As I finish up my first year in graduate school, I am reflecting on the reasons I chose to enroll in a social work program. First, I want to change to world, and I want to help as many people as I can. I know I cannot change everything, but I can motivate and empower other people to help to make a bigger impact.
My passion for social justice drove me into the Masters of Social Work (MSW) program, and I was ready to set forth and learn how to save the world. Now during my whole time at school, I get ask the same questions over and over again about why I am studying social work and the reasons behind it. Once I tell people I am getting my MSW, they certainly jump to conclusions about my career path.
- You are not going to make any money.
- You are going to take kids away from bad parents.
- Oh! I know a social worker at my school. She’s great!
- Good for you; that job is so challenging.
- Why are you learning about fundraising if you are going to be a social worker? They are so different.
- What population do you want to work with?
- What therapy method do you prefer?
- Why do you want to help poor people?
- You need to get licensed right away.
- You should memorize the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM)
- Take a course on Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for sure
- You need to focus and take as many advanced clinical courses as possible.
Sadly, I have heard all of these statements and more related ones too many times. The frustrating part about these comments is not the fact people are trying to help or learn more about my career, but they are judging my career choice before I get a chance to explain my reasoning. The worst part about this is that people who call themselves social workers are the most judgmental. They believe in their definition of social work, and what I want to do is not it.
They in some ways diminish my motivation for social change and push more towards therapy. Even the educational requirements are steering away from social justice initiatives and focusing on therapy. Is that what social work is now? Cheap therapy? If you would like more information on the subject, there is a book called Unfaithful Angels: How Social Work has Abandoned its Mission by Harry Spect and Mark E. Courtney. The book is a great read for any social worker out there trying to evaluate their roles as a social worker in society.
As many of you know, the definition of social work is vast and expanding. You can read about the great things and various aspects of the social work profession/opportunities in other articles on this website. It is not just counseling or adhering to the needs of individuals, but much more. This can include anything related to helping individuals including but not limited to social policy analysis, program development, community assessment, advocacy, community organizing, development, organizational management, case management, research, social change and more, not just counseling.
With this being said, it is sad that many schools and professionals are telling students every day their focus should be on therapy and clinical intervention. I do not discredit the wonderful work clinical social workers do because it is necessary. I just want the opportunity for my fellow students and I to mold our own definitions of social work based on our personal and communal factors. We should focus our education, internships, jobs based on what we like to do and what we feel is necessary. We certainly would not tell clients what to do based on our own perceived conceptions of their identity, then we should not do it for social work students.
For clarification, I do plan on being a social worker, but I am going to be MY definition of a social worker. I plan to be a nonprofit executive leading human service agencies. I am getting my MSW to understand the perspective of oppressed individuals, and how my good friend says it, put the human back in human services.
If a label is part of my identity, I will dictate what I believe the label means. In order for you to know, you need to ask me instead of judging based on your preconceived notions. Rather than tell me what to do, maybe you could offer your advice or assistance if I ask for it. Our future is determined by our decisions, and we students need to learn that for ourselves. Honestly, you’d be surprised how much we know already, and you could learn more about us if you do not jump to conclusions.
The Long Pathway: Journey to Understanding Mental Health
Written by: Iman, Introduction: Rosie, Billy, Anisah, and Fahim – Haverstock School Journalism Project
*Editor’s Note: UK Social Work Helper Staff Writer, Chey Heap, and myself worked with the Haverstock School Journalism Project to support budding young journalists in their pursuit to better understand mental health issues. The below work was written by an 11 year old student, and I am proud Social Work Helper was able to be apart of this effort. The article is a collection of interviews and collaboration with her classmates. They did an outstanding job of exploring and processing a complicated issue like mental health. – Deona Hooper MSW
A recent survey stated that 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year. In the Journalism project, we choose the subjects we want to write articles on and because I personally had an experience that traumatised me when my brothers had been separated from me. It really felt like I had been deprived of the things that gave me the most pleasure, and it put me into a deep depression. No one could understand the way I felt.
If we had physical problems, people would have noticed, but the inner ones are not noticed. If you break your arm everyone knows, but there is a stigma attached to mental health problems.
I wanted to know about how psychologists and other professionals work and understand how they can help us so that young people who are experiencing mental issues will know they are not alone and can get help.
The article is titled ‘The Long Pathway’ because it takes a long time to train to become a helping professional and to research and understand different conditions, but it is also a long pathway to healing.
So, I decided to ask my classmates who have experience with mental health issues including depression and bereavement to help me with this project.
