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.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Line Between "Social Worker" and "Person"

For those who don’t know, I am the Program Director of a social service agency that serves low-income senior citizens in a housing community within Queens, New York (NYC-area). On a daily basis, I am surrounded by seniors who have raised their children, who have fought in our wars, who have spent 50+ years working, and all of whom have a small enough income to qualify for housing assistance.

Of course, I have my beliefs about that situation as a whole (which I’m sure most of you echo), but the question of this post is focused on the difficulties in drawing the line between work and self.

Although I live on a social worker’s salary (and have a social worker’s amount of student loan debt), I have chosen to live a life that sacrifices in some areas (roommates vs. living alone, for example). This allows me to have a bit of extra money sometimes. While I work as hard for my money as the next person, and while I fully believe in the freedom to spend as the earner so chooses, I sometimes feel guilty for spending on luxuries when I know how little my clients have. In some ways, it’s a wonderful encouragement; helping me to remain focused on contributing regularly to my retirement and savings accounts in hopes of procuring a more financially lucrative future for myself when I become a senior. In other ways though, I struggle with finding the line between nurturing myself in ways I have earned and feeling a sense of remorse when spending money on items I don’t really need.

Am I alone in this? If not, how do you all combat this juxtaposition?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Politics, Education, and You

I just read these articles




and it got me to thinking...

How many of our social work school programs teach up-to-date information on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population? How many of us take it upon ourselves to regularly update our education on the issues that are specific to this group?

It's estimated that 1/10 of the population falls into this category, so the odds are pretty tiny that a social worker could practice for 30+ years and never encounter an LGBT client or a client dealing with stress related to an LGBT family member or friend.

One of my favorite things to do is to provide trainings on LGBT issues, to help educate social workers and anyone who wants to learn to become more familiar with everything from the politics to the correct terminology. On socialworkchat.org, we sometimes discuss these issues as well and we know that NASW believes in treating all clients with an equal level of respect.

So I ask you, Reader, how much do you know? How prepared would you feel if a new client rapped on your office door and wanted to talk about these issues? More importantly, what are you doing to become better educated on a regular basis?

(I'm happy to help anyone with questions and will let you all know when our next socialworkchat.org chat topic will be focused on this population, so please ask your questions and contribute to the discussion by commenting below!)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Inspiration and Encouragement


This article came out recently and discusses a social worker, Sarah Cox, who is a member of a volunteer team seeking out teenage prostitutes to help them into a safer situation. (She's seen in photograph 8 in the article) Sarah and I completed our MSWs together at Barry University not so long ago.

Reading this and seeing how my classmate and friend continues the principles we were taught not only inspires me to do more, to do good, to do better, it also encourages me to look outside the population I work with daily and to consider other groups or people I may be able to aid.

What inspires and encourages you, Social Workers? What reminds you to step up or to speak out?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Social Work in Our Personal Lives

Does Social Work creep into your personal life? Isn't that a guarantee?!

As social workers, people with a skill-set for problem solving, for compromise, and for hearing what isn't being said, are we in a position to be better partners in romantic relationships? Are we better parents? Better friends to have?

Are we destined to always feel a tad frustrated that we're always the ones who remains calm in an argument with a loved one, the person who looks for the real reason behind the emotion, the person who hears the "I'm scared and trying to protect myself by pushing you away, please don't let me" in the awful words being said. I wonder if it's easier for social workers to date each other, if the communication is more open, if the partners are better at finding the truth behind the words.

Are we, by nature of the field we've chosen, more naturally introspective? Is that a requirement of being a truly great social worker? Are we more likely than non-social workers to journal, to see a therapist, or to find productive ways of dealing with our emotions?

Could being a social worker be detrimental to our personal lives? Could our skill-set cause us to spend too much time trying to improve on things that may not really need to be focused on? Can it lead us to becoming the martyrs or the doormats of the world? Can it cause us to be less able to walk away from a bad relationship because we see the potential in the abuser, the alcoholic, the unmotivated?

Where's the line between using one's clinical skills and self-preservation?

(Disclaimer: These are all questions I ponder and questions I can't wait to read comments on. But for those who know me, no worries, this isn't indicative of something going on in my own life) :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Save Our Senior Centers

I know that my posts come every Friday, however this is too important to wait...

There is a huge risk that Title XX funds will be eliminated in a vote next week, which financially support NYC area senior centers. If this happens, 105 SENIOR CENTERS WILL CLOSE and up to 10,000 older New Yorkers will lose their senior center.

