Welcome to The New Social Worker's Blog

The New Social Worker is the quarterly magazine for social work students and recent graduates, focusing on social work careers for those new to the profession. This blog is a companion to the free online magazine at http://www.socialworker.com.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Is it possible?

I've been stuck all day.

This morning I had to wait for almost an hour at the doctor's office. Then, once I got into the exam room, I had to wait another 20 minutes. After I saw the doctor, I waited a good 15 minutes to get my samples, prescriptions, etc.

Now, I am at my field practicum and I have been waiting for my instructor. For an hour and a half.

Interesting. I did not bring any school books with me. I don't have work from my day job that I can do away from the office. I've got nothing to do and no where to go, and I can hardly stand it!

This semester I have been running from one place to another, trying to get everything done at home, school, field practice and work. Finding an extra moment for me has been a challenge. I have had to schedule things I never imaged I would have to schedule.

Yesterday, during meditation, I dreamed about having nothing to do; about not being on a schedule; about not paying attention to anything but my breath. Am I getting an instant universal gift? And has it been divinely orchestrated so that I have nothing to do.

Hmmm .... guess I'll have to re-learn how to goof off when all this is said and done, huh?

--Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Midnight Madness

My first day back in the saddle and I'm up past midnight finishing a paper for my 9 a.m. class. Jeepers creepers; it's time to rest these peepers!

I decided to check my email before I went to bed and I saw two responses to my last blog. I am not kidding when I write this: I got teary-eyed.

Thank you so much.

Even if you are the only people who read my blog and find it helpful, I feel like I am doing something that matters.

And isn't it the social worker who most often says: "If I can help just one person, it will have been worth it?"

You've just made it worth it for me today.

--Ms. T. J.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Back to the Grad School Grind

Ah, yes...

It's late Saturday night and for all intents and purposes, Spring Break is pretty much over for me. I have to write a book review, a paper, and a bio-psycho-social assignment by Tuesday(!?) so it's time to dig in -- again.

I have to say: graduate school is not for everyone. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it, right?

This has been my toughest semester yet, and I know it's because I went from being a part-time student/full-time employee to being a full-time student/full-time employee.

I went to my doctor over break and confessed to her that I have become an insomniac. She prescribed some medicine that is non-narcotic, and that will help me to fall asleep. I have been averaging about four hours of sleep per night all semester.

Sometimes I feel like all I do is whine in this blog. I am trying to share my experience (strength and hope) with you. It is called "An MSW Student's Life," after all!

I am also digging your feedback -- be it your dreams for the future, or your reminiscences of the past. Your words help me to "trudge the happy road" ahead.

I am having some really amazing moments. I hope that shines through, alongside the struggles that I write about.

My acupuncturist, a Chinese man, shared with me that in his homeland, once people reach 40 years of age, they can no longer attend college or university. He said the demand is too high for education. Americans are fortunate to be able to have lifelong educational freedom. I am very grateful.

This blog is a ranting platform for me. It has saved my sanity on more than one occasion. I hope it serves to help those of you who are in the same boat with me, and those of you who plan to attend graduate school in the future.

--Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Social Work 2.0

Folks, there is a new, special section of the Web 2.0 Wikipedia page devoted to Social Work 2.0. As an additional bonus the sw 2.0 column is specifically mentioned! Gosh, information sure travels fast, doesn't it? Special thanks to Jonathan B. Singer, LCSW, the producer of the Social Work Podcast, for informing me of this resource.

Here is a sample of the article on Social Work 2.0:

Social work 2.0 represents the use of interactive web technologies in the delivery of social services....In March, 2009, the New Social Worker Online started a technology blog called Social Work 2.0. Social workers use web 2.0 technologies for clinical practice, community organizing and administrative and policy functions...Community organizers uses interactive web technologies to rally constituents and identify services in traditionally disadvantaged neighborhoods. For example, the National Association of Social Workers provides updates on legislative actions via Twitter.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Technology & Social Work

When wearing my researcher hat, I spend a lot of time looking at how social workers can enhance their work or further their nonprofit missions by using technology. In fact, I recently completed a study in which I examined how older adults and Baby Boomers use the Internet for health information. I'm fascinated by the possibilities that some of these technologies afford us and excited to write about them in my upcoming column, sw 2.0, for the New Social Worker Magazine.

