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Social Work

What Feelings Are In Your Heart: An Art Therapy Exercise for Kids

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Art therapy is an extension to talk therapy which may be helpful in the exploration of one’s feeling through visual expression in the absence of words. One of my favorite worksheets for kids that I’ve made is called “Feelings Heart”. The objective of this intervention is to allow children to develop vocabulary and identification of feelings to promote healthy expression of emotion. This exercise also serves as an open ended question about how the child views their world at the moment. It can also be used as an assessment tool and progress can be tracked by repeating the exercise and recording and comparing results.

Feelings Heart j.001

 

The way I use this exercise is to explain that everyone has feelings or emotions and this is normal. I explain that there is no right or wrong way to do this exercise. I help the child brainstorm and list the emotions they can think of and suggest some that may be missing from their lexicon. If a child is particularly hesitant, I may also do a feelings heart along with them or include a parent for modeling.

Using crayons, colored pencils, or markers, I have the child choose what colors match each emotion for them. For example, angry might be red or sad might be blue. Then the child colors in how much of their heart is feeling that emotion right now.

This information is then used as a conversation starter. I have also used this in family sessions as a way to promote communication of feelings.

Here’s a completed feelings heart that I’ve done as an example:

feelings heart completed

According to Artherapyjournal.org,

While children can often benefit from therapy, especially if they have mental health problems or disabilities, they may find it scary or difficult to properly express themselves in a clinical setting. This is particularly true for young children who generally have limited vocabularies and those that don’t speak the primary language in the country where they live. In addition to or in lieu of standard therapy methods, kids can use art to communicating their thoughts and feelings to the adults who want to help them deal with their life challenges.

Art therapy is a psychotherapy wherein patients use art in varying ways. The most common way is to escape from the stress of illness or disability. It is also used as a symbolic language. With the help of the therapist, the child deciphers the meaning of the picture and discusses the underlying issues that inspired the artwork. No matter how it is used, art therapy can be a creative outlet for children struggling with the circumstances of their lives. Read Full Article

 

Jessica Spence, MC, NCC, LPC, LCAS-R is the Mental Health and Wellness Staff Writer for Social Work Helper, and she is also a Licensed Professional Counselor with Tree of Life Counseling in Greensboro, North Carolina, US. She is a National Certified Counselor and is registered with the North Carolina Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board. She also participates in The Secular Therapist Project.

          
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News

Social Workers Call on White House, Congress to Fully Reopen Federal Government

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The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) calls on Congress and the White House to act to fully reopen the federal government immediately. Allowing the shutdown to continue is unconscionable.

We are currently at the 33-day mark for the partial shutdown of the federal government. This is the longest such shutdown in our nation’s history and it is exacting a heavy toll on many NASW members and the often financially fragile clients they serve.

Nearly 800,000 federal employees, including social workers and allied professionals, are negatively affected by the shutdown. Almost half of these federal employees have been furloughed without pay.

Many of our nation’s most vulnerable, including children and older adults, could lose essential safety net services if the government is not restored to full operations. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Rental Assistance program, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), among others, are unable to fulfill their missions.

SNAP participants have received their benefits even during the shutdown, but these are in jeopardy in future months.

Contracts for HUD’s programs for the lowest-income seniors, people living with disabilities, and families with children have not been renewed. This places nearly 70,000 program participants at risk of major rent hikes and possible evictions. Low-income Rural Housing Assistance participants were informed on January 11 that due to the federal shutdown they would have to pay the full (not discounted) rent by January 20 or face eviction. Normally, their rent is limited to 30 percent of their income.

TANF authorization expired in December. The federal government could not distribute $4.2 billion to states for the period January to March due to the shutdown. States are permitted to cover TANF expenses, but it is unclear how many will do so and for how long.

For more information about the impacts of the shutdown on the most vulnerable, please visit the following websites: Coalition on Human Needs, Food Research and Action Center, and National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

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Human Services

SWHELPER Announces Its Second Annual Global Social Welfare Digital Summit

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On March 19th thru March 22nd, SWHELPER will be hosting the Global Social Welfare Digital Summit which is an all online digital conference. You can attend the conference from any place in the world with an internet connection. The conference themes will focus on advocacy, trauma-informed care, self-care and healing, and solutions.

Are you feeling unmotivated or uninspired? Maybe you need some professional nourishment to broaden your perspective or add tools to your toolbox for future career growth. The Global Social Welfare Digital Summit aims to extend learning to a global classroom by allowing you to connect with helping professionals around the world. Additionally, you may be eligible for up 10 continuing education credits (CEUs).