We know that being active and having access to nutritious food allows seniors to live longer, healthier, happier lives, and this puts their lives in jeopardy. (To view a video of my senior center, which is at risk, and to see the faces of those who benefit from what senior centers provide, click here: http://www.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,741816640001_2041380,00.html)


NYCers- Please come out to a rally to support our seniors and to encourage our politicians to vote to protect the Title XX funds. The Rally takes place Friday 3/11, 12:30pm, at HANAC Ravenswood Senior Center 3435A 12th St. Astoria, NY 11106

For those not residing in the NYC area, please print and sign a letter of support -found at the link below- and list my office as your address. (3435A 12th St. Astoria, NY 11106)

For a list of what else you can do: http://cscs-ny.org/advocacy/titleXX-budget-cut-section.php

For a list of which senior centers will close if the money is eliminated:

***Please forward this as often as possible and invite others to attend and send letters to help spread the word.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kryss Shane, L.M.S.W.


I know I normally post the week's blog entry earlier in the day, but today I was busy... taking the LMSW test. And I passed.

So, while it may take me some time to change business cards, replace the nameplates on my office door and desk, and to get used to my new signature, I thought I'd share a few tips for those who are preparing for their own test date.

1. The practice test is seriously crucial; it prepares you to understand how it works and several of the questions are almost identical to the practice test, so seeing their reasoning behind the answer (and knowing whether you can correctly answer the question) is huge… and very reassuring to find a question you already know when you’re mid-test.

I took it a week before I was going to test to get a good feel of whether I was ready, almost ready, or nowhere near ready and needed to spend the $30 to reschedule. For me, it was better to use as a measuring tool than as a study guide.

2. Study guides recommend that a test-taker be prepared for questions that deal with what you should do first or next, given a specific scenario. The key word (first or next) is written in capitalized, bolded letters. Pay attention. Most of the time, it comes down to 2 totally wrong and 2 maybe right answers. Of the 2 that might be correct, they’re probably both things you’d do but because it asks for an order, you can normally figure out which of the 2 makes sense to do 1st vs. 2nd, which gives you your answer.

3. Pay attention to the depression commercials, there are expected to be a few questions on what drug is used to treat what illness, but they’re meant to be basic so you’ll likely know the answer if you’ve seen the commercials for Paxil and such.

4. Some of the questions have wordy scenarios (“a social worker at another agency where you used to work works now with a supervisor of your colleague at an agency where you are applying…”) It helps to give the people names to keep track of who’s whom (“Jen who works at ABC Corp. now works with Stacey, who supervises Amy at XYZ. I am applying to work at XYZ.”)

5. There may be a few questions where the answer choices contain words or diagnoses you might not recognize at all. Rather than freaking out, narrow it down based on eliminating the answer options that you do know and words you have heard of that are clearly not correct. If the only answer remaining is the mystery word, it's likely that you can trust it because it couldn’t be the other choices.

6. The strategy that worked for me was to go through the test and mark anything I wasn’t sure about and just move on. I didn’t waste any time on those or worry about whether I should know the answer or whatnot. I went through and answered the ones I was certain of and marked anything I wasn’t completely sure of. That way, I could knock out what I knew and feel like a rockstar as I went because I knew. It also lowered my stress about the marathon that is 170 questions. From there, I went through each of the marked questions, which accounted for about 30. It was far easier for me to answer these now since a) I’d gotten used to the way questions were worded on the ones I did know well and b) tackling 30ish questions felt far less daunting than 170. Then I repeated this over and over, leaving me with fewer questions each time and spending more time on each. That way, for the last few, instead of feeling frustrated, I could focus on how much time I had left and knowing that it was the last bit before I was totally done.

7. At the end, you have to answer a survey about your test center before they tell you whether you passed. The feeling in your stomach that makes you kind of want to vomit right before you click to find out is, I’m pretty sure, normal.

8. Make sure to read the print out that the test center gives you as you leave, it has important info on it about what you need to do next and it’s a record to keep until you have your license in a frame on your wall.

PS Another great tip or two? Check out the preparation chat sessions at socialworkchat.org so you can have a review/learning session in your own home and, if you're lucky enough to live near Susan Mankita in South FL, take her prep class! (Thanks to all who studied with me during chat sessions and to Susan for all of her prep assistance -among a million other things)