What is all this talk about the web 2.0 or even 3.0? In a nutshell it refers to using technology to interact with one another and share information rather than just reading information passively from a web site. For even more info I would check out this helpful article.

I'd love to hear how technology has helped (or hindered!) your work as a social worker. Are there technologies or web sites that really help you? Is there a technology you wish would be developed to help you? Or have you used technologies like SocialWorkchat.org, Facebook, or Twitter to connect with other social workers? I'd also love to hear your suggestions for future columns!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A mountain high

We are in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains; the north Georgia mountains, to be more exact. It is spring break, and I so need this time off -- and away.

We were having dinner at a quaint Italian eatery in the downtown area of this small mountain village. I gazed out the window at the storefronts, and suddenly I had a rush of emotion. I am going to be a social worker. I am becoming a social worker. I am a social worker.

I don't know what brought these feelings on, exactly.

I had noticed a woman, a White woman, walking down the sidewalk holding the hand of a Black boy. He appeared to be 6-8 years old. They came into the restaurant. The child was quite rambunctious. She spoke to him as if he was her dog: "Sit," she commanded. "Quiet!"

I have a dog, and I am kinder to her than she was respectful of this child.

I found myself imagining how I might counsel them if they came to me for family therapy. It then occurred to me that this is what I will be doing, what I must do -- with the rest of my life.

A surge of joy filled my heart, or where ever such surges go!

This break is turning out to be just what I needed. Being terminally busy leaves no time for reflection. Reflecting on the reasons why I am doing all this work is important.

I'm getting it.

--Ms. T. J.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My first one-on-one session

Today my field instructor threw me into the water and said, "Swim!"

I may have done something that more closely resembled dog paddling as I performed my very first one-on-one session ever. I thought this would happen differently. I thought it would begin after Spring Break. I thought I'd be able to plan ahead.

So much for thinking!

Even though "my client" arrived 45 minutes early, I was able to jot down his treatment goals and objectives before I sat down with him.

Without going into details, I think (there I go again) it went fairly well. My field instructor knows what she is doing and she knows me well enough after 8 weeks to trust me with this most important aspect of the learning experience.

I tried to relax, and guide the session, and, most of all, listen. I also prayed before I met with him, which can't hurt!

What a day. What a life. What a fabulous career choice I have made.

--Ms. T. J.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


You may have noticed a new name under "Contributors" on this blog. Karen Zgoda, who is a social work doctoral candidate at Boston College, will be writing our new SW 2.0 column and will be posting here on tech topics for social workers. I am very happy to have Karen on board! Look for her postings soon.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

One more mid-term and then...Spring Break!

I totally get why we have Spring Break. If we didn't, we'd all be having Spring breakdowns. I really thought I was going to have one a couple weeks ago, but I got through it, and now I have a renewed sense of accomplishment.

In case you didn't notice, I stopped blogging pretty much the whole month of February. I felt spent and didn't have an extra word to write.

Suddenly, with one week to go before we are released for Spring Break, I have energy! I forgot what that felt like.

Since I'm taking you along for the ride, here, I guess I should tell you my mid-term grades. I am a 4.0 student -- which is amazing given that my undergraduate studies were not quite as successful. I was a bit of a party girl back in the day, and I often put socializing ahead of classes and assignments. Luckily I was just smart enough to pull that off. You can't really do that in grad school, I don't think. At least I can't.

So, my mid-term grades are 2 As and 2 Bs. The Bs were disappointing until the professors confessed that they always give Bs at mid-term, no matter what. I don't like this, but it's good for my perfectionist soul. I need to sit with a B and see how it feels. It may even push me, though I really don't think I need shoving at this point. Too close to the edge!

