To the Members of the Greater Washington Society of Clinical Social Work,
I want to wish each and every one a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
As 2023 begins full of hope and promise, so are we, your Board of Directors. As the Society moves forward on the anti-racism continuum, we are excited to let you know that we are interviewing a very promising and well-respected DEI Consultant to perform a Society needs assessment and assist us in creating a strategic plan for the Society. The consultant will also facilitate our first Society Town Hall Meeting, slated for March of this year. Additional details will be available once our consultant is hired.
I would encourage you to check all the opportunities available to members, be it a workshop of interest, a networking event or other opportunity to connect socially, or volunteering on one of our many committees — the sky’s the limit.
As always, the Society continues our mission to advance the field of social work, including:
I continue to welcome and encourage your feedback. What would make the Society more inviting and appealing to you? Of course, not every suggestion can be enacted, but I believe some very helpful information will emerge from your feedback. What would be helpful? What would be enjoyable?
I would like to foster a feeling of connection and the sense that this is a Society for everyone.
Thank You for your support of the Society!
Karla J. Abney
As many of you know, I am currently serving as the Interim President since October 20 and am serving in my second term as the Vice President of GWSCSW. Serving as the Vice President has allowed me to become familiar with the many complex tasks involved in being a leader in our wonderful Society.
I would like to share with you a bit of my background. I was born and raised in Washington DC. Yes, I am a true Native Washingtonian! I am a graduate of the University of Virginia, where I earned a BA in American history, all with the intent of attending law school. I attended the University of the District of Columbia, graduating in 1992 with a BS in Nursing (BSN). I earned my MS in Nursing (MSN) from Catholic University’s Conway School of Nursing. After working in the profession of nursing for over 30 years, I decided to reinvent myself in 2017 and pursue an MS in social work (MSW) from Catholic University’s National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS). Graduating in this May, I am an LMSW, working at Sheppard Pratt Outpatient Mental Health Center – Gaithersburg. Ever the eternal student, I am back at NCSSS pursuing my PhD in social work
After joining the Society as a graduate student, I met several members who made me feel welcome, and encouraged me to volunteer. Taking the plunge, I decided to run for Vice President. With a deep interest in social justice, I joined the Anti-Racism Taskforce and began to bring the message of anti-racism and social justice issues to the forefront of the Society. I am happy to announce the Social Justice Branch is now an official part of the Board. The Social Justice Branch will continue to address issues of antiracism and institutional racism as are currently being addressed with the recent ASWB report, and other social justice concerns including issues of importance to the LBGTQ+ community, women, and other marginalized communities.
Priority for my tenure will be to continue and increase the number of Society networking events and opportunities to connect socially, as well as offering our mentorship program, low-cost therapy for MSW students, and continue plans to establish a low-cost supervision program. There are plans to hold a GWSCSW Town Hall in the new year and establish regularly scheduled listening sessions between the Board of Directors and the membership.
I would like to take this opportunity to encourage and welcome your feedback. What would make the Society more inviting and appealing to you? Of course, not every suggestion can be enacted, but I believe some very helpful information will emerge from your feedback. What would be helpful? What would be enjoyable: I would like to foster a feeling of connection and the sense that this is a Society for everyone.
As I step into my new role as the Society’s President, I’m grateful for the dedication of the former President and our Board. Our recent past President, Lynn Grodski, shepherded the Society over the past two years through many challenges. During Lynn’s tenure, the Society not only survived, but thrived, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the paradigm shift it required. The Society is in excellent financial health, innovating in the way we meet for workshops, networking, and business. Though physically distant, Lynn’s leadership ensured that we remained a cohesive and collaborative body. Her dedication to the Presidency, combined with her business savvy, has had a tremendous positive impact. I am grateful and humbled to follow in her footsteps.
As I write this, I can’t help but think of my initial conversation with Lynn about running for President. “But I’ve never been on your Board,” “Who recommended me?” “Won’t it be weird to be led by someone who’s never been active?”