Early Bird Tickets went on sale January 1st at 50% off the regular price. The Four Day Education Pass regularly $55 is available at $25. For government employees, the four day pass is $49 and $69 for private and nonprofit. All passes come with 1 year access to view all the sessions on your schedule.

Click here and Use coupon code 4DAYSWH to get an additional 10% off of early bird pricing. Early Bird pricing ends February 8th, 2019. You can also view the session agenda before purchasing your ticket.

Some of the presentations include:

  • Twitter – Jerrel Peterson, MSW: From Micro to Macro Leveraging Research, Data, and Ethics for Social Impact
  • Facebook – Avani Parehk: Tech and Movement Building…How to Hold Space in the Digital Age
  • USC – Melissa Singh: Trauma Informed Interview Coaching for Global Environments
  • Columbia University – Matthea Marquart: Helping the Helpers Online Self-Care Technique

Some of our sponsors include the International of Association for Schools of Social Work, International Council for Social Work, Network for Social Work Managers, and the National Organization for Human Services.

For more information visit, https://www.globalsocialwelfaresummit.com.

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Employment

10 Ways to Diversify Your Social Work Income in 2019

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Social Work is not a high-paid profession; we all know this and we didn’t get into this field because we want to become rich. But, if we can’t be comfortable taking care of our own financial commitments, we won’t be in the position to give ourselves fully to our clients when they need us, whether we’re providing case management, intensive counselling/therapy, or community advocacy.

The answer is for Social Workers to diversify their income streams. This is something lawyers, doctors, and other professionals learned years ago but that Social Workers are still struggling with. It sometimes seems antithetical to our mission to make money for ourselves – but there are ways to generate revenue while also providing value to our clients.

With the new year almost upon us, here are 10 ways you can diversify your income in 2019:

1. Open a Private Practice

The classic private practice is still an option. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) can bill Medicare in all 50 states.  For those who decide not to take insurance or to take self-pay clients, you can often charge north of $100 an hour for counselling or therapy – especially if you have a well-developed niche like working with bereavement, with men or with those who have HIV/AIDS.

To save money when starting out you may choose to use a home office, or even to see clients virtually via Skype. This can make therapy more accessible to your clients, but make sure you check with your licensing board first to avoid any issues with confidentiality.

2. Start Writing

It’s been said we all have a book inside of us, and you may too. But you don’t have to write a full book to make money with your writing. Launching a blog and monetizing it using Google Adsense or the Amazon Affiliate program can help you build your professional brand and demonstrate your expertise while generating you money for every click on your ads.

To get started, you can create a blog using the free WordPress.com platform, and then consider seeking out technical assistance to move your blog to its own domain and hosting to help you expand your audience.

3. Join a Speakers Bureau

A Speakers Bureau is an organization keeping a roster of speakers on contract so you can deliver keynote speeches or other talks for a fee. The Speakers Bureau helps connect the client and the speaker (yourself) together and negotiates a speaking fee you get paid. The Speakers Bureau takes a cut in exchange for the representation and you get the promotion.

If you don’t have the popularity, name recognition, or specific niche skills to join a Speakers Bureau yet, do some networking and reach out to conferences and other organizations proactively to get yourself some initial speaking engagements. If you’re lucky, some new business will come via word-of-mouth.

4. Create Mobile Phone Apps

This is the most technical of the answers here – but surprisingly not as difficult as you might think. Social Workers have a wealth of knowledge on mental health which they can apply towards creating apps that don’t exist yet to help people.

These can be targeted at professionals in the field, for example:

  • An app allowing you to complete risk assessments on a tablet and allows the information to be exported
  • A Social Worker’s Legal Reference with information on the laws relevant to child protection, suicide intervention and other laws relevant to Social Work in your state
  • A digital study guide helping social workers in training prepare for their licensure exam

Or targeted at clients:

  • A guided meditation app which helps clients calm down when they feel stressed
  • A digital crisis plan clients can complete and then refer to when they’re having trouble coping
  • A guide to local resources in your community like crisis lines, mental health agencies, and hospitals

These are highly complex topics. You can read up on the Swift programming language (used for Apple devices) or the Java programming language (for Android devices) or join up with a skilled programmer who lacks your specialized mental health knowledge.

5. Develop a Subscription Service

A subscription service is one way to help current or future clients to receive support. By paying you a small monthly fee, they can get check-ins with you on a regular basis between appointments. If they’re struggling, you can help connect them to crisis lines or other supports. For people who haven’t yet become clients, this may offer them an opportunity to build a relationship with you as they consider whether to book an appointment.

