LG: Hi Karla, lots to talk about this month! New programs, welcoming new members, and some encouraging legislative moves.
Despite concerns at the start of the pandemic, we are not only surviving as a society, we are thriving. Our chapter remains in very good financial health and our membership is growing. I think we can credit this to a creative and collaborative Board, who stay connected to our members’ needs.
Let’s start a debrief by talking about a new, recent program that has been a great success! I know it is near and dear to you and so many others who are involved with the National Catholic School of Social Services (NCSSS) MSW program. Can you explain how this evolved and what happened?
KA: At our March Board meeting, during the legislative report, it was mentioned the DC Counsel (not sure who) verbalized concerns on the LGSW exam for students of color, including possible test bias. Frances Wu, our University Liaison Committee Chair proposed that we partner with NCSSS to offer a free, one-day workshop for graduating students to try and address this issue.
Melissa Grady, Associate Professor at NCSSS, quickly identified possible workshop presenters. Corey Beauford, LICSW, was selected to deliver a one-day workshop. He gave us permission to tape the program so students could revisit the workshop as often as needed, prior to taking the test, and also added a wealth of resources and materials for them.
We launched this Test Prep on April 17. Donna Dietz, our Executive Administrator and Zoom-maven administered the session. Almost the entire graduating class of NCSSS registered. The result is a lot of very positive responses and great evaluations from students and professors and a big thumbs up from Dr. Roslynn Scott-Adams, Assistant NCSSS Dean and Director of Field Education & Professional Development.
LG: You must be so delighted. Finding programs and partnerships between our Society and the needs of graduating students was part of your area of interest as soon as you became our VP.
KA: As a graduate student at NCSSS and the Vice President of the GWSCSW, I am proud to be a member of both and for the partnership that was forged with this event. Two of my hopes for NCSSS students have come to fruition by our Society partnership with them: A test prep course for the LG exam, and low-cost counseling services offered by our members for MSW students, especially part-time students.
My hope is the test prep course will become a regular event and we can expand it to all area MSW programs!
LG: This was a really exciting process to witness. Because we are a small society, we can identify a need, move quickly and implement a program within a month.
We are also busy on the Board with the other program you just mentioned—low-cost therapy for MSW students delivered by our members, many of whom have never experienced their own psychotherapy. Kate Rossier spearheaded this program with good results and growing interest from both student members and our clinicians.
Other things in the works: Many of us have complained about the limitations of not being able to follow our clients and patients with continued care across state lines, when they move or when we do. A new and interesting way to address this problem with conducting interstate service is at hand.
Our national association, the CSWA (Clinical Social Work Association) announced an exciting program. The Department of Defense and Council of State Governments and the CSWA have partnered to create an interstate compact for clinical social workers! This may be a way to affect legislation, to help the Federal and State governments rethink the need to allowing clinical social workers to offer a continuity of care, regardless of location. Stay tuned for more.
KA: The Anti-Racism Taskforce launched a very successful program we call Creating a Brave Space. This is a facilitated group experience to allow members to go beyond a clinically safe space into a brave space, to think and talk about the impact of racism in their lives and their clinical work. We completed the first one to very good evaluations and will continue to offer this.
We are also in the process of a website redesign, which will make the website easier to navigate and a better tool for displaying all the resources we are accruing. We are starting to have a presence on social media and trying to make sure that those clinical social workers who want connection and resources can find us.
We had a good time and a good turnout at the New Member Brunch, on Zoom and got to meet many of the newer clinicians at all levels of their careers who are joining our Society.
LG: That reminds me, I need to invite members to check out a new entry in the “Welcome to Our Wisdom” section of the existing website. Just log in and go to: https://www.gwscsw.org/members-wisdom to see my 30-minute interview with member May Benatar, LCSW, PhD—a clinician and published author who shares her process of writing and some tips and techniques for getting published!
There is more going on: Our ongoing CE programs, a mentoring program, support groups for retiring clinicians and an upcoming educational survey for members that will help us focus our offerings.
