Here at the end of March, Social Work Month, we at ACSWA offer a few of our board members’ reminiscences about what led them to go to graduate school to become a clinical social worker. We invite you to share your own memories on the same subject—we will be continuing this theme through April, which we hereby designate as Clinical Social Work Month! As a BCD practitioner, you are a member of online ACSWA , the national community of clinical social workers—please feel free to check in on your ACSWA connection, including daily Clinical Twitter (tweets on behavioral health topics), blog, e-books, e-newsletter, specialty certifications at ABE, position statements and testimony, and many features that will be coming soon.

ACSWA: How did you decide to go to graduate school and become a clinical social worker?

Jim Drisko, MSW, PhD: Before I went to graduate school to get my MSW, I worked as a residential child care worker.  I had a solid undergrad psychology background, but quickly realized that working with real people – children from severely troubled backgrounds – was a different thing altogether.  On my first day working alone, all the kids ran out of the building, and I felt really helpless.  (A year later I would have yelled “Hey kids, I’m making pudding” and knew most of them would come back to be part of it; by then they trusted me.)  With the mentoring of two great clinical social workers I learned that relationships are the heart of social work and that relationships all take time and effort.  My mentors pushed me to observe where I got stuck and to appreciate what I did well.  With their help, I saw I had lots to learn and also much to offer others.  They encouraged me to go to grad school in social work.  I trusted them and saw social work as a solid career choice.  After getting my MSW and PhD, I remain grateful to them both.

Vickie Leff, LCSW, BCD, ACHP-SW: I was working at Harvard University in Cambridge in 1980. A colleague in the office told me her mother was a therapist who had received her MSW from Simmons school of social work. I had wanted to be a psychotherapist since I was a teenager, but was put off by PhD programs. When she told me more about the work her mother did, I immediately knew getting an MSW would be a great fit for me and applied to the program. I was determined to go to Simmons and luckily was accepted.

Tell us why you chose to go to graduate school and become a clinical social worker! Comment below or send us an email:


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