6. Launch an Online Course

Social Workers have skills in many areas which they can turn into online courses to teach others. For example, successful online courses have been launched teaching people how to have better relationships with their spouses or children, how to avoid getting angry or upset, and how to stay cool under pressure in a challenging workplace.

Providers like Udemy can help you build your course in exchange for a small fee taken out of each purchase.

7. Teach at Night

Universities and colleges frequently hire Masters or Doctoral-level Social Workers to teach classes as an Adjunct Professor. This can help you generate revenue but also to give back to the next generation and share what you’ve learned during the course of your practice.

8. Train Other Professionals

In addition to teaching in a school environment, you can make money by becoming an instructor for training programs. For $500 you can get certified to teach the Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Gatekeeper Course in suicide, while for $2,500 you can get Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) Training-for-Trainers (T4T) certified.

As a trainer, you can make between several hundred and several thousand dollars in a weekend leading a training course on a subject which you’re passionate about.

9. Become a Consultant

If you have an area of specialized knowledge such as program evaluation, fundraising, or experience building a nonprofit from the ground up then you may choose to become a nonprofit consultant. By helping clients avoid the same pitfalls you may have experienced yourself, you give them a great return on their investment.

Consultants also facilitate Strategic Planning sessions or Board of Directors Training and this may be an option for yourself as well.

10. Build a Video Library

If you don’t like to write but you do want to get your message out there – consider building a video library on YouTube. These videos, when you have a high-enough following, can be monetized and you’ll get ad revenue before each video plays.

Conclusion

There are a lot of ways Social Workers and other helping professions can use their experience and training to help others while also diversifying your own revenue and helping to build your personal brand. It’s important that you focus on the elements that make the most sense for your passions and level of technical expertise but also which makes sense with your desired client-base. Good luck!

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Human Rights

Increased Inmate Deaths and the Lack of Accountability

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Sandra Bland

One year after the death of Sandra Bland on July 13, 2015, the Huffington Post compiled a list of persons who died in jail. In the following twelve month period, there were 811 deaths, most of which were the result of suicide. In fact, 253 detainees committed suicide in the year after Sandra’s death, constituting 31% of all fatalities.

This heartbreaking statistic highlights a historical pattern; one of racial targeting and classism, poor management, health care oversight, and corruption. The criminal justice system fails our communities by allowing preventable inmate deaths while targeting the most vulnerable communities. These alarming trends in our prisons, jails, and juvenile detention centers have us wondering, why?

Experts examining suicide and death in our nation’s jails reveal disturbing trends across the most vulnerable communities. A recent New York Times article, for example, Preventing Suicide in America’s Jails, reveals in 2013 a total of 967 jail inmates died while detained in local corrections facilities. This statistic continued to grow the year after, even though the inmate population declined by 4%. Other authors and researchers cite poor management, inadequate health care, and perfunctory oversight as major culprits. Although these issues go mostly unresolved, they continue to institute a pattern of death and suicide.

Reasons Behind Inmate Deaths

Many jail fatalities are overlooked and underreported. Generally, jails are not required to disclose fatalities occurring within their facility to their community. Even the most egregious incarceration centers can go unnoticed by the community at large when they aren’t being held accountable for deaths occurring in their own institutions.

Different from prison, jail stays are shorter (approximately 21 days) and most of the inmates have yet to be sentenced. Jail inmates could also be under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or have mental or physical health issues that correctional staff might be unaware of. For these reasons, many jail suicides occur in the first week of incarceration as indicated below by the Prison Policy Initiative.

According to KyCIR’s reports in Kentucky’s Grant County Jail, rampant corruption, employee incompetence, ineffective staff preparation, and inmate maltreatment were all present in the jail’s culture. In an environment where accountability is minimal, inmates are more likely to be disregarded and mistreated, as is the case of Danny Ray Burden at Grant County Jail.

“Danny Ray Burden fell asleep mid-sentence as he was booked into the Grant County jail, toppling over on the bench where he sat. Prodded awake, he coughed, shook and pleaded for emergency medical attention. A blood test showed that the 41-year-old diabetic badly needed insulin. Instead of assisting with proper medical standards and medications, deputies put Danny Ray in a cell, where he was found unconscious just three hours after he had entered the jail on March 27, 2013. He died a week later.”

Reflecting on the data, including the specific cases of Sandra Bland and Danny Ray Burden, who is at risk for jail fatality?

Vulnerable groups at correctional facilities include:

  • Persons booked for lesser crimes
  • Those without financial resources who are unable to post bond
  • Communities of color who are profiled by police and often receive harsher punishments
  • Sex offenders and those accused of vicious crimes

Why Death by Suicide?