One person, we shall call him Stephen told me: His Nan had a very rare disease that messed with her head. It made her see things. “When we went to visit her she saw everybody but me! It made me feel sad and left out but no one knew how I felt”.
Another a girl called Sarah told me: “My Mum and my Nan were fighting and they stopped talking to each other and when I wanted to go out with my Nan my Mum wouldn’t let me that made me very upset and angry”.
I then wanted to know what it was like to train, work and research in the field of mental health.
Journey Through a Psychologist and her Trainees Eyes
Dr Gursharam Lotey, a young person’s clinical psychologist and Jasmeet Thandi a trainee clinical psychologist agreed to an interview at Camden Open Mind – an organisation that reaches out to young people and helps them deal with life situations including bereavement, bullying or educational issues. It gave us a unique insight into their work.
Jasmeet: I am constantly thinking about feelings. You are talking to someone you have never met before and you are asking:
“How do you feel?”
And it is probably a bit much. So we get beautiful Russian dolls, name each doll that we have made: happy doll, sad doll Yesterday, one girl put a sad doll inside a happy doll. So, on the surface, she seemed happy but on the inside, she was feeling a bit sad.
Q: Do you use your own experiences to connect with patients?
Gursharan: It is really important to be aware of your past to be able to connect with a young person
Jasmeet: A patient will tell you something and I think:
‘Ah I have experienced that…’
Q: How do you deal with the unexpected?
Gursharan: The best thing to do is to not panic and to just think why that person might be sharing something with you that might be a bit out of the ordinary; and to be able to hold this inside, even if you are thinking: Wow! This is not what I expected!
Q: Do you ever get scared of your patients?
Gursharan: Not scared as such… I worry about them but our aim is for them to go home and be safe.
Jasmeet: Not scared I worked on a unit where adolescents had committed crimes. Once you get to know someone you can really understand the context and why things have happened. Understanding them is really important.
Q: What challenges do you face in your work?
Gurshuram: If something really complex and serious is happening within a young person’s family and you have several families like that all on the same day it can be quite challenging to not think about it when you go home.
Gursharam and Jasmeet explained training to be a clinical psychologist was like embarking on a long pathway and it felt like we were given a fascinating peek into what that entails.
Thank you, Gursharan and Jasmeet. We think Camden Open Mind gives an invaluable service.
Journey Through a Psychology Lecturer’s Eyes
Tony Cline is a now a psychology lecturer and trains child psychologists. When Tony was twenty-one, he found himself in a room with a new computer, but this computer was gigantic. It took up a WHOLE room! He punched information into cards and it would take three weeks to process. Unfortunately, when Tony made a mistake, it would take another three weeks to process. Since then, technology is the biggest change he has seen.
Tony specialises in research as well as teaching and over the years has worked on subjects like dyslexia and has organised dyslexia conferences. Elective mutism was another subject in which he took an interest. This is where a young person can talk but only with some people. People thirty years ago often thought the child was just being naughty, but Tony’s analysis showed they weren’t, they genuinely had problems.
An example would be a pupil refusing to communicate with their teacher. The review of research highlighted a treatment called ‘Fading In’ where the child talks to the people they are comfortable with. For example, while the child is talking to their parents about something very interesting, the teacher appears at the door but does not enter. The second time, the teacher might come in but not stay, and on the third time the teacher stays and joins in the conversation. There is now a new name for the condition is called Selective Mutism.
I asked about the difficulties his students face to become trained professionals:
Tony: One of the things students do is they carefully train and prepare for an interview and then despite what they have been told about the child before they meet them, there is sometimes much more than is said.
I wondered whether there are difficult situations whilst he was teaching.
Tony: Yes. You can sometimes see that it is making someone in the group think about their own lives and they have had a bad time; for example noticing when a student is being hit by a subject like bereavement because they have experienced it.
Although Tony has years of experience, he still says to his new students: “I am going to learn something from you.”
I learnt lots from everyone I met on this fascinating journey and hope this article will be the first of many that shed light on an area that is difficult for people to understand.
Thank you. Gurasharam, Jasmeet, Tony, and classmates.
Brief description of the project:
The Haverstock School Journalism Project exists to give underprivileged young people a very high standard of journalism training and proper assignments.
The students have interviewed all sorts of people from a lady firefighter to Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey, recently they contribute to the University College London, Amnesty Journal, and provide regular articles for On the Hill Magazine. The project is funded by the John Lyon’s Charity.
The Project Co-ordinator
Danielle Corgan worked in broadcast documentaries for over a decade, mainly with the award-winning documentary company Goldhawk Media Ltd. She helps the students research their subjects, prepare interview questions, organises the interviews, and write and structure print quality articles. She strongly believes every child can write well and encourages them to develop their own voice. She has worked with youngsters with Special Education Needs and Looked After children on the project with very good results.