“That’s fine,” she said, “Many of our leaders were never active before they served.”
Still, this was a stretch. I am a mother with two young children, I have a thriving practice and not much time. As I contemplated the decision, it sat with me that the only clue I had about why I’d been selected was that it was due to my commitment to anti-racism, diversity and inclusion.
I kept returning mentally to the Society’s workshop with Dr. Ken Hardy in February 2021 and one I attended through the American Group Psychotherapy Association in February 2022. I kept hearing him say that to heal the racial wounds in America, those with privilege had to take on more.
“To whom is given, much is expected,” he said. Repeatedly.
Though by no means an expert, I am committed to anti-racism, and to applying its principles to structural decision-making. I have observed, worked with and learned from several psychotherapy organizations struggling with these changes, which often generates uncomfortable internal conflict–something I’m oddly able to tolerate.
Becoming the Society’s President, specifically with this request as my guiding star, seemed an opportunity to do what was expected. I am someone to whom much has been given. I am white, have had excellent educational and social opportunities, and am comfortably financially situated, which grants me flexibility in my practice to devote to this work.
I relay all of this for two reasons:
I have been active in the Society for only a few months, and have already been energized by our Board’s passion and commitment. My anxiety about taking on this role has quickly morphed into excitement, and I look forward to the next two years. Please consider joining us!
As of June 2022, my term as President will come to an end. I will still be on the Board in a mentoring role, as past-President, to help provide a smooth transition for our new President, Lisa Kays.
I am very glad that I had a chance to serve the Society for the past two years. Despite the challenges of Covid, I had the good fortune to work with a stellar group of therapists on the Board. We accomplished a lot of important goals for our association’s viability and future development.
As President, I am aware of the effort and dedication of those on the Board. We are a volunteer-run Board and most of our membership are not aware of the commitment that the small core of Board members exhibits to keep the Society alive and well. While attending monthly meetings and lending energy and expertise to resolve the many and varied needs of our Society, the Board works hard. I am grateful to all of those who joined with me in our efforts during the past two years. I also appreciate the talents and commitment of Donna Dietz, our paid Executive Administrator, who is diligent and excellent in her job.
I want to mention a few of the areas of focus for our 2020-22 Board during the past two years. We worked well and collaboratively in order to:
Connect our members via programs, the listserv, the newsletter, policies and events to find help and support to stay strong and safe, while working with an increased demand for services during the worst of the Covid pandemic.
Improve and enhance our Educational Branch process. We developed our CEU offerings via Zoom, including welcoming nationally-known presenters to offer programs for our membership. As a result, our educational offerings have become a strong source of income for the Society, in addition to our membership dues. We are able to provide a full host of high quality CEU courses online, at a very low fee for our members.
Begin a process of becoming a more diverse, anti-racist, social justice organization. We coordinated with our Anti-racism Task Force and began to educate ourselves within leadership, with the goal of making the Society a more welcoming, open and brave space for all members.
Continue outreach to new and existing members. With our university liaisons, new member get-togethers on Zoom, and other events, we increased our presence on social media sites. Our Communications Branch Director also worked to improve and update our website.
Focus on essential legislative and advocacy goals and work with our paid lobbyists to advance our priorities and interests in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC.
Build morale, make the work of leadership rewarding, maintain a caring and respectful culture with the Board to help our Society be a place where all can feel welcome.
I thank all of you for your support and advice and good wishes during this time. I look forward to our 2022-24 Board continuing these efforts and moving forward in important ways.
As I write this, in January, I have just had a small dinner party at my home with four boosted and tested friends, the first social event I have been part of since the weather turned cold. I am reminded of how isolated many of us feel, both personally and professionally. We, in the leadership team, wish that we could move off of Zoom and resume our monthly meetings together; I have never met most of my hardworking leadership team in person. The meet and greets that used to take place in living rooms around the tri-state region have moved online and all of our programs are done with us facing screens. I miss the immediacy of real-life connection with my team and all of our membership.