For inmates whose lives were previously difficult, a brief jail sentence could prove traumatic. The most at-risk inmates may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms, a lack of access to prescriptions, and/or low availability of medical or mental health services. An inmate with a troubled emotional, mental, or physical state of inmates suffers even more while imprisoned, especially when our system neglects their basic needs.

Correctional facility detainees may have anxiety about unemployment, broken relationships, loss of residence, healthcare, or the inability to care for children. Without financial resources, these issues are compounded by the inability to pay a bond. And for black inmates, especially those in the 18 to 29-year age range, accruing considerably greater bail amounts than their peers in other racial groups isn’t uncommon.

Suicide Prevention Strategies for Correctional Facilities

In Matti Hautala’s article In the Shadow of Sandra Bland: The Importance of Mental Health Screening in U.S. Jails, the author examines the multifaceted environment of our American jail system and garners evidence-based recommendations for inmate suicide prevention.

The author suggests the initial entry procedure, including the preliminary psychological evaluation, acclimates the inmate to the criminal justice environment. This experience could have a lasting impact on the immediate future for that inmate; although alternative programs such as parole, probation, or mental health courts are recommended. Community supervision, rather than incarceration, is especially effective for those with psychological or mental health issues. Further recommendations include:

  • Psychological evaluation instruments and qualified evaluators
  • Proper procedures regarding medical records and treatment
  • Limiting the use of restraint and isolation
  • Frequent visual follow-ups, every 15 minutes, with suicidal or homicidal inmates.

The gross lack of culpability by local and state corrections personnel and increasing inmate deaths calls for advocacy and reform. Social workers, helping professionals, and concerned citizens must engage our political and community leaders in evidence-based dialogue and program development to reduce the number of inmate fatalities in our nation’s correctional facilities.

By engaging with our local communities and representatives, together, we can hold our system accountable. We can force our jail and correctional facilities to say “mea culpa!” and reform our policies to prevent tragic and unnecessary death.

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Disability

Four Ways Neurodiversity Holds the Key to the Future of Special Education

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For ages, special education has been developing on its own, together with the development of ordinary education. It emphasizes disorders and the ways special education students are lacking compared to an average student. Those who have a noticeable dysfunction have even been mocked for their lack of focus or skill to learn something – sometimes by teachers too.

And even though the history of the special education has been filled with inappropriate names and terms, the future is bright. More and more scientists and educators are turning to the better ways of conducting special education – and one of those ways is related to neurodiversity.

This term was first used by journalist Harvey Blume in the early 1990s and means that autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other special-needs conditions are the part of normal variations in the human population. And here is how neurodiversity changes the entire special education system.

1. In theory.

Special education as it is at the moment regards disability categories as something originated from biology, genetics, and neurology. Neurodiversity, on the other hand, focuses on the advantages these disabilities have to offer – they use this to explain why these genes are still here today and why people are still born with disabilities.

This new concept examines how a person with a disability can be lacking in some aspects but even more advanced than regular people in some. During the past decade, university programs such as London School of Economics’ Dyslexia and Neurodiversity program, or the College of William & Mary’s Neurodiversity Initiative are aimed to support neurodiverse students and create positive acceptance and niches for them.

Annabel Gray, neurodiversity specialist and educator at Origin Writings states, “Regarding a person as completely disabled is fundamentally wrong. Whereas a person with, for example, autism can be lacking in some areas of life, on a job which requires focus and attention to detail, this same person would do outstandingly well.”

2. The focus.

The focus of special education so far has been solely on assessing deficits and how to go about educating students based on these deficits. However, neurodiversity relies more on assessing the strengths, talents, abilities, and interests of disabled students. It is a strength-based approach where an educator would use a series of tests to discover the student’s abilities and teach them how to use them to tackle their everyday and educational challenges.

What is so great about neurodiversity approach is it gives the students all the necessary tools to cope with their day to day life by focusing on what they do best. This way the students are not feeling left out and they know there are some things where they can thrive in.

3. Workarounds.

Workarounds are another way the neurodiversity improves the disabled students’ lives. What it essentially means is the educators are supposed to find ways for students to experience and learn which does not include their disabilities. For example, students with ADHD could be allowed to use special tools like stability balls or standing desks in order to focus on studying.

This could be expanded to create an individual education plan for each student based on what they need and in which environment they thrive the most. Placing those students in the traditional learning environment will help them to feel “lesser human being” or a burden.

Lila Christie, an educator at 1Day2Write and WriteMyX confirms: “Workarounds are some of the best ways of teaching the disabled students. We implement this strategy of putting each student in an environment that will allow them to learn without anything in the way. It not only works but also gives students the satisfaction and comfort.”