Social Workers Can Now Learn Medicare Online and Earn Continuing Education Hours
Social workers can now earn continuing education hours while they learn Medicare at their own pace, anytime and anywhere with Medicare Interactive (MI) Pro, an online Medicare curriculum powered by the Medicare Rights Center.
MI Pro provides the information that social workers and health professionals need to become “Medicare smart,” so they can help their clients navigate the Medicare maze. The online curriculum contains information on the rules and regulations regarding Medicare—from Medicare coverage options and coordination of benefits to the appeals process and assistance programs for clients with low incomes.
“For over 25 years, social workers have been turning to Medicare Rights’ helpline counselors for clear and concise information on how to help their clients access the affordable health care that they need,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “Now social workers can enroll in MI Pro and learn—or enhance—their Medicare knowledge at their convenience while fulfilling their continuing education requirements.”
The Medicare Rights Center, a national nonprofit consumer service organization, is the largest and most reliable independent source of Medicare information and assistance in the United States.
Licensed Master Social Workers and Licensed Clinical Social Workers can earn continuing education hours when they successfully complete any of the four MI Pro programs: Medicare Basics; Medicare Coverage Rules; Medicare Appeals and Penalties; and Medicare, Other Insurance, and Assistance Programs. Each MI Pro program is comprised of four to five course modules.
All MI Pro programs are active for one year following registration.
MI Pro courses are nominally priced. Additionally, social workers who purchase all four programs at once will receive an automatic 20 percent discount.
Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.
Available only through the Medicare Rights Center, Medicare Interactive (MI) is a free and independent online reference tool that provides easy-to-understand answers to questions posed by people with Medicare, their families and caregivers, and the professionals serving them. Find your Medicare answers at www.medicareinteractive.org.
Cyber Safety for Today’s Teens
It goes without saying that technology has fully inserted itself into most aspects of our day-to-day lives—and children and teens are no exception. Children are learning to swipe smartphones before they learn to turn the pages of a book, and many of them are swiping on their own devices. For parents, the endless exploration of technology raises many concerns for children and teens.
Parents need not only be aware of what their children are getting from the constant connectivity, but also what they may be putting out into the digital universe. Yes, the horror stories surrounding teens and technology are vast and worrisome, but these hard-learned lessons can provide other families with safe cyber practices that will make all the difference for security and peace of mind.
Limit screen time, especially for youngsters. We may have grown to rely on our devices in the adult world. I, myself, use my phone for everything from navigation, to paying bills, to making grocery lists—the list (no pun intended) goes on and on. However, for children, it is essential their screen time be limited and purposeful. Use screen time as an occasional reward, but make sure that everyone is clear about how long they can use the device and for what purposes.
If you feel that your child must have a phone for staying in touch, consider phones or plans that provide programmed options for usage. For instance, there are ways to program children’s phones so that they are only able to call or text a set list of phone numbers. You can also set restrictions on how data is used or what websites or apps your children can access. The key here is to keep your children’s circle small when introducing them to their first phone—the stricter the parameters, the more peace of mind parents will have about children using technology.
Be aware of your child or teen’s social media presence. Keep a very watchful eye on your child’s use of social media and limit access to devices when concerns arise. You should insist on access to or control over your teen’s social media accounts whenever necessary. If you suspect that your child is cyberbullying or being cyberbullied, take the phone.
Keep records of any evidence that your child is being bullied, including text messages, screenshots, profile posts or photos, etc. Schools today are cracking down on bullying; however, parents must present documented, repeated instances of harassment or bullying before school officials will intervene.
Along the same lines as cyberbullying concerns, parents should monitor social media accounts to ensure that children are protecting themselves and being digitally responsible. Teens today are so concerned with obtaining “likes” and gaining “followers” that they lose sight of how vulnerable they may be making themselves online. Explain to them that, even with privacy settings, nothing is 100% private when it comes to posts, comments, photos, etc.
Make sure that teens are not using personal information, like a full name, specific address, current location, or school. Social media sites make it extremely easy to tag one’s location, but too often teens fail to consider who might be keeping tabs on their location. Gently, but firmly, remind your children that not everyone on social media is who they claim to be.
Talk about the permanency of our digital footprints. This means once posted online ownership no longer belongs to you. Even deleted material is not ever fully erased if even one person has captured, saved, or screenshotted the post.
Not only can deleted posts resurface, people can edit or manipulate the photo or post in any way they choose. Teach children and teens to think carefully before making a post.
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