June 18, 2012

Graduation and Beyond

This past Friday, I walked across the stage at Royce Hall with my fellow UCLA MSW classmates. It was an event marked by excitement and a sense of pride and accomplishment. More than anything, I enjoyed watching students pose for photos, yell supportive comments as friends strutted across the stage, and embrace each other after the ceremony.

While I will certainly miss both my cohort and the student lifestyle, I cannot wait for what is ahead of me: a career in the mental health field. Although it was a tough decision, I turned down a job offer from a community mental health center where I interned, and took a contractor job for a prestigious hospital in West LA in adult inpatient psychiatry. Only time will tell if I made the right choice.

For the past two years, this blog has been a place for me to vent my frustrations, provide insight about the program, and spread little bits of knowledge I have accumulated from my student journey. I have truly enjoyed writing about my experience and receiving emails from readers. Ultimately, I have made the decision to discontinue posting entries on this blog, mostly because I will not be able to devote the time to write qualities entries. However, should any readers want to contact me about the UCLA MSW program, I am still available and willing to answer questions via thenudgepatrol at gmail dot com. Thanks for reading!

May 31, 2012

What Does Your Student Schedule Say About You?

A typical UCLA MSW student commitment list will look something like this: 14-18 unit class schedule, 20-25-hour/week internship, term papers, group projects, extracurricular involvement, outside jobs, student loans, personal lives, etc.

During my first year in the MSW program, balancing all of my commitments was, at times, stressful and overwhelming. While I personally did not find the program that academically taxing, managing my schedule certainly was. I often found that it was all too easy to over-commit myself to extracurriculars, causes, and social events that were not necessarily important to me, and what I was left with was a cluttered schedule and a feeling that I had no time for myself.

While making time for pleasurable activities is certainly not a new concept, I wanted to stress the importance of prioritizing your time in a way that compliments and nurtures the MSW graduate student experience. After one year in the program, as I scrolled backwards in time over my colorful gmail calendar, I reflected to myself, Am I making time for things that I want to do? When I learned the answer was not a definitive yes, I decided to re-jigger my schedule to allow me to discover activities and projects that sincerely cultivated my interests as a social worker and fostered my well-being.

The following is a brief list of UCLA affiliated activities or commitments I prioritized during my second year MSW experience:

1. Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) Classes: My interest in mindful meditation has grown significantly over the year, and fortunately, UCLA's affiliated MARC center offers classes, lectures, and retreats at a steep discount to students. I'm currently enrolled in the MAPs For Daily Living class with another MSW student, and I can't say enough positive things about the class. The 6-week course is only $60 for UCLA students (compared to $185). The center also offers free meditation drop-in classes for anyone who wants to learn more or test the waters before committing. What I love about the class, is that I'm not just practicing mindfulness during the two hours of class per week. Through weekly assignments, I'm learning that mindfulness has started to creep its way into other facets of my life, what the teachers call "informal practice."

2. UCLA MSW Lecture Series: Throughout the year, MSW faculty and staff arrange a lecture series for students between the 12-2 lunch break on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In the past two years, the program has hosted a group of all-star lecturers including Father Greg Boyle, Steve Lopez, Jonathan Metzl, Sheriff Lee Baca, and Connie Rice. Attending lectures is always free of charge, and a delicious lunch is usually served. Having so many opportunities to learn from pioneers in our field is rare, and I'm grateful to UCLA for creating a space to participate.

3. UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPs): While I've written about the benefits of pursuing therapy before, I want to stress that the personal and professional benefits of undergoing therapy during the MSW program are far-reaching. Students who elect to have university insurance receive 10-12 free sessions, and can continue to see their therapist for an agreed-upon rate thereafter. CAPs also offers several groups and workshops. I very much enjoyed attending a three-week intro course to on Mindful Pathways to Wellness.

4. UCLA Wooden Center: Any enrolled UCLA student can use the Wooden Center on campus free of charge. If you avoid going during peak hours (the rush usually starts around 4:30 p.m. when undergraduates frequent the gym), the Wooden Center is a world-class gym with tons of cardio and weight equipment. For students who want a more structured workout experience, the gym offers personal training and group exercise classes.

May 23, 2012

The Board of Behavioral Sciences Subscriber List

Last month, I attended an NASW sponsored conference by the New Professionals Network on UCLA's Campus. The event was designed to guide soon-to-be MSW professionals like myself on the licensure process in addition to job search strategies.

The facilitators gave us several tips for staying on top of the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) requirements, but above all, the most helpful tip was to immediately sign up for the BBS Subscriber List. By doing so, professionals wishing to be licensed receive any and all updates to the licensing process, the exam, etc. as soon as they are enacted. To stay current, I recommend all MSW and MFT students sign up right away.

May 3, 2012

Nancy Lublin on Creating a Crisis Textline

Nancy Lublin, CEO of DoSomething.org, speaks about using the power of texting to link teens in crisis to services. What a brilliant example of using technology to engage individuals that might otherwise remain invisible!

April 23, 2012

The UCLA MSW "Comprehensive Exam"

Second year students in UCLA's MSW program were recently emailed information about the elusive "Comprehensive Exam," a required exit exam for all second year students that contains both a written and oral component.

I practically laughed out loud after reading the "notice." To be frank, the description of the exam reads more like busy work rather than something that warrants the disconcerting name of COMPREHENSIVE EXAM.