But since we are still Zoom-bound, let me share that our Society is working well on many levels. We are staying on top of the new legislative issues that affect our practices, like the no-surprise measure and coordinating with our sister societies and our home base association, the CSWA, to find solutions. We are focused on new bills that are coming before our local state legislatures and coordinating with our lobbyists. Our listserv is active, relevant and immeasurably valuable for keeping us informed about changes quickly. I always say that our membership is our greatest asset, and let me thank those of you who use the listserv to find and receive referrals, or share needed information. You are a treasure!
We are using social media (for the first time, finally) to boost greater interest, awareness, membership and program attendance in GWSCSW. It’s working! Our new website redesign also makes life easier and connects us better to our public.
We are also hosting solid, clinical, cutting-edge educational programs and proud that our first ever “Trauma Treatment Conference” in February features two nationally-known experts, who are both members of our Society! Lisa Ferentz and Deany Laliotis stepped forward to share their current thinking and teaching during this time of trauma as the new normal. We are thrilled at the response from members in registering for the programs and salute the generosity of Lisa and Deany to give back and present for us.
It is also time for me to begin to reach out to the membership to find my replacement. My term as your President will be over this summer and our elections for a new Board take place in April. I welcome the chance to mentor the next person who moves into this position. We will be actively recruiting members to consider running for open positions on the Board and I hope you will think about stepping forward to join in the governance of the GWSCW. It’s a wonderful way to meet others and to have a say and impact in the important social work issues we face right now.
I will stay on the Board as “past President” to help guide whoever comes next, so that your transition can be as easy and seamless as possible. Please let me know if you have interest in this or any other position and I will help you learn about the process of running and be glad if I can help welcome you to consider being a part of the next GWSCSW leadership team.
During this past challenging year, we are very proud of what we accomplished in support of our members as well as strengthening our outreach. We will continue to provide innovative programming, advocacy and networking for clinical social workers in Maryland, DC and Virginia – now and in the future. Below are some of the important advantages of your GWSCSW membership:
A special note to the Maryland clinical social work community: We are the only organization that pays for a Maryland lobbyist who looks after legislation of interest to and impacting clinical social workers – this covers you no matter where you are in the state!
We do all of this and more each year. GWSCSW is the only local social work organization that focuses its efforts primarily on the needs of clinicians—from graduate school through retirement and beyond! Membership is the best way to keep us all working together to promote our values and vision with strength and safety. Thank you again for your commitment and partnership.
Lynn Grodzki, LCSW-C
During 2020-21, the Board moved forward with energy and intention to promote clinical networking, education, connection, protection and advocacy. I am especially proud of how we expanded our vision to become a more inclusive and diverse Society, one that is in alignment with anti-racism values.
Toward that end, GWSCSW took several new actions: Our Anti-Racism Taskforce (ART) helped the Board further anti-racism goals and facilitated two “Brave Space” workshops, one for members and one for the Executive Committee. These Brave Space experiences allow members to share honest, respectful and sensitive thoughts and feelings about race and other social issues. More of these Brave Space workshops will be offered to members in 2022.
In September, GWSCSW also hosted Dr. Kenneth Hardy, noted speaker and author, to present a 3-hour Zoom workshop: Tips and Tactics for Talking About Race: A Toolkit for Clinicians. In this workshop, Dr. Hardy demonstrated a model for talking about race within a clinical setting, including how to listen deeply, stay relational, be caring and when needed, directly challenge bias.
In the way that the best therapists make the theoretical tangible, within the first fifteen minutes Dr. Hardy created a dynamic conversation with attendees about race. As people virtually raised their hands to ask him questions, difficult topics were voiced and argued, topics that could easily surface in our offices and cause a therapist anxiety: What to do when someone insists that systemic racism is false? How to respond to the use of hurtful, invective language? When should we intervene to address implicit or explicit racial bias? Dr. Hardy didn’t just tell us what to do, he showed us. He dealt with these issues and others using a process that was relational, respectful and yes, sometimes confrontational. He was inspiring in his willingness to stay present and mindful, even in the face of conflict.
