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Autobiographical Masters Social Work

April 11, 2013

I date my interest in social work back to the age of 15. At the time, I had a counselor, XXXX, my mentor. To this day I look to her words for inspiration, her tranquility, patience, and no nonsense approach to life. She had given me books about social work practices, behavior analysis and understanding society. Later in life, when I went to college and took a few psychology classes, I became fascinated with the human mind. At this time I met another woman, also an important role model who would inspire me to pursue a career in social work; to this day I deeply admire Professor XXXX, a strong, articulate woman who also had a soft, compassionate side. Soon, I came to realize that my own compassion was also my forte, and that social work would be my calling.

My intense passion for social work also results from the years that I have spent employed in a human service/clinical environment. I began to set my sights on working with people in the mid 1990’s, soon after beginning my first internship as support staff and a counselor at a shelter for battered and abused women. My intense dedication to working with people continued to increase exponentially during my next internship at XXXX's Psychiatric Center. Gradually, I became aware that, as I helped others, I began to find myself, as a woman, a mother, and a professional, capable of finding intense joy in my work. My work with adolescents in 1997 was another inspirational experience, helping me to better understand life stages and the myriad challenges faced during this critical period. At this time, I also began working on discovering, retrieving, enjoying and embracing my own child within. I began to remember critical junctures in my own childhood and adolescence, healing old wounds, becoming increasingly sensitive to and optimistic about the power of counseling to save lives by helping to steer clients away from destructive courses, and point them in healthy, productive, and life-fulfilling directions.

Working as a counselor/shift supervisor in a mental health facility, serving as a house manager for individuals with MR/MI, etc., over the years I have become increasingly impressed with the way that being genuinely interested in the mentally ill and showing them kindness and support can do incalculable good, helping them find joy in their lives through association with others. Working as a Habilitation Specialist, my professional self-confidence grew enormously as I assumed a leadership role, planning and running conferences and organizing multi-disciplinary teams. Most recently, I have refined my critical thinking skills working as a Client Care Manager in a MICA shelter, working with clients who suffered from a broad variety of maladies ranging from mental illness, medical and sociological issues to—and often intertwined with—chemical addiction. I became more and more fascinated with the theoretical aspects of social work and the treatment of such a wide range of clients with such diverse challenges. It was at this point that I began to seriously contemplate studying towards the MSW. Finally, I am in a wonderful marriage that also facilitates my return to full time study.

As with many other social workers, I believe that I was drawn to the field as a result of having overcome so many of my own personal challenges. My mother abandoned 4 children; I was the youngest, at 4 months old. My father was an illiterate steel worker born of Hungarian and Native American parents and raised in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen. As I understand it, things were often very tough in urban America in the 50’s and 60’s. My father was a street thug, a loving man, but never-the-less a thug. He did the best with the limited resources that he had to take care of a newborn, a 7 year old, and a 9 and 10 year old. Ultimately he made many critical mistakes and we were all in and out of the foster care system throughout our childhood and adolescence, all of us eventually winding up in group homes/facilities. Growing up, I developed many healthy relationships with counselors and I have most fond memories of them.

I learned effective communication skills growing up through participation in group discussions. At 16, I became emancipated and obtained my own apartment and a job working 12 hours a day, which led me to drop out of high school. Nevertheless, some of my counselors would claim that I could read at a college level as young as 8 years old. I have always loved to read and do research, and I knew, deep inside, that I could do well in college if given the opportunity. Thus, in 1990, at 19, I obtained my GED and started going to college. Despite having a baby to care for, I did wonderfully my first semester.

My second semester was also going very well; until I got the fateful call to inform me that my precious godson had been murdered. I was so upset and devastated. Not only did the 2 year old get killed, but in the same home where my own 2 year old was being cared for while I was in school. In shock, I dropped out to recover. I went back the following semester but found it to be much more of a struggle as a result of my trauma and preoccupation with safety, especially for my baby. I had been wounded as never before; yet I threw myself full speed into my studies. I adored going to college and even volunteered at the tutoring center, assisting other students. There has always been something about helping others that makes me feel complete.

Working in urban environments with multicultural populations, diversity is intrinsic to my life. I have always been very open minded, analytical, a student of people and multiculturalism. I have long been seen by those around me as a source of stability and consolation with my friends and colleagues who often come to me for advice since I have always struggled to be objective and empathetic.

Nevertheless, the violence that plagues our inner cities continued to haunt me, and I have had to survive more than my share. In February of 1993, the day came that would change my life forever: My older sister and her baby had been found murdered in her apartment. Despite all that I had already lived through, this was by far the most tragic moment of my life. I was in a daze identifying their bodies, watching her go, never to have my big sister/my best friend to talk to again. I went to Professor XXXX and she gave me courage and advice, not sympathy; she told me: “I can’t candy coat it.” It’s going to hurt like hell. It will get easier in time but it will always hurt.” She knew about my past adversities so she knew I was a survivor and she was very supportive. After that, I began my internship at the battered woman’s shelter. Helping someone learn how to escape from an abusive relationship helped me to gain back something that I had lost with my sister. My maturity and self-awareness continued to grow working at XXXX Psychiatric Center, reviewing case studies and working with violent offenders, helping them to acknowledge and divert the voices that caused them to elevate to psychotic breaks. And I made the Dean’s List through my last two years of school. After graduating with a degree in psychology, I moved to Albany and I worked with adolescents on a psych ward in a juvenile facility as well as another facility for gentlemen with Mental illness/retardation.

Next, moving back to NYC, I spent 8 years as a Habilitation Specialist in an Adult day program and married my boyfriend of 10 years; we had a baby. I took a break and then worked as a program manager in another day school, and, finally, became a client care manager at an MICA shelter. Once again, I was a supervisor, completing intakes and providing case management and counseling. I have been told on several occasions that I qualify, based on my experience and capacity, to assume the role of Director, in various agencies; I was just lacking one critical qualification: the MSW.  XXXX is said to have the best MSW program in my area.

I want to go into clinical social work because it is what I know best and where my greatest interest lie, since I have worked in facilities, schools, residential settings, dealing with clients with multiple diagnoses. I want to work with the adult population because, in my experience, they seem to be “the forgotten ones” and I don’t think it is ever too late for an individual to have a healthy, more productive life. I am a strong, dedicated, compassionate professional and a born leader. Yet, I am trainable and thrive on teamwork. I love my life and my field. I am well balanced, have a good marriage, and a great support system. While I never mix the two, I derive profound fulfillment from both.

The current social issue in which I am most interested is the intersection between homelessness, chemical addiction, and mental illness, how they overlap, and how they are compounded by a lack of resources, especially a lack of follow up care.

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