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40 Years - Chapter One - Take The Client Where They're At

40 years and counting #1

I realized the other day that on October 31, 2008, I will have been a Psychiatric Social Worker for 40 years. I am thinking to myself - "What have I learned in all that time that might be valuable for me to reflect on and remember and might be of value to others?" So I decided to write a book. And part of that book writing effort I am going to put on this blog. I entitleing the book, at least for now, 40 years and counting. (If you have better titles let me know.) So, if you want to follow the progress as I write and comment on this work in progress check in regularly for the latest installment.

Here is installment number 1

On October 31, 2008, I have been a Psychiatric Social Worker for 40 years. I started my career at Kings Park State Hospital in Kings Park, New York half way out on Long Island just over the Nassau County line into Suffolk county on Long Island’s north shore. I started on October 31, 1968 as a Psychiatric Social Worker Trainee II.

My supervisor Fred Ironside asked me where I wanted to work and I told them on the Child and Adolescent unit and they put me in the geriatric building with 900 geriatric patients and where they hadn’t had any Social Worker services in over 1 ½ years.

I learned many things there but most of all to love and respect old folks.

This book is about what I have learned as a Psychiatric Social Worker over 40 years of practice. It is going to be a lot of very personal things. You may find a lot here that you disagree with or even find offensive and that’s OK. Part of practicing any profession is not what you learned in your professional training or what the textbooks say, but how you applied what you learned and made it work for you and made sense out of it.

Social Work is a very personal profession. A good Social Worker uses his/her personality as  their primary professional tool. Most of Social Work depends on developing a helping relationship with individuals, couples, families, groups, communities and representatives of all kinds of organizations, companies, agencies and governmental entities.

The key to good Social Work is the effectiveness of one’s interpersonal skills which depends on one’s emotional intelligence. It also helps if one is smart. It also depends on humility and knowing what one doesn’t know and being able to recognize one’s ignorance, incompetence, and asking for help. Without that humility you are dead in the water and would do better in some other profession or career.

I have taught over the years at various colleges as an Adjunct Professor teaching Social Work courses, Psychology, and Health Education. I have worked over my career as a clinician as well as a manager and administrator and so I bring the experience of several life times to my teaching. Angela and I were married 35 years and have 9 children so I always worked at least three jobs often 60 – 80 hours per week and sometimes more. With all this experience, I find myself saying things to my students like “I know this is what it says in the textbook, but let me tell you how it really works.” Of similarily, “I know this is how it says in the textbook to do it, but this is what it really looks like and feels like as you try to bring those principles, ethics, practices into application.”

Am I cynical? Yes. Do I passionately believe in the field and the value of the profession? Yes and more so with every passing year. I have been abundantly blessed to have entered into the profession of Social Work and my life has been richly benefited both professionally and personally. To be able to earn my living and get paid for something I love doing and passionately believe in is the greatest life any human being could have.

So, enjoy my stories of my 40 years of experience. Hopefully you will find them entertaining, maybe enlightening, and above all else, it is my wish that you find them useful as you go about living your own life and finding your way in the world.

I will be tagging these entries as "40 years"

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