By Trish Yeh, ASW
Trish: Hi Ros, thank you very much for your willingness to share your experience and knowledge as a clinical social worker with CSCSW members. Could you please tell me more about your experience in the social work field?
Ros: I worked as an RN for 20 years before changing to social work. I received my MSW from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne in 1980. I returned to Davis, CA and practiced as a nurse and social worker at an intensive day treatment program for children for a couple of years while obtaining hours toward my LCSW license. Afterwards, I moved to San Diego due to my husband’s employment and started working at Family Service Association, where I provided outpatient individual and group work. In the meantime, I had several children and then moved to work with Jewish Family Service, where I stayed for 29 and a half years. I provided a range of services, including individual, couple, and family therapy, family enrichment courses, and supervision of social work interns from San Diego State and USC. I also had a small private practice. I retired two-and-a-half years ago and have continued to remain involved with CSCSW, which I have been working with since 1984. I was a long-term editor of the San Diego District’s local newsletter Connections between 1984 and the early 2000s. I have also been the Coordinator of the San Diego District for about twenty years.
Trish: Thank you very much for your long-term involvement and leadership in the Society. You have such extensive experience in the social work field. Would you mind sharing what led you to decide to transition into the social work field after working as a nurse for 20 years.
Ros: As a nurse, I worked mostly in hospitals. I did a three-year hospital nursing program after high school in the 1960s. After about twelve years, I decided I did not want to do hospital nursing anymore. When public health nursing became popular, I decided to go back for a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at the California State University, Sacramento while continuing to work. After I graduated in 1975 I worked in public health nursing in several places, including a migrant tuberculosis program in Sacramento and a home health nursing program in Illinois. Although nursing is more focused on crisis work now, I really loved providing education and working with families. When I noticed that I preferred counseling families to working in a strictly medical arena, I decided to return to school to obtain my MSW degree at the University of Illinois. I had also considered the psychology program, but it was more focused on research, instead of clinical work, which was my interest. After graduating I worked for a short time with California Youth Authority in Sacramento; then as both a nurse and social worker at a day treatment program I led groups for children and their siblings and provided play therapy. My clients were between 5 and 12 years old and were severely disturbed with conditions such as autism, ADHD, and others. In the mid-80s, treatment approaches primarily involved play therapy and have evolved since then.
Trish: How do you think your professional backgrounds in the social work and nursing fields have informed your work?
Ros: My background has helped me in my clinical work. I greatly enjoyed running a group for mothers with multiple sclerosis (MS) to help them better cope with their MS. I also ran a cognitive behavioral program for adults with eating disorders to help clients address body issues and develop coping skills. Furthermore, many social workers work alongside physicians and nurses as team members in healthcare settings to address mental health and physical health issues. I think it is important for social workers to become familiar with medications to better support our clients.
Trish: It is interesting to learn about your early roles in the social work field. Which client populations and clinical issues have you focused on in your work?
Ros: I have worked with individuals, couples, and families. I ran groups, mostly support groups, for adults with severe mood disorders. In terms of clinical issues that I have focused on in my career, I have run groups for couples with communication issues by utilizing a nationwide program named Couple’s Communication. I was certified to facilitate pre-marital couples in the Enrich Program, also a nationwide program, and I ran a twelve-week CBT course for clients with depression, bi-polar disorder, and anxiety disorder.
Trish: Do you have any advice in professional development for other social workers?
Ros: Well, as I have mentioned, I think it would be a great benefit for social workers to become familiar with medications and side effects in order to be more comfortable in working with clients and monitoring their conditions. Especially for social workers in the healthcare field, it is important to learn more about common medical conditions in their client populations through readings and trainings. Some organizations, such as the MS Society, Relationship Institute, CSCSW, and NASW, offer great trainings.
Trish: Thank you for your suggestions! Do you have any additional advice for social workers in their career planning and growth?
Ros: I think experience, such as working across various settings as many social workers do, would be very helpful. It is also very important for clinical social workers to identify their strengths and pursue fields that suit their strengths. For example, one of my students worked in the LGBTQ military service field for a while before he became a social worker. Through his personal experience and awareness of his communication strength, he developed a program to help the military increase awareness of LGBT issues, worked for the military as a social worker, and became a leader in the area. In another example, a number of students whom I have worked with were able to develop rapport with clients very rapidly. Part of it had come from their seeking therapy, gaining awareness of counter-transference issues, and then making sure they worked with clients in a non-judgmental way. I believe that it is important for social workers to seek their own therapy.
Trish: Since many social work students have recently graduated from their programs and are searching for jobs, do you have any advice for early-career social workers who are seeking jobs?
Ros: I would say that it is really important to do your homework. Learn about the organization and find out what the job that you are applying for entails. It would be helpful to find out as much information as you can about the position and organization, such as the approach of interventions, client population, et cetera. A good way would be to ask someone whom you might already know at the organization. You could also learn by preparing and asking questions in the interview. It is important to be confident and find out whether the position is a good fit for you. Salary and benefits might also be important information to find out in the interview process. If you learn in an interview that the position is very different from what you are hoping to do, it is important to consider that.
Trish: Thank you for your encouragement to applicants to learn as much as possible about a prospective position and employer. It has been such a pleasure to talk with you and hear about your experience. Is there anything else that you would like to share with CSCSW members?
Ros: I would like to encourage people to become a mentor in your area and help other social workers, particularly those early in their careers. Programming in the San Diego District will resume in September. Thank you very much for sharing your writing skills with the CSCSW.
Trish Yeh, ASW graduated from the MSW program at the University of California, Berkeley in 2016 with a concentration in Community Mental Health. She worked as a mental health clinician in the Specialty Mental Health Division of Asian Health Services in Oakland, CA and recently relocated to Los Angeles, CA. She has greatly enjoyed her involvements as a member of the CSCSW’s Los Angeles Steering Committee and has started a Social Justice Book Club in Los Angeles.