The CSCSW board recently decided to revive two awards which had been given every two years. One of the awards is an honorary recognition for contributions to the field of clinical social work. This award is to be given to an individual for “exceptional work which enhances the image of clinical social work.” The awards committee has chosen a long-time member, Charlotte Siegel, as the recipient of this award.
Charlotte’s illustrious career spans seventy years! Charlotte has always brought both enthusiasm and a keen understanding of people to whatever job she undertook. She threw 100% of herself into her work and her relationships with people, and she thrived from both.
Charlotte began studies for her MSW at the University of Chicago and finished at UC Berkeley after moving to Stanford University with her husband, who was a renowned professor of anthropology. During the years between Chicago and Stanford, Charlotte had a number of medical social work jobs, but it was during a six month stint at a VA hospital that Charlotte realized that psychiatric work was what interested her. Her husband encouraged her to return to school after having two children, though this was unusual at the time.
After completing her MSW, Charlotte went to work at Family Service Association in Palo Alto, where she worked for eight years. She then worked briefly at Stanford Medical School and went on to work for twenty years at Counseling and Psychological Services at Stanford. Because Charlotte had had many cross cultural work experiences while her husband did his anthropological field work, she became a liaison staff person to Bechtel International Center at Stanford, where she helped numerous foreign students with their adjustment to life at Stanford.
After her twenty years at Stanford, Charlotte felt ready to open a private practice. This was a big transition for Charlotte, who was used to working for social agencies. Charlotte grew to love her long term work with clients, some of whom she had seen years before at Stanford. She also became an active member of the program planning committee for the Mid-peninsula district of the Society for Clinical Social Work and was instrumental in bringing many excellent speakers to speak at district meetings.
When Charlotte moved into a senior residence, she set up and led a transitions group for about five years, from age 85-90. When she had an injury and was confined to the skilled nursing facility, she led the group from her bed. She saw her last individual client at the age of 93.
The continuing theme in Charlotte’s life has been about networking and connecting people with other people and with causes. In her eighties, Charlotte wrote a paper about her life as a social worker. Charlotte concluded her paper with the following statement: “My social work self, my clinical self, my total being self, they are all wrapped up together. There isn’t a separate clinician and separate Charlotte Siegel. It’s all a part of the definition and a part of what I am able to give to clients who come see me – a sense of life moving for me and for them.”
The plaque which we presented to Charlotte states: “With thanks for being a role model for generations of social workers and for your service to CSCSW and to the profession. Presented with gratitude and affection.”