We at ACSWA offer a few of our board members’ reminiscences about what led them to go to graduate school to become a clinical social worker. We invite you to share your own memories on the same subject—we will be continuing this theme through April, which we hereby designate as Clinical Social Work Month! As a BCD practitioner, you are a member of online ACSWA , the national community of clinical social workers—please feel free to check in on your ACSWA connection, including daily Clinical Twitter (tweets on behavioral health topics), blog, e-books, e-newsletter, specialty certifications at ABE, position statements and testimony, and many features that will be coming soon.

ACSWA: Could you share with us some rewarding moments from your clinical social work career?

Prof. Jim Drisko, Smith College School of Social Work; Northampton, Massachusetts:

Several different things come to mind as memorable in my career.  In order to support people in making the changes they see as necessary to improve their lives, one must try to be real and open, making real connections at a place of deep feelings. It is sometimes hard, but I’ve learned lot about myself as I’ve been useful to others. By chance I met a former child client who opened his wallet and showed me a worn picture of the two of us taken in our last session 10 years ago. I was honored–and humbled. Doing social action supporting social justice has also been rewarding–from working for state social work licensure, to advocating for mental health coverage in insurance, to being part of the Women’s March in January. As a supervisor and teacher, I also get to help other learn and grow–and do better work. Many parts of a clinical social work career are rewarding, and each of us can shape where we choose to put our efforts.

Martin Waters, V. P., Beacon Health Options; Boulder, Colorado:

As a clinical social worker, I’ve found that every year is full of highlights. And the highlights have been diverse. The clinical social work degree opened a wide range of opportunities within the field of helping sciences. My activities this past year bear witness. Working for a national managed behavioral health company, my product development team has been engaged in macro-level clinical design work for a variety of programs, some national, some state-specific:

  • Establishing Housing First programs for individuals dealing with both severe mental illness (SMI) and chronic homelessness
  • Modeling a child system of care for Medicaid covered at-risk youth and their families
  • Designing community based, high intensity care coordination programs for individuals with complex SMI and medical conditions to address a fragmented health delivery system
  • Constructing collaborative care support services for primary care physicians delivering behavioral health services within their practices
  • Creating a program model for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities that ensures community inclusion and self determination.

Turn the clock back 20 years: I was providing psychotherapy services to children, families, couples, and adults. And I was learning treatment modalities, experimenting with mixed modalities, and witnessing many individuals tap their internal resources to recover, grow and thrive. Working with a young girl traumatically abused by her father, I was able to help her slowly become more confident in her range of expression and assertiveness. These positive changes began to show up during play therapy, and, more importantly, were reported by her guardian grandmother as happening at home and school.

Turn the clock back 30 years: I was working in a core urban community mental health system and providing case management care for individuals with SMI conditions.  Hearing the agency medical director declare that one of the young males on my caseload would likely suicide before age 25 due to his profound paranoid schizophrenia, I helped this young man get involved in sheltered employment doing landscaping. Meeting him by chance 10 years after the dire prediction, I found him employed cleaning office buildings, and very excited and happy to meet someone he knew from his past.



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