Why I Choose to be a Social Worker
To quote Elie Wiesel, One person of integrity can make a difference. As I sit in the waiting room I cannot help but notice it is not as I imagined it would be. Colorful paintings hang on the walls all around me. Beautiful flowers sit in front of me that are full of life. Even though my nerves feel scattered I cannot help but feel a sensation of calmness arise over me, as the door opens, and I see a friendly smile. I walk inside her office, sit down, and know I am going to get my life back. This is a personal synopsis of the beginning of my personal journey to conquer my anxiety. For most of my life, I felt I was a normal, worry-free person. Growing up, you hear many individuals' aspirations, such as helping people, to be the change in someone's life. However, what happens when individuals face obstacles they feel like can block them from making a difference in someone's life?
I did not always have anxiety. When having anxiety, you worry about everything! To many, having a mental illness like anxiety is tiring, draining, and a lot to carry at times. On the other hand, it teaches one to understand others who deal with similar cognitive distortions. You can see how life's moments affect society in a diverse way. When I started cognitive behavioral therapy, I noticed how much having someone to trust can heal you. I allowed my therapist to see my insecurities, knowing she would never use them against me. Seeing the change someone made in my life by listening to me made me realize the change I can mirror in someone else's life as well. My anxiety and experience with a therapist have led me to pursue a career as a licensed clinical social worker.
Attending a public school growing up, I always saw how mental illness affected my classmates in diverse ways through their behavioreach person affected differently. It altered not only their behavior, but school work, home life, and social life as well. Some students felt like it was easier to reach out for help while others felt like it was not an option. While it is amazing that some individuals seek help, it is the individuals who see the stigma attached to mental illness that need someone in their life they can go to. Being able to witness this in high school made me see how substantial a problem it is. However, for a while I believed it only affected adolescents and adults. Being more involved in different areas of society, like work, would only show me how wrong I was. I would later be shown how mental illness affects every age in different forms.
Working at an after school program, I quickly noticed behaviors in small children. Some days I would obtain the responsibility to interact with parents. I observed how parents' behavior can impact their children regardless of their age difference and life experiences. This added more fire to my passion to become a licensed clinical social worker. This exposure revealed how I would like to help various mental health illnesses at all ages overcome obstacles. A profession such as this is a commitment not only to the individual but an asset to society.
The experience of attending my high school and working at an after school program for several years has opened my eyes and mind, thus forever changing my worldview. These experiences along with my ambition are demonstrations of what valuable addition I can bring to the social work program. Currently, I am still working at an after school program and continue to gain a great deal of experience. I believe a Master's in Social Work will prepare me to think strategically and teach me to give excellent service. My personal experiences and challenges through the years have served as the foundation for growth to happen and preparing me for a life of helping others.
Although this will be a challenging career, I hope to gain more reward. One thing I understand greatly is that individuals seeking help face challenges obtaining and securing resources. I know when I was deciding if I wanted to see a therapist; it was easy to find the resources and information I needed. However, a major predicament in society is that those with a lack of privilege may not have access to the resources, information, and services that helped me. My professional goal is to work to ensure individuals are educated on these resources and can access them easily and efficiently. As I have thought back on what it was like for me when I sought out help, I also thought about the relationships I have in my life; it meant so much to me to have the support system I did from family and friends. Many people lack the knowledge of the importance of human relationships and how much they can affect our behavior. I would want to make clients have at least one person, besides me, with whom they can build a strong relationship. This will restore a sense of community for them as mental illness can be an isolating disease.
As beautiful as this world can be, I also understand the dark sides of it that come with social injustice and oppression. I value the ethics set through the National Association of Social Workers as these take part in working towards eliminating these substantial issues. A few of these standards include cultural awareness, privacy and confidentiality, ensuring client records are accurate, and seeking advice of colleagues through consultation. I acknowledge the importance of these standards because I can relate first hand from my vulnerable experience with my therapist.
Passion is the forefront of characteristics that will help me be a successful social worker but also contribute to my academic achievement. It is my belief that everyone has a story they would like to share, and only positive things can be taken from each of them. I will get the opportunity to interact with people I never imagined. Although I believe it takes many skills and characteristics to be a competent social worker, I know the following characteristics can push me toward my goals: my ability to be a critical thinker, active listener, strong empathizer, and operative communicator.
Being a critical thinker, I realize every individual is different and mental health diagnosis can manifest itself in different, unique, and complicated ways. I believe my ability to think outside of the box is one tool that will help me develop a promising plan for each individual that will fit his/her needs. Not only can this skill aid in my career but it can foster me academically as well. I am confident I will use different concepts learned in classes throughout my academic journey to reach individuals. My critical thinking skills will work to eliminate areas of oppression, strive to change environments, provide ample support, alter negative thought patterns, and push for a positive outcome.
The second characteristic is being an active listener. I know as a well-equipped social worker I will listen effectively. To utilize this skill, I will listen and empathize feeling. Making individuals feel heard will help build a strong rapport. This can help with the issue of diversity, making it possible for a client to be heard and helped, no matter who they are. This means treating clients with equal fairness instead of treating everybody the same, as people have different needs. Active listening can enhance my understanding of all voices desiring to be heard, it can help me understand and prepare for my future career.
My third characteristic I believe will help me holistically is empathy. A quote I always found interesting is, I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person, by Walt Whitman. Being able to empathize with someone in my profession can help me understand him/her on a deeper level. I will be able to help and listen to him/her the best way possible by exposing myself to his/her feelings. Having empathy can help further my career by embodying cultural competence. Empathizing will build trust to develop open communication and share resources and to better understand and serve each population.
My last characteristic is operative communication. As cognitive behavioral therapy was the best form of help for me, I understand there are various other theoretical models to assist with my client. Having strong communication can very well implement a layer of trust. It can also help the social injustice issue that is still pertinent to society by making sure clients are aware that resources are available. I will use communication and networking to master topics taught through the program, and explore thoroughly. Communication is the key to achieve optimal success.
Along with these personal traits, I will utilize many resources available to ensure I will reach my goals. At any time, I know I can reach out to my academic advisor, career center, library resources, professors, and tutors. I will also use the university's fitness center and health center as keeping up with my health physically and mentally can contribute to my academic success. This goal can be costly as obtaining my Master's will take a lot of money and time. I plan to be working during this time to pay for graduate school, and hope to work in a hospital or facility as a clinical assistant. I know this will help broaden my knowledge as well as prepare myself for the career I have chosen.
If I am fortunate enough to start my new journey in life enrolled at The University of Alabama Master of Social Work program, then I will be determined to become a person of integrity stated by Elie Wiesel to make a difference in someone's life. Nothing brings me greater joy than my passion for clinical social work. This passion is something I will bring to my classes in the social work program and later to my future career. I look forward to taking on the role of a licensed clinical social worker where I can empower and serve individuals who face mental illness, social injustice, oppression, and the lack of human relationships. I believe I can bring change to individuals' lives through my compassion, empathy, reliability, competency, and trust. I believe with a Master's in Social Work, I will make a promising difference in peoples' lives who struggle with mental illness. I have had in-depth conversations with friends and family regarding my career choice, and they undoubtedly agree I have the personality and passion for this field of work.