4. How to communicate with students.

While most special education programs still teach children about their disabilities, neurodiversity teaches them about the value of variation and being different. It teaches them how their brain works and how the environment affects it, how to use their skills to the maximum etc. This kind of mindset can help them realize the growth mindset can improve their performance.

To get the brain to its full potential it is important to get the students exercising in various ways, each suited to their own abilities – writing exercises are excellent ways to improve brain power and it can be easily accessible to students through tools such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Windows Speech Recognition, etc.

Conclusion

Neurodiversity is a great new approach to special education. It gives students opportunities and new ways of understanding themselves. This is a fresh take on educating those with disabilities – in fact, it relies more on their abilities and strengths. It can give students confidence and tools to be successful and do more later in their lives.

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Serving Consciously

Service Through the Written Word

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When was the last time you read a book or an article and felt like it had been written just for you? In fact, you may have caught yourself wondering if your picture was going to be on the next page as an example of someone who has lived what the author has described. I know this has happened to me more than once in my lifetime.

I have been blessed many times through a book I’ve read. Sure, we often search out reading material that is relevant to our experience or curiosity at the time, so we might come to the experience already expecting ~ or at least hoping ~ we will be enlightened, validated, or soothed on some level. And it is a gift when we find exactly what we are looking for ~ most of the time!

I believe many authors ~ especially in the world of self-help and spirituality ~ seek to serve others through their writing. In fact, I have read comments and heard interviews with well-known writers who have expressed their writing practice has first and foremost been a self-transformative process ~ one that may have begun without any consideration as to whether it would serve others or not.

The Creative Energy of Writing

Writing is a creative endeavor whether we are journaling our private thoughts, developing professional materials, or writing the next best seller in creative fiction. When writing engages us on a holistic level, it becomes a channel through which we can express our deepest musings and lay bare our souls.

As Service Providers, we are often engaged in a variety of writing activities. In the traditional sense, we write case notes and progress reports outlining the details of our engagement with the people we are serving. We may write program reviews and other more business-like materials as an element of our position. Whether providing service traditionally or alternatively, we may have opportunities to write for publication or research dissemination over the course of our careers. There are countless opportunities to express ourselves through the written word.

How we choose to do this with the energy to serve others is important. The words we choose, the dedication to writing clear observations as opposed to personal opinion, the desire to demonstrate respect for privacy and compassion for the individual who will read it are all aspects of how we serve others through our writing.

Journaling can be one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal as Service Providers ~ tools can not only provide a safe space for the venting of emotions and challenges, but also a tool that helps guide you to the deepest parts of who you are and how you show up in service to others.

Through creative writing, we can lose ourselves in a private world of fantasy and make-believe that may have some similarity to our real-life experiences. Through this practice, we can create our own alternative endings ~ the ones that light up our hearts and spark our inspiration.

Join Us

On this episode of Serving Consciously, I welcomed my guest, Joyce Sweeney.

Joyce Sweeney is the author of fourteen novels for young adults and two chapbooks of poetry. Her first novel, “Center Line”, won the First Annual Delacorte Press Prize for an Outstanding Young Adult Novel. Many of her books appear on the American Library Association’s Best Books List and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. Her novel “Shadow” won the Nevada State Reading Award in 1997. Her novel “Players” was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Sports Book and by Working Mother magazine as a Top Ten for Tweens. Her novel, “Headlock” (Holt 2006), won a Silver Medal in the 2006 Florida Book Awards and was chosen by the American Library Association as a Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.

Her first chapbook of poems, “IMPERMANENCE”, was published in 2008 by Finishing Line Press. Her second chapbook, entitled “WAKE UP”, was released in February.

Joyce has also been a writing teacher and coach for 25 years, beginning with teaching five-week classes for the Florida Center for the Book, moving to ongoing invitation-only workshops and finally to online classes which reach students nationally and internationally. Developing strong bonds with the students, critiquing and instructing is her hallmark. She believes writers need emotional support as well as strong, craft-based teaching if they are to make the long, arduous, but very worthwhile journey to traditional publication. At this writing, 57 of Joyce’s students have successfully made this journey and obtained traditional publishing contracts.

In 2011, Joyce and a coalition of local playwrights, directors, and actors formed The Playgroup LLC, which conducts workshops for playwrights and actors and produces original works by local playwrights. The Playgroup currently presents three productions a year at their home base, The Willow Theatre in Boca Raton.

Joyce lives in Coral Springs with her husband, Jay and caffeine-addicted cat, Nitro. You can learn more about Joyce and her services on her website.

How has the service of writing touched your life?

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