Author: Carla Van Hoose, KSCSW Board Member
To be a Licensed Clinical Social Worker means having a master's degree in social work, hours of clinical supervision while working in a clinical setting and passing the CSW and LCSW national tests. It means being qualified to work in public or private settings, institutions, hospitals, clinics, businesses or homes. After working in a number of settings, I have, for the last 30 years, been in my own office in private practice. I like the responsibility, freedom and challenges. I start my day by dressing professional, getting myself, my Tibetan Terrier (the office greeter and guard dog) and my lunch to work a little early. I clean up the office, warm up the computer and review my schedule for the day. I schedule 4 to 7 clients a day, 5 days a week.
My clients include people in various stages of addiction or recovery, adults with anxiety or phobias, men or women experiencing grief, mood disorders or coping with past trauma of child abuse or assault. Each of them have unique ways of coping and interesting talents. I never know what challenges the next hour will present. I do know that I will need to be present, emotionally available and knowledgeable. For example, one hour I might talk to someone celebrating the effective use of the mindfulness skills she learned. While the next hour, I may be working with someone who was doing well but has been triggered about a child sexual abuse situation he had suppressed. Dancing lightly on one's feet is a job requirement.
I use lunch time to eat, walk the dog and clear my mind sometimes with deep breathing or at other times I work crossword puzzles. Clearing my mind gives me the focus and clarity to see the next group of clients. Unless I take care of myself, I am not able to do my best job for my clients. During other breaks, I attend to business issues like scheduling, intake calls, banking, paying bills, computer problems, office repairs, filing or marketing. I also read the KSCSW book club selection. Sometimes I sweep the hall or run to the store for toilet paper. At the end of the day, I review what I have done and make notes to myself about issues to follow up on in future appointments, close the office down and check on my renters. I attend the KSCSW dinner CEU meetings monthly for education and networking.
I also think, “What does it all mean?”
To me, it means that being an LCSW is a position of value.
Value that comes from a specialized education to work with causes, disenfranchised groups, communities, institutions, adults and children.
Value that comes from a strong ethical base as outlined in the Kentucky State Statutes and by NASW. LCSWs model commitment, honesty, professional boundaries and concern for others that many of our clients have never experienced before. It means watching from a distance as clients grow into a new life. Sometimes I know what I have done to help. Other times I am not as sure. Some clients credit me with saving their lives, like an addict who was found near death in a trash pile and now has a family, good job and bright future. (details changed to maintain confidentiality). Some clients I hear from years later or they refer their friends to me, while still others I never hear from again.
Value as an activist to push for equality, stand up for those who are not able to do so themselves and champion the values we live by to help the society.
Value in being a gate keeper for change at all levels. LCSWs are special people who are allowed into the lives of people who may be at their worst and trust us to help them move into a better place, maybe the best yet in their lives. We help them to solve problems. To me it is a blessing and a gift to do what I do every day. I am looking forward to doing it again tomorrow.