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.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Life Goals Lists (aka Bucket Lists)

Some of you may have noticed that I didn’t blog last Friday. It wasn’t because I had posted something on Wednesday but rather because I was doing something I never thought I’d be able to, crossing off one very specific item from my life goals list.

I’m not sure if it’s the “type A” side of me or if it’s the Piscean dreamer, but I’ve had this list (which some of you may call your “bucket list”) since I was about 5 years old. I’ve never differentiated what goes on there since any of them, at the time of their addition, felt lofty and potentially impossible. In a way, this list is a bit of a time-line of who I was/am.

For example, one item on my list is “memorize my locker combination” which I likely added around 6th grade when, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember those 3 numbers. check Later additions include, “be accepted to college,” “get into my #1 choice for grad school,” and “finish a semester with a 4.0 GPA.” check, check, and during my final semester of grad school, finally, check Some items happened completely out of order too, like “speak at my graduation,” something I added at age 17, when I realized how many of my favorite sitcom characters were commencement speakers on their shows. Having graduated high school at age 18, that one seemed impossible, yet I was lucky enough to have achieved it at age 27 when I finished my MSW.

One of the earliest items I'd written on my list was to see my favorite musician perform. It’s been on my list for 21 years and, considering that he had retired in 2000, seemed to be another impossible goal to attain. Even when he signed a performance deal in Las Vegas in 2009, I was acutely aware of just how far away Vegas was from my apartment.

Last week, I crossed that goal off my list.

Yes, exactly 1 week ago, I was sitting 6th row, center, watching my musical idol perform. To be honest, it was incredibly therapeutic. There I was, listening to songs that had spanned much of my life, songs that had played in the background of my heartbreaks and travels, my friendships and experiences. Not only did I get to relive those moments, I did so while considering that there may well be other seemingly impossible goals that, well, aren’t so impossible at all.

I could write for days about the trip and about every second of the performance, but what I’m more interested in is hearing from YOU! What is on your life goals list? What items have you crossed off? Which are you halfway through?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Does Anyone Else Feel This Way (Or Have Ideas For Those Who Do)?

Dear Abby advised LONELY IN A CROWD, a holistic health practitioner who feels lonely and needs someone to talk to about his own feelings. 

He says, in part:
DEAR ABBY: I have been a holistic health-care and healing practitioner for 10 years. I love my work and being in a helping profession. I'm the one who is always there for everyone who needs help. A good portion of my work is as a counselor, teacher and shoulder to cry on.

My problem? I'm lonely. I have multiple health issues and struggle with money. I need someone to talk with about me and how I'm feeling. Whenever I find a counselor, member of the clergy, teacher, etc., I end up being the counselor, teacher, listener, whatever.

Read the rest at:


and let me know your thoughts.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Just wondering what you all are hearing/feeling about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, which are taking place throughout the USA and the world.

(for those needing a quick overview: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_Wall_Street )
The NASW President has written the following letter on this topic:

10 Things Social Workers Have In Common With The Occupy Wall Street Protests
Robert Schachter, DSW, LMSW
Executive Director
National Association of Social Workers,
New York City Chapter (NASW-NYC)
October 11, 2011

A lot has been going on three blocks from the NASW-NYC office at Zuccotti Park, located at Liberty Street between Broadway and Church Street, since the middle of September. At its core it is an encampment of protesters but has also become a destination for support demonstrations, including a recent 10,000 person march of union members, community groups and ordinary New Yorkers.

Inspired by the Wall St. protest, similar encampments have been springing up in cities throughout the country including San Francisco, Washington, DC, Seattle and Los Angeles. It is common for the media to ignore demonstrations, even when they are massive, so it is noteworthy that they are paying attention.

According to the website, occupywallstreet.org, Occupy Wall Street “is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions.” As stated on the site, “The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1% . . .”.

What exactly the objectives are may depend on who is being quoted or what news coverage is reflecting, but it is reasonable to discern that the demonstrators are determined to hold financial institutions and corporations, as symbolized by the phrase “Wall Street”, accountable for the current financial crisis that began in 2008 and the growing economic inequality in the United States.

While there are likely to be differences about the best way to seek change, there can be little doubt that many Americans, and New Yorkers more specifically, share the concerns of the protesters about the impact of the economy on individuals and families, the lack of accountability for the crisis, and the prospect of any beneficial change in the near future.

For social workers, the worsening economic conditions of the past three years have only added to the significant challenges faced by the communities that the profession serves. Whether explicitly articulated by Occupy Wall Street or not, the following 10 points reflect common realities that the protesters, New York’s communities, and the social work profession have collectively experienced:

1. The country has been experiencing the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression in the 1930s, caused in part by extraordinarily risky investment practices that put major financial institutions at risk of collapse, with world-wide impact.

2. The federal government has been far more willing to bail out the financial sector than to help low income people and a vulnerable middle class. Attempts to tighten regulations on risky investments are being resisted by the financial sector and by many in Congress.

3. The United States has engaged in two enormously costly wars in the Middle East without raising revenues to pay for them. The total cost over the past 10 years has been estimated at $2.5 trillion.

4. The President and Congress agreed to cut $2.5 trillion in programs over the next 10 years, with more cuts being considered. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other important social programs are being targeted.

5. We now have the highest poverty level in US since 1993, with 46.2 million people living in poverty in 2010, or 15% of the population. This is up from 11.7% in 2000. In New York City the poverty rate is 20%.

6. Unemployment in the US is over 9%, and this number is much higher when those who have given up looking for a job is considered. Joblessness wreaks havoc on individuals and families, both economically and in terms of mental health, including the experience of sustained stress and depression.

7. New York’s lawmakers passed a budget in the Spring that includes $10 billion in cuts that fall disproportionately on low income communities, including a $2.85 billion reduction in Medicaid. Proposals to raise significant revenues through taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers were rejected.

8. Nationally, health insurance premiums rose 9% in the past year in spite of passing a national health reform law, a law that assures higher profits for insurance companies. The number of uninsured is now 49.9 million.

9. The principles of democracy are undermined by the influence of corporate wealth in the political arena, resulting in both major parties being dependent on their contributions, making the possibility of significant change less likely to come from electoral politics (as important as this is). That the US Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of unlimited corporate spending on campaigns is further evidence of the threat to electoral democracy.

10. The social work profession itself is at risk as services and social work jobs are cutback for communities that are suffering from the current economic conditions. Given the current state of politics today, with a focus on cutbacks with no new revenue, the social work profession will be significantly challenged while the need for services increases.

The bottom line for us is that the real needs of people are not being addressed. And there are a lot more issues involved than what has been enumerated above.
There come times when protest and demonstrations play a critical role when other institutions are not up to the task, as evidenced by what has been unfolding across the Middle East. If Occupy Wall Street continues, it can prove to be a valuable moment for our future.

Social workers will make their own decisions as to whether to join with the protesters and the demonstrations that may continue. Demonstrations carry certain risks, even when the intention is to be peaceful, but those risks are often necessary to seek change.

Please weigh in with what you see happening with these issues and Occupy Wall Street.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dual Degrees

I've been hearing lately that more and more social workers either return to school for a degree in another field or earn dual degrees (such as MSW/JD program -Masters of Social Work and Law degrees).

Any thoughts or experiences with such? Do you think this is awful because we may lose social workers to other fields or does the social work background enhance those other fields? Have YOU done this?