What I think has buoyed my spirit are my vacation plans. My husband, a wine and spirits columnist, has planned a get-a-way in the north Georgia mountains where he plans to take a group next year for a wine-tasting retreat. My plans? I will be renting a bicycle, hiking in the woods, partaking of the offerings of the Pura Vida spa, and checking out the downtown area's shops, bistros and museums. There is also a kangaroo farm in the area so we will definitely be taking a day trip to check that out!

I hope all of you students have plans to relax and do something for YOU! Also, I know that all social workers need breaks. Our field is not for the faint of heart, so we have to to refuel our souls-- regularly. Spring would be a perfect time for you to take a week off, if you can.

I'll try to check in with you while I'm in the mountains -- to let you know what it's like in kangaroo country.

--Ms. T. J.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Powerlessness 101

An interesting thing happened at field practicum yesterday.

My field instructor has been working with siblings in one-on-one sessions. I have been allowed to observe all of her sessions, with the permission of the clients and their guardians. It has been a highlight of my field experience. Watching the siblings progress and getting to know them has been a privilege and an amazing learning experience.

Yesterday the guardian requested not only a new therapist, but also tried to dictate the length of sessions and demanded to know what the siblings are sharing in sessions. In addition to all of these complaints, the guardian is denying the intern (me) access to the sessions.

I was disappointed. I have processed the situation somewhat, and I have learned more about powerlessness. There is nothing I can do about it. I have to practice acceptance.

My field instructor's director did not allow the guardian to switch therapists for the siblings, nor are they allowing the guardian to dictate the length of the sessions. The guardian will not be granted the right to know everything the siblings share in therapy sessions. However, they must honor the request to keep the intern (me) out.

Apparently the guardian has a history of interrupting the service of the sibling's treatment as a diversion tactic. The siblings have been severely abused and have difficulty trusting people. As soon as they begin to open up, the guardian acts out and introduces roadblocks to the treatment process.

I believe I brought something to the sessions. I was compassionate and caring. I listened, laughed and was moved by their experiences. I am able to let go with understanding. I am powerless over people, places and things... and guardians.

--Ms. T. J.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

50 Ways to Use a Social Work Degree

As part of Social Work Month, NASW has unveiled a new site on 50 ways to use a social work degree. The site, "One Profession, Countless Possibilities," profiles 50 different social workers and shows the diversity of the profession. Click the title above to go to the "50 Ways" site.

And if you want to read MORE stories of social workers, I have edited or co-edited three books of first person stories from social work practice:

Days in the Lives of Social Workers: 54 Professionals Tell "Real-Life" Stories From Social Work Practice (3rd Edition)

More Days in the Lives of Social Workers: 35 "Real-Life" Stories of Advocacy, Outreach, and Other Intriguing Roles in Social Work Practice

Days in the Lives of Gerontological Social Workers: 44 Professionals Tell Stories From "Real-Life" Social Work Practice With Older Adults (with Dara Bergel Bourassa)

These three books represent stories of 133 social workers in different settings and different roles!

You can check them out at http://www.daysinthelivesofsocialworkers.com and/or order at http://www.socialworker.com/home/blogsection/Publications/

There is a special price for the 3-book set.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Social Work Month--Day 2--Special Offer

I hope you are having a great Social Work Month! Did you know that the publisher of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER and this blog also publishes books about social work and nonprofit management? To introduce you to our books and products, we are giving you a 10% discount this month! Go to http://www.socialworker.com/home/blogsection/Publications/ and put the items in your cart. Then when you check out, use Coupon Code SWMONTH09. Besides books, you can also order our popular "I Am a Social Worker" buttons on that page, too! The 10% discount will be subtracted from your whole order.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Happy Social Work Month!

Today is the first day of National Social Work Month 2009! Give a big pat on the back to social workers, social work students, and social work educators everywhere! Let us know what you are doing to celebrate. If you send me a photo of your Social Work Month celebration, I might even put it in the next issue of The New Social Worker. Send photos to linda.grobman@paonline.com.