SJS interviews social workers as we feel social workers in general are not very good about promoting themselves, or the positive work that is accomplished. Social Workers need to ‘toot their horns’ every once in a while….
Below is an interview I had the pleasure of conducting with Edie Weinstein, LSW. Her creative career and spiritual paths have led her to become an author, writer for publications such as BeliefNet, magazine publisher, columnist for the Huffington Post, speaker, interfaith minister, reiki master, and more. She has interviewed inspirational people from around the world, including the Dalai Lama. Read below to see an example of all that social workers can be and do.
Describe yourself a bit-
I have always viewed myself as a ‘helper’ and even when I was young, I was the ‘go-to’ person for my friends; the listening ear and problem solver. Likely, it evolved from having parents who, without benefit of college education, had those abilities as well. I was also grooming myself to become a co-dependent caregiver who thought it was her job to fix, save, heal, cure and kiss boo-boos and make them all better. These days I refer to that as ‘savior behavior’ that requires close monitoring lest it get out of control.
Why did you choose Social Work?
I chose Social Work because I was told that it was a more flexible course of study with broader reaching opportunities than had I entered into a master’s program for Psychology. I wanted a clinical rather than research or administrative track because I knew that counseling was my forte. Ironically, several of my jobs required more case management than actual therapy. I am pleased to say that my current job has very little case management other than the requisite paperwork and insurance authorization, rather than finding resources for clients as I had when I worked in psychiatric hospitals.
Provide some information about your educational and employment experience-
I attended Glassboro State College (now Rowan University, but I can’t bring myself to refer to it that way) and graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. During my college years, I worked in a crisis intervention center called Together, Inc. It was where I cut my teeth on basic counseling skills and worked on a crisis hotline, in the youth shelter and the women’s program. Two years after college (having waited tables, offered therapeutic massage, lifeguarded at a health club, worked for the South Jersey Council on Alcoholism and Hahnemann Hospital) I returned to school to earn my MSW (Master’s in Social Work) from Rutgers University. In 2001, I became an LSW, (Licensed Social Worker) succumbing to the need to take the licensure exam for a job. It does allow me to teach CEU classes, which is a bonus. A friend and fellow Social Worker refers to our degree as ‘Master of Saving the World.’
Over the years, I have had a private practice, and worked in settings including: community mental health, medical-surgical, in-patient psychiatric, partial hospital, nursing home, wrap around for children and teens, home care, and currently outpatient drug and alcohol treatment. I am also an interfaith minister and bereavement counselor, as well as a life coach. On the non-therapeutic side of my career, I am a journalist, radio host, motivational speaker and author, although the skills I gleaned through my formal education do come in handy. The workshops I offer are about relationships, communication, spirituality, sexuality, loss and grief, self esteem, body image, recovery, co-dependence, and creativity.
What led you to writing/blogging?
I have always loved writing and although I have no formal training, it is one of my passions and I would do it full time in a heartbeat. At this point I blend both worlds as I write for various blog sites and magazines, and conduct interviews with transformational writers, teachers, performers and artists. In 2010, while in the midst of facing the death of my beloved mother, sitting by her bedside when she was in hospice care, I wrote, The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming The Ordinary Into The Extraordinary. It contains slice of life stories that fall into what I consider the ‘Chicken Soup For The Soul’ genre. The last two chapters are about our hospice journey. The bonus chapter beyond that is an interview I conducted with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2008, which is the year my father died. Both of my parents have been my most ardent cheerleaders.
What advice can you offer to those who choose to enter the field of Social Work?
Ask yourself your motivation for choosing to become a social worker. Is it really to save the world or just to make a difference? The second is realistic, the first unlikely and a set-up for disappointment. You don’t receive a magic wand, Superman or Wonder Woman cape when you graduate.
- Offer yourself good self-care. Without it, burnout, or what I call ‘tater tot syndrome’ that leaves you feeling like a fried piece of potato is likely.
- Have solid supports with whom you can vent whether it is a supervisor or colleague.
- Social Workers are notoriously underpaid, but it doesn’t mean your services are not important and are actually invaluable.
- Deal with your own emotional issues and baggage since vicarious traumatization can occur, and memories can get triggered by hearing clients’ stories all day long.
- Find healthy coping skills and don’t turn to substances or other addictive behaviors.
Most important is the reality that you are doing the best you can in seemingly impossible situations at times.
A special thank you goes out to Edie Weinstein for agreeing to be interviewed. She is certainly a professional who has pushed her social work education to the limits, and proves that an MSW is a flexible degree and does not limit what social workers can do.
By Victoria Brewster, MSW
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