I work at Sheppard Pratt in Towson MD, on a new inpatient adolescent crisis stabilization unit that is co-ed and will be a specialty unit for those with mood disorders. It is a privilege to be a part of opening up a new unit that is a direct response to the current ongoing pandemic and the corresponding unfortunate trend of skyrocketing psychiatric hospitalizations of adolescents.
My weekly responsibilities include: completing psychosocial assessments for new admissions, coordinating with the families of each patient, rounding with the psychiatrist daily, independently running family meetings with a focus on individualized treatment goals and safety planning, participating as part of an interdisciplinary treatment team daily, providing skill-building and supportive therapy as able, and running therapeutic groups that focus on skill-building in communication and time management as well as introducing CBT concepts.
Messiah’s BSW program, if anything, over-prepared me for graduate studies, and I know I am not an anomaly in this. Each friend of mine that also graduated from Messiah and pursued graduate school would say similarly. I found that my clinical and writing skills were considerably attuned to complete my graduate work at a consistently high level of competence. There are certain assignments and projects completed at the undergraduate level that made assignments and requirements for graduate school seem like a breeze. I would highly encourage anyone who feels this field is where they want to be long-term to not be intimidated academically away from graduate school because you will be more than prepared.
Messiah’s program does an excellent job at not only developing the knowledge base of students but also strengthening the character and will of those pursuing a field that can often be challenging. When I think back to what prepared me I would certainly cite the clinical skills I gained in working with individuals/families from Professor George, gathering understanding in running groups from Dr. Sietz, and overall varied experiences throughout the programming. I would cite my interactive learning experiences, including my volunteering and internship abroad in Jinja, Uganda, as being fundamental to developing myself into a more well-rounded, open-minded social worker. But more than anything, I think I was most prepared for my vocation through the mentoring of the social work professional staff, both those at Messiah, and of my field instructors.
I would absolutely recommend Messiah’s BSW program to others. I have the unique privilege currently of working in a highly emotionally charged environment, and I fully believe the Messiah Social Work Department gifted me with the ability to intertwine my faith with self-care to give me strength and joy… which I don’t often see in other clinicians. Burnout is truly the underbelly of this profession and it stunts not only professionals, but those we try to serve, and I highly believe that Messiah is not only creating professionals but social workers who can be thriving within this field. I don’t share often, because it is disheartening, but I have already lost three clients to death by suicide since graduating, and I have been involved in reporting more abuse cases than I could count, and yet I stand, deeply rooted because Messiah gave me roots to weather tragedy and dig in deeper. Beyond that, I would say my own story is a testament to the leadership being developed within the department only cultivating more opportunities. Within my first year as a licensed master's social worker, I was given numerous leadership opportunities, including having an intern, being shadowed by new employees, and being interviewed for an article on adolescents. At the beginning of my third year now as a licensed social worker, I am contently pursuing gaining my LCSW-C in the next few months and as mentioned before, was recommended within my organization to assist with the creation of a specialty unit. I don’t think my skill development is by chance, and I do think my preparation at Messiah still provides guidance on tackling the real-world issues as they come up, both in remaining steady within the ambiguity of the unknown and providing leadership within my response to all problem-solving needs on micro and macro levels. While I’ve put on hold certain explorations, such as becoming a disaster mental health clinician responder for the Red Cross, in order to more fully help at the mental health crisis within my own work setting more devotedly, I know that path will be able to return to this at a later date. Why? Because through Messiah I learned each path has its timing. That said, as some things are put on hold, others are fast-tracked. Because of the encouragement to keep growing, I am currently applying to doctoral programs. I can say this proudly, not because of myself, but because Messiah’s Social Work Department took an unconfident freshman, and cultivated my voice and abilities so that today I can be a confident and skilled clinician who is striving to be excellent and who is still continuing to develop. Without the deep-seated commitment of this Department, I wouldn’t be as professionally and personally grounded as I am today. Why do I encourage Messiah’s Social Work Department? Because it is rigorous in all the right ways without ever losing sight of the long-term goal; creating savvy social workers, that is the balance of kindness and strength, that are both ethical and compassionate, that can lead and listen, and that shine a light without being dimmed.