Originally published on Walden Behavior Care Blog
March is National Social Work Month and 2015 marks the 60th anniversary of the National Association of Social Workers. To commemorate this event and to honor this profession, Walden choose to interview, Jennifer Rego, one of our social workers, to find out more about the professional of social work, the job responsibilities associated with the position and the rewards of the job.
What kind of training is required to be a social worker and where did you receive your training?
I completed my undergraduate bachelors in counseling from Lesley University and experienced education in a real life setting often using and drawing from theories in coursework and applying them to my internship roles.
While an undergraduate, I was allowed to take graduate coursework. During this time, I did several short internships in a variety of settings. I worked in afterschool care, creating drama programs for kids in impoverished settings. I also drew from experience working with people who had moderate to severe developmental disabilities in a day habilitation setting practicing art therapy as-well-as other mental health outpatient settings.
I think the training required to become a social worker is highly valuable and important. The experience that one can have trying things out with good supervision is incredibly valuable when newly entering the field.
After finishing my bachelors program, I had real life experience in the working world and still wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a therapist. I entered into graduate school at Simmons College. While at Simmons I worked in outpatient settings, adoption agencies, after school and in school programs that enriched my own life experience. I drew from one particular experience working with sand tray therapy along with receiving excellent supervision for hours and hours a week.
For those who don’t know what Sand Tray Therapy is exactly, I will explain. Sand Tray Therapy is a method of expressive therapy derived from psychologist Carl Jung and Dr. Lowenfeld. This is an expressive modality used in a variety of populations within the mental health field especially with eating disorder treatment for all ages. The goals of treatment are to develop kinesthetic integration, utilizing non-verbal communication, and focusing naturally on deep inner subconscious work. Sand play is utilized to process integration of the inner world of a client and using the therapist as a witness. The deep psyche expresses itself in images and symbols and more than words, so the play uses objects and figures to reflex the psychic content. Now that is something that I love doing in my private practice along with using this with clients at Walden who are struggling with eating disorders.[FK1]
What are the main job responsibilities of a social work…what do you do?
My primary role at Walden is as a case manager in their adult outpatient eating disorder program. My main responsibilities include training, enrichment and supporting other staff members. While I value my role helping patients’ get through treatment and Walden’s levels of care, I also enjoy supervising newer staff and mental health counselors.
Most days, I run groups, collaborate with staff, problem solve and often correspond with outside providers when working on patients’ treatment plans. I’m also constantly working together with medical staff and dietitians. In addition, I participate in rounds which are meetings where complex patient issues are discussed and plans for further care are decided.
One of my favorite parts of my day is running the Anger Awareness Group in our outpatient setting. This group allows patients’ to examine their anger responses and patterns for demonstrating anger. It also helps them work on conflict management and establish healthy boundaries while in treatment.
Why did you choose to become a social worker or what path led you to the profession?
I choose to become a social worker because I feel that my calling was to help others. I love helping people have moments of expression, validation and feeling that someone truly cares about their needs and feelings. I value connection to togetherness and connection back to the inner self. My hope is that patients’ will, through the process of treatment, learn to value connection to self and others as much as I do.
Describe the population you work with and the top three things you enjoy about working with these individuals?
I work specifically in Walden’s Adult Partial Hospital Program and Intensive Outpatient Program in our Waltham location. My role as a case manager aids me in overseeing the entire treatment process through meetings, collaborations, running groups and conducting individual therapeutic sessions.
My most favorite three things have been:
Challenging patients’ to go out into the world and try things outside of treatment
Changing methods of perspectives[FK2] by using ACT (which is Action commitment Therapy) It really focuses on goals and outside the Eating Disorder.
Helping shift and promote patients’ perspectives around group work, having a variety of bodies in the room and challenging those assumptions/feelings/ideas and awareness’s.
What changes do you think the profession of social work could benefit from?
I think one important part of being a social worker is knowing that there are going to be many stressors and self-care struggles that we experience while caring for others. I would suggest building in massages, self-care days, and group team building activities into the benefits of the job.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a social worker?
I think the reward I get is knowing that someone felt safe enough with me to take a risk, let me into their world and be vulnerable to change. I love seeing change and that is a gift in itself to me.