In case students outside the second year class are interested, I've posted instructions below.

UCLA MSW Comprehensive Exam

April 17, 2012

Ocean Therapy with the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation

While brainstorming summer activities for clients that are served at my community mental health center, one of my coworkers mentioned The Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation (JMMF), a surf charity organization dedicated to commemorating the life of professional surfer Jimmy Miller. After struggling from a severe mental disorder that led to his death in 2004, family and friends decided to keep his memory alive by supporting the mental health community with an "Ocean Therapy" program for both at-risk youth, held in Manhattan Beach, CA, and veterans, based at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.

The program is truly one-of-a-kind for participants. During ocean therapy sessions, surfers receive "individualized surfing instruction, while building self-efficacy and self-confidence in the participants through group-based discussion sessions."A team of expert surf instructors, psychologists, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, mental health professionals, and dedicated volunteers use surfing in tangent with the therapeutic properties of the ocean to help individuals manage symptoms related to PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and other affective disorders. Could this be the next evidence-based practice?

If you are a mental health professional working in Southern California, I highly recommend you visit the Ocean Therapy Schedule and think about referring your clients. Additionally, those interested in volunteering for the organization, they are always looking for beach and water volunteers.

Veteran Program, Camp Pendleton

Photo Credit

April 9, 2012

Sh*t Social Workers Say

I know I'm a little late on this, but if you haven't seen it, I encourage you to watch the video file below. It's pretty dead on:

March 27, 2012

UCLA MSW Program: Winter Quarter Class Reviews

Due to the time demands of my clinical internship at a Community Mental Health Center, I decided to only take two "real" classes this past quarter. I selected a health policy class and a direct practice class, in addition to my independent study research class (2 credits each quarter) and my field internship. By front loading a heavier schedule in fall quarter, I was afforded the luxury of taking less classes during the winter and spring quarters. As an MSW student about to start looking for a job, I find it extremely beneficial to have a lighter academic schedule to free up some time to research agencies, go on interviews, etc.

Below is a brief review of the classes I took this quarter. As I always mention, the following is a synopsis of my experience of academic classes within UCLA's MSW program, and does not represent other students' opinions. 

290M Health Policy and Services: This class is designed to provide students with an introduction to topical issues about health care financing, delivery, and reform. A significant amount of time was spent deciphering major public health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, in addition to analyzing their relationship to issues of access, quality, and cost of care to diverse and vulnerable populations. As someone who wanted to learn more about the Affordable Health Care Act, I found this class extremely helpful in deciphering changes to our country's convoluted health care system. Additionally, a portion of each class was devoted to newspaper articles related to health care. In addition to its focus on contemporary issues, I thoroughly enjoyed the student diversity. Because the class is cross-sectioned as a public health class, about half the students were from other disciplines.

Average reading/week: 75-120 pgs
Texts: Introduction to U.S. Health Policy: The Organization, Financing, and Delivery of Health Care in America, various online articles
Major Assignments: Debate summary and presentation, country summary and presentation, take-home final exam
Caveats: Class lectures from the professor ran about an hour and a half to two hours before switching over to debates or newspaper article reviews. Students might benefit if lectures were slightly more interactive.

231G Substance Abuse Intervention: Given its prevalence and severity among populations that social workers engage with, I was very much looking forward to taking a course about substance abuse and dependence. Luckily, this class did not fail to disappoint my expectations. This class was a great introductory course to the concept of substance abuse, in addition to learning how to assess and provide interventions to affected individuals. Katrina Dornig, the instructor of the class, was excellent, not only due to her broad base of knowledge about substance abuse, but her extensive experience treating individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders. I very much appreciated her insights and accounts from first-hand experiences. Additionally, I enjoyed the variation in classes, with a mix of field visits, guest lectures, in-class exercises, and video recorded mock therapy sessions. Overall, an excellent class.

Average reading/week: 100-200 pgs
Texts: Dual disorders: Counseling clients with chemical dependency and mental illnessRethinking Substance Abuse: What the science shows, and what we shoulddo about itRecovery options, in addition to various internet articles. 
Major Assignments: 12 Step meeting visit plus reflection, motivational interviewing mock therapy video plus reflection, midterm research paper, and in class final exam.
Caveats: The professor of the course is not the easiest grader. Some students were also surprised by questions included on the final exam. Keep in mind that the final exam review sheet is a guide, and not comprehensive. 

March 20, 2012

You. Social Justice. Thailand Summer 2012

Interested in volunteering abroad while also learning about social entrepreneurship and social activism? A Jewish organization called JustIFi might have the perfect opportunity for you. JustIFi recently announced dates for summer trips abroad to Thailand. The trips are designed to provide participants with opportunities to study the human trafficking trade, work directly with local non-profits, and to engage with Thai children who have been directly afflicted. To apply, please fill out an application here.

March 5, 2012

Psychology Tools: Case Formulations, Info Sheets, and Therapy Worksheets

Therapy Worksheets' most recent post is about Psychology Tools, a great website with a ton of free materials for psychologists and therapist to share and utilize in session. The majority of materials are through a CBT lens, with several case conceptualizations, diagnosis information sheets, and other useful tools available to download for free.

I think I saved over ten information sheets in my therapy toolbox within the first five minutes of perusing the site. Below are a few of my favorites. Enjoy!
Formulation Problem

Thoughts and Depression

Unforgiveness Hook Metaphor