Our next Board meeting will be an open one, via Zoom in May, to allow members who are curious about joining a committee or volunteering to get to know us! We welcome all interested to become part of our Board.
LG: Karla, we held our first Board Meeting of the year on January 9, just three days after the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. I wondered how it would feel to try to focus on Society business in the aftermath of this latest horrific and tragic event, especially since the assault on the Capitol felt so personal, right in our own backyard.
I was frankly so appreciative to see everyone on Zoom, and know many of us felt really glad to be together and support each other. I started the meeting with a question, asking our members:
What is your WOTY-- Word of the Year -- for 2021?
I explained that each year, I choose one single word to be my focus and guidance for the upcoming new year, to help me orient my efforts, time and energy. I try to find something meaningful that will point me in the direction I want to go, a kind of internal and intentional compass, as I make decisions.
What WOTY, I asked, can encourage and support you to be the best personal and professional version of yourself? This prompted a wonderful sharing of thoughts and feelings. Some words that our Board suggested included: hope, walk, connection, family, hugs, cultivate, lightness, gratitude, perseverance, positive, sankofa, enjoy, and center.
What stood out for you from this meeting?
KA: Our Treasurer reported that we are in better shape financially than we had predicted. Our active membership numbers are up. We have some continuing education programs ready to roll out for this year. And I like that we are reversing an earlier decision so that all MSW students who register for programs can become automatic members for free, to take advantage of our list serve and be immediately active in the Society.
LG: The good financial news means we can continue to support our lobbyists who help us with legislative and advocacy issues, and continue to employ our wonderful Executive Administrator, Donna Dietz, who does so much for us behind the scenes every week.
KA: We also began to discuss ideas for the next annual dinner. In the past, we combined the required annual business meeting with a catered or potluck dinner. We are now looking at options for the Fall of 2022, when we can hopefully be together safely in person. We want an event that will be separate from the business meeting and focus on fun and community, a time to meet and greet each other in a venue that is welcoming and open.
LG: Our Communications Committee told us about their plans for more social media presence, updating the website and having sections for people at all stages of career and development.
KA: One of my areas of interest is our efforts for students and we have a University Liaison Committee chaired by Frances Wu who is planning events to reach out to area universities this Spring. I look forward to all we can do to reach out to the social workers who are now entering the field and have them be a part of our membership.
LG: Judy Gallant, Director of our Legislation and Advocacy Branch and Committee Chairs Judy Ratcliff, Wayne Martin, and Margot Aronson spoke to us about the legislative challenges in our tri-state area. In Maryland there is a proposed change to reduce the number of required hours of supervision for people to get their clinical license from 144 to 100 hours. Both Virginia and DC already have the 100-hour requirement. But this is under discussion for GWSCSW; although we support the idea we want to know and think about what other requirements should be in place to make sure that clinicians are well trained and prepared.
KA: As always, we want to encourage our members to take an active role in the Society. We have lots of committees for members to join and we would love to have you help us move the Society forward into 2021. There is a need for presenters for Zoom CE workshops, or we could use leaders for study groups, and of course, its wonderful to have members attend events. We welcome everyone to join us in keeping our Society relevant, strong and inclusive.
Please watch for this “Afterword” each month to learn more. For those who want to join a committee to be more active, click here to let us know about your interests and someone will reach out to you.
LG: Hi Karla, we are talking on a sad morning, just after hearing about the death yesterday of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a hero for me and for so many of us.
KA: Her legacy reminds us about the need to continue to fight for social justice, fairness, equality and especially the need to vote.
LG: So much of our work as social workers reflects on all she stood for.
Today, let’s go over what our leadership team has been doing this past month. We had our first full Board meeting—where all of our Branch Directors, Committee Chairs and staff came together for 3 hours via Zoom—to talk about next steps.