Dependent upon the ongoing interactions, there were moments that the conversations about race felt grating, frustrating and even painful to me. From the evaluations we received, I recognized that I was not alone; others valued the teaching but had strong emotions and reactions, too. As our Vice President, Karla Abney, said when she and I debriefed the workshop: “Maybe everyone, black and white, has to be uncomfortable for these conversations about race to take place.”
I deeply appreciate Dr. Hardy’s courage to show, not tell. I recommend that in the future, we add in more time after workshops for attendees to share and debrief our experience together. It helps. I also hope we become increasingly sensitive about what we say, how we say it, and the effect it may have on others even as we are learning how to talk about race. I welcome your thoughts on this.
In closing, please consider taking an active role in the Society this coming year. We welcome all to participate in the running of our Society, by joining committees, attending programs and taking on leadership roles. Thank you for being a member. Happy Holidays to all.
As Spring beckons, we are seeing a lot of energy and creativity within our Society. I feel very inspired and appreciative of the hard work of many. Despite concerns at the start of the pandemic, we are not only surviving, we are thriving. Our chapter remains in very good financial health and our membership is growing. We are acclaiming new programs, welcoming new members, meeting member’s needs for connection and education and have some encouraging legislative policy to share.
I think we can credit this to a creative and collaborative Board who stay connected to our members’ needs. I am so grateful to our wonderful group of volunteers. One recent program has been a great success thanks to Frances Wu, Melissa Grady and others on our University Liaison Committee. We partnered with NCSSS (National Catholic School of Social Service) to offer a free, one-day workshop for graduating MSW students to try and address potential bias within the LG test that may have resulted in fewer grads passing the test. It was a success!
Corey Beauford, LICSW, was the presenter on our Zoom platform on April 17. He was reviewed as “clear, informative. empathic and personable.” He offered a wealth of additional materials for participants and gave us permission to tape the program so students could revisit the workshop as often as needed, prior to taking the test. Almost the entire graduating class of NCSSS registered with our Zoom program. We received very positive responses and great evaluations from students, NCSSS professors and a big thumbs up from Dr. Roslynn Scott-Adams, Assistant NCSS Dean.
The GWSCSW Board is busy with other new programs, including low-cost therapy for MSW students, many of whom graduate from school without having experienced psychotherapy for themselves. Kate Rossier has spearheaded this program and coordinated with members who are willing and eager to provide therapy for MSW students at reduced rates.
Some big news on the legislative front: Many of us have complained about the limitations of not being able to follow our clients and patients for continued care across state lines, when they move or when we do. Our national association, the CSWA (Clinical Social Work Association) announced an exciting program: The Department of Defense and Council of State Governments have partnered to create an interstate compact for clinical social workers. CSWA is one of the three main stakeholders! This may be a way to affect legislation and 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.
The Anti-Racism Taskforce launched a very successful introductory program for members seeking a brave space (not just a safe space) within which to grow their understanding of how systemic racism comes up in the therapy room. This facilitated group experience to allowed members to think and talk about the impact of racism in their lives and their clinical work with each other and all reported that it was deeply meaningful.
We are also in the process of a society website redesign, which will make the GWSCSW 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 local 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 I really enjoyed meeting many new members who are joining our Society.
I invite members to check out a new entry in the “Welcome to Our Wisdom” section of the existing GWSCSW website. Just log in and go to https://www.gwscsw.org/members-wisdom to see the 30-minute interview with May Benatar, LCSW, PhD, one of our long-term members who is a clinician and published author. She shares her process of writing and some tips and techniques for getting published! There is even more going on: ongoing CE programs (we have a new Education Branch Director, Ari Sallas-Brookwell!) and a renewed interest in our mentoring program, and ideas for a variety of support groups.
We invite any members who are curious about joining a committee or volunteering to get to how it works, behind the scenes to join us at an upcoming ZOOM board meeting. We welcome you to get involved. Watch for the invitation on the listserv and on our email blast.
