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Social Work Private Practice – Be Your Own Boss

Many people go into social work with an eye to eventually provide therapy in their own private practice.  When I went for my MSW, I was working in child welfare and thought I would be a terrible therapist.  I thought therapists were people who were academic and made leaps of intuition that were almost magical.  It turns out therapists are just trained individuals who listen, provide empathy and assist clients with finding solutions to the struggles they encounter.  Social Workers have a unique perspquote-chalk-think-wordsective because we look at the person in the environment – we look at the whole person and the systems within which they interact.  We also are strengths-based practitioners, so we help clients find the positives they can build on.  When I realized that I didn’t have to fit some preconceived mold to be a private practice therapist and identified and valued my own clinical skills – I embraced having a private practice and currently it is my favorite work as a social worker.   If you are thinking of starting your own private practice sometime in the future, here are some things you can work on now during your journey.

 

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Favorite Pinterest Boards for Social Workers

ipad-tablet-technology-touchHappy New Year!

One of the best things about starting a new year is not only the possibilities for the future but the motivation and energy we have to start projects and bring new ideas into life.  As a social worker – I love having new tools to use in my practice, new ideas to try and interesting readings related to the career I love.

I’m guessing most of us use social media, either personally or professionally, but I bet a lot of people overlook Pinterest as a place to gather idea to use in their everyday social work practice.  I use Pinterest all the time when I am looking for an idea or intervention or I’m looking for inspiration.  I find that perusing Pinterest makes me more excited about the work I do.  It also gives me an easy place to save websites I may want to check out again or resources I may need at a later time.  I have created many boards to organize all the pins I want to save!

I can’t vouch for everything on these boards but here are some favorite Pinterest Boards for Social Workers.

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Organizational Tips for Social Workers and Students

For many of us, this is a busy time a year.  We have the bustle of life, our families, our job or school and the holidays.  This busy schedule prompted me to think about how, in school, I was told that as a social worker there will always be more work than time.  I bet some of you are looking at possibly going back to school, or starting a new job, or trying not to be overwhelmed with a current job and wonder how do people do it all?

In my career as a supervisor, one area that new workers often seem to be lacking in, is the practicalities of how to organize their time, their tasks and caseloads in a way that works.  In the past, I might suggest to someone I supervise different ways to organize, then I would back off.  I told them they would figure out what works for them.  It turns out I should have been more directive.  I may not have tips that will take all the busy away but I can give you ideas on organizing at work and school.

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The Advocacy of Social Work

One of the unique aspects of social work is that we are not just counselors or therapists, we are also advocates.  We understand that the environments individuals live in have an effect on how their lives may be playing out.  We advocate on both the level of individual client and at the larger macro level.  We are encouraged and even expected – as is written in the Social Worker Code of Ethics– to fight against exploitation and ensure people have access to their basic human rights.  Being involved in social justice issues and policy is all part of being a social worker.  I have always thought it was a bit freeing that not only can I question authority and status quo but that it is expected!

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Social Work: Can I work with a client who is suicidal?

hand reaching out

People are complicated.  As a social worker, you are often working with individuals in immense emotional and often physical pain.  One of the best aspects of being a social worker is when you help someone heal.  Other times, a client can have difficulty moving out of their pain.  It can be scary for a social worker (new or experienced) to have a client indicate they are going to irrevocably harm themselves.  I know a lot of therapists who say they don’t take clients who are at high risk of suicide but anyone you work with may be at risk.   It is essential, to be willing to be aware that suicide might be a risk.

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The Social Work Job Interview

Maybe you just graduated and are looking for your first social work job.  Maybe you are searching out the perfect practices or internship.  Maybe you’d have been doing this social work thing awhile and are looking for greener pastures,  we all go through the interview  process at some time.  I have had many, many, many, many interviews where the outcomes have ranged from ecstatically successful to horrendous.  I have also been interviewing and hiring people for years.  Hopefully, some of my thoughts will help you land your perfect job.

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The Business of Social Work

I worked at a dialysis corporation for a few years in my career.  We occasionally had large group social worker meetings that employees from the corporate office sometimes came to present.  Often when Corporate came, they would talk about finances and insurance billing and the cost of doing business.  Virtually every time, the corporate employee would say something like “as social workers, you all just want to help people and you don’t really understand or care about the money aspect.”  It always felt very condescending like there was some deficiency with social workers because we care about helping individuals and that we all weren’t quite sophisticated enough to understand the reality of business.

Social Workers are actually extremely proficient at understanding how systems work and that nothing exists in a vacuum.  When we look at the big picture it is easy to see how there is a business aspect to social work.  Not only is money involved in how we can provide our services, we will work for businesses – our own or someone else’s.  This will necessitate understanding business or management information.

Chances are – if you are good at your job – you will be asked to take on more responsibilities – probably become someone who manages people. The thing, though, just because you are a good social worker does not mean you automatically have the skills to be a good leader or manager.  Your social work skills help you but there is a whole new world to learn.  Maybe you dream of owning your own private practice.  In both of these scenarios, you will have to develop skills that hone your business sense.  If you know you want to own your own business or become a manager or director of some type, you may want to look at school programs that also have social service slanted business classes.  (Some schools even have MSW/MBA programs.)  Many MSW programs do not have classes on social service management.  My MSW program only had one class focusing on the business aspect of social work.

Although I absolutely love the clinical aspect of my job, I think I am happiest with managing a staff at my current corporate job and also immensely enjoy running my private practice.   The business aspect of social work is my favorite.  Below is a mishmash of my thoughts on the business part of social work.

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Mental Health Awareness!

Did you know May is Mental Health Month?  May is designated to highlight the discussion of mental health and helping fight stigma.   The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) indicates that over 43 million adults live with a mental illness every year – that is approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States.  This means that you know many people who are struggling with mental health issues.  If you are in a helping profession you are likely encountering many individuals whose mental health is affecting their day to day life.

What can you do to promote mental health awareness and your own mental health?

mental health awareness

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Social Workers and Professional Grief

Although social workers often see the very best of people, there is no doubt that the average worker also sees much sadness and struggle. Some social workers practice among poverty and violence.  Some work with individuals who are physically ill or dying.  It is safe to say that social workers treat an array of people and problems.

This sadness can add up.  I supervise a team of care coordinators who work with individuals who have high acuity of physical and/or mental health needs.  They are transitioning clients from a long term setting into the community.  Although they see lots of success, they encounter loss each day.  They listen to people’s stories which are wrought with loss.  They watch people relapse into addiction.  They watch individuals deteriorate physically and sometimes decompensate mentally.  They have clients die under both expected and unexpected circumstances.  This can be wearing on workers.  When we experience loss we often feel grief.  Grief is one of those uncomfortable feelings we often try to avoid.

Most of us understand personal loss.  Personal loss includes things like a death of family or a loved one.  It may be loss of a pet, a job or of a dream.  It may be loss of an idea or transition to another stage of life or a divorce.   We deal with personal loss by using our support system and talking about it.  We have rituals and memorials.  We use self-care.  Much of our personal life is seen by people we love so there is support.  It can be somewhat different for professional loss.

Professional loss is what we experience in our work lives with clients.  It is different from personal loss because the relationships are different and often we don’t stop and take a moment to acknowledge and grieve.   Professional losses are often internalized.  It is possible we might go home and say we had a rough day or maybe even say a client died but we can’t share much of our experiences with family and friends so we miss out on the support you would get when family and friends are sharing the loss with you.

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