Budget Shortfall Solutions
LG: At the start of the Board meeting, I raised one item of concern for the Society: a budget shortfall that is projected for this fiscal year. Our Society is not immune from the economic issues affecting most organizations. We, in leadership, are working hard to produce a balanced budget, looking at sources of income and reviewing all of our Society expenses. Members may not know that our income only comes from two sources: our membership dues and the programs we offer. Because of COVID-19, these income sources are shaky right now.
We are working to retain our existing members and attract new ones. We are also hungry for more educational programs. The Board generated some creative ideas about programming during a pandemic.
Focusing on Education
LG: Let’s talk programs: We have a need and lots of room for more of our members to step forward and educate us! We make it easy, because we provide the Zoom platform, registration support, CEUs, marketing through our list and an honorarium for the presenter. After the event, the programs go into a Society Zoom library.
KA: It gives our Society a source of needed CEUs, and helps us share knowledge with each other. It’s a great way for members to give back to each other, and for those who are new to presenting, it’s a chance to build their resume as a speaker. Everyone has a clinical specialty, you know, and it may be something else that a member does in relation to clinical social work, maybe non-profit work or some other kind of sponsoring activity that would make for an interesting talk. It’s basically telling your professional story and we have a need for that. Members can fill out an application for speaking to our Society at this link: https://www.gwscsw.org/proposal-request
A November Surprise
LG: One new program for this Fall will be a virtual ethics presentation by our favorite ethics presenter, Dr. Frederick Reamer! We usually offer a live one-day, 6-CEU program by Dr. Reamer in the Spring, but he has been busy researching and writing about topics that are critical for us right now. So, we are bringing him in early, in mid-November, using a Zoom platform. Dr. Reamer is alert to the many boundary concerns and risk management issues that are not always obvious during this time of working virtually.
In my opinion, Dr. Reamer brings the “gold standard” of ethical information to us as clinicians. His programs are always engaging and essential; he has the rare talent of making ethics come alive. (Save the date: It will start on Friday afternoon, 11/13/20 -- 3 hours with Dr. Reamer by Zoom and then 3 hours on the following Sunday morning, 11/15/20, for a total of 6 CEUs over one long weekend. Information and registration for this program will be sent out to the membership beginning in early October.)
Other New Society Programs
KA: At the Board Meeting, I was pleased we got to hear from one of our newest membership groups, the Anti-Racism Task Force. The Board embraced and welcomed a brief discussion that they led about the complex issue of racism and its potential occurrence within a clinical setting. Can we go from creating a safe space with clients to creating a brave space? They will be creating programs for our membership this term.
The Task Force asked each Board member to begin to consider several questions:
LG: We are preparing for additional virtual meetings. Some are of a supportive nature, as we look to form small study groups. Others are social—like our virtual wine and cheese get togethers. Our fun “New Member Brunch” will be October 11 on Zoom (free for all members, great chance to network.) The Legislation and Advocacy Virtual Luncheon, with a theme of “Advocacy, Equity and Practice in the age of Covid-19” is October 17 (on Zoom, free for members and offers 2 free CEUs.) Members can register at the website.
One More Thing…
KA: One more thing, or maybe just a few more. I am excited about two projects we are planning that can engage MSW students to become members. We are hoping to offer a program of pro-bono therapy from members, for grad students who need clinical counseling. We also plan to restart a program for grads who would benefit from low-cost supervision as they work towards full licensure. Members who want to participate should contact the Community Branch Director at: DirCommunity@gwscsw.org
LG: I know that you are working with our university liaisons and I am so appreciative of all of these outreach efforts. Lately, I am having fun with a new program we just launched called “Welcome to Our Wisdom,” where I get to interview members about their areas of expertise. We have a very gifted group of members. We have several videos posted. Some are focused on clinical topics, some on practice-building. View them on the website under the “members only” tab.
It is always great to debrief together Karla. I feel like we are off to a strong start. As this time of uncertainty continues for our profession and our country, I am counting on our members to continue to sustain a strong connection
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