We held our first Board Meeting of the year on January 9, just three days after the insurrection at 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 of the words that our Board suggested that would help them position themselves in 2021 included: hope, walking, connection, family, hugs, cultivate, lightness, gratitude, perseverance, positive, sankofa, enjoy, and centered.
Good news: Our Treasurer reported that we are in better shape financially than we had predicted. Our active membership numbers are up. 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.
The good financial news means we can continue to support our lobbyists who help us with legislative and advocacy issues. Judy Gallant, Director of our Legislation and Advocacy Branch and Committee Chairs Judy Ratliff, Wayne Martin, and Margot Aronson spoke to us at the January Board meeting about the 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 in terms of if, supported by our Society, what other requirements should be in place.
We have some continuing education programs ready to roll out soon. We also have some exciting ideas for additional educational programs this year and are talking with nationally-known presenters who want to speak to us, via Zoom on topics of complex trauma; anxiety reduction methods during this complicated time; and how new therapists can develop the skills of clinical confidence. Watch for notices of our future online programs, a wonderful and inexpensive way to get your CEs, connect with the membership, and contribute to our ongoing clinical conversation.
As always, the Board welcomes more members to be active in the Society. We need more committee members, we appreciate those who attend events, and we appreciate all who step forward to offer their time and energy to help the Society flourish.
GWSCSW is a society of over 1000 members at various stages of their careers. We have student members as well as those in early stages of careers—just starting out. Other members are securely grounded in a private practice, or active in agencies or other clinical settings. A strong cohort of our members are retired, but still engaged in the social work profession, often within volunteer efforts. This variety in membership keeps us informed about the breadth of roles and responsibilities for clinical social workers. We know, through our contact with you, by reading the listserv and talking with many of you each week, that our members are struggling to stay intact in their professional and personal lives during these chaotic and concerning times.
You may be balancing personal worries about the pandemic and, at the same time, trying to address these same anxieties for those within your caseload. You may be dealing with client concerns about health and economics, while focused on your family concerns about these issues, too. Many of us are working overtime, engaged in political and social justice activities that are heightened by the outcome of the election. If you are a parent, your children and their schooling is a critical worry. We are dealing with unusual amounts of anxiety and stress from every corner of our world. These are the times it helps to have support!
I hope that being a member of GWSCSW brings you an added sense of security and comfort right now, knowing that we are all going through this time together. Part of our GWSCSW mission is to support each other as valued colleagues. Each day, members are active on our vibrant listserv and each week we offer you information about our ongoing programs to help you stay informed and inspired.
GWSCSW held our first virtual ethics conference in mid-November with our favorite ethics maven, Dr. Frederic Reamer. Dr. Reamer is the gold standard in social work ethics. He is personable, knowledgeable and shared fascinating real-life cases and scenarios that were so needed right now. We were so fortunate to have such a well-respected expert share his passion, knowledge and experience with almost 200 attendees at this conference.
We appreciate how quickly our members renewed their membership this Fall during our October membership drive. We know that your support and willingness to pay annual dues during the pandemic reflects the value of our Society to you. If you have not yet renewed and need assistance, please contact Donna Dietz at email@example.com We held a virtual “new members brunch” on October 11 that was well-attended. It was fun to use the Zoom breakout rooms to allow us to meet in small groups, so that we could talk and really get to know with each other.
We are so proud of the recent Legislative and Advocacy virtual luncheon that was held on October 18. Almost 100 members registered for the free event to hear from our state lobbyists. Speakers presented a deep dive into the many issues that concern our tri-state membership in terms of new regulations, insurance changes, and potential issues of access and clinical control that affect our caseloads. Thanks to the L&A committee members and all the presenters who produced a stellar event.
We, your leadership team, are busy at work for you, to secure the vitality and viability of our Society in this time of change. We welcome you to join a committee and help the Society stay strong and responsive to its membership.
PO Box 711 | Garrisonville, VA 22463 | 202-478-7638 | firstname.lastname@example.org