planning should help reduce the number of readmissions.

The demand for medical or healthcare social workers has increased dramatically. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of social workers is expected to rise by 19 percent between 2012 and 2022, greater than the average of all other occupations combined. While BLS puts the average salary for social workers at $44,200 (2012) annually, they report the average annual salary for healthcare social workers as $53,590 (2013) with some states paying significantly higher wages.

Driving this demand is the aging of baby boomers and the expansion of healthcare by the ACA. Now that Obamacare will remain the law of the land, social workers will play a major role in the transformation of the nation’s healthcare.

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