September 25, 2011

Are Social Workers Heroes? LA Magazine Seems to Think So

As social workers, we are living in interesting times. For decades, the perception of our profession has been off the mark. Generally speaking, the public associates our professional roles in society as inferior or low-impact. For as long as social work programs have been in existence, we have been fighting against these stereotypes. For example, how many times have you seen a social worker depicted as a "baby snatcher"? Social workers are also frequently depicted as inept, or individuals that can't earn more than $40K per year.

However, I am pleased to bring attention to a moving article in Los Angeles Magazine that is proving that stereotype wrong. UCLA Professor Dr. Jorja Leap is featured in the October issue as one of LA Mag's featured "Action Heroes." Professor Leap has primarily devoted her academic career to studying and evaluating anti-gang programs in the Los Angeles area. Her tireless work with Homeboy Industries has transformed, and will continue to transform several ex-gang members' lives and their families' lives. Keep an eye out for her book titled, Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me about Violence, Drugs, Love and Redemption, set to be released in March 2012.

Photo Credit: Professor Jorja Leap's Book Cover

September 22, 2011

The 2013 Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference

This morning I had my first class of the quarter, SW231F Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I am particularly excited for this course, mainly because every clinical class I have taken in the UCLA MSW program has been extremely general. I look forward to learning a therapy technique in-depth, that will allow me to gain skills and knowledge that I can put to use at my internship with an outpatient, community mental health clinic in Inglewood, California.

While the professor covered some general history and clinical theory about the CBT model, he mentioned what appears to be an incredible psychotherapy conference held every five years. The conference is called The Evolution of Psychotherapy, and to my luck, will be held in Anaheim, CA in 2013 on December 11th-15th. While the 2013 website does not have any details about next year's conference, readers are able to peruse details from the 2009 site. Conference handouts/slides (FREE!), mp3's of keynote and general speakers, and DVDs are all available (mp3's and DVDs must be purchased sadly).

To my surprise, fees to attend the 2009 were not outrageous, especially considering it was a week-long conference. According to the facebook page, professionals paid $630 and students and seniors paid $530. Not bad compared to what I have seen for others!

While the conference is more than a year from now, it might give you the opportunity to plan around job/academic schedules, in addition to plan for it financially, if the conference does sound appealing. Hopefully I will make it there as well.

September 20, 2011


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Tracking your MSW or MFT Hours

This is a quick post about a website that I think will be a great resource for Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) students, but also applicable to Master's in Social Work (MSW) students and recent grads.

Both MFT and MSW programs require students to obtain a specified number of practicum (internship) hours each year, in which they are supervised by a licensed professional. A website called Track your hours helps students and recent grads trying to obtain licensure, maintain a log of the number of hours they have completed. Certain state stipulations are included, since licensure rules differ depending on where you live. The great part is the website utilizes official forms from the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS), increasing the likelihood that your submission to the BBS will go through seamlessly.

The program offers a 30 day trial, and costs $34.95 per year. I'm usually not a fan of paying for annual memberships. However, because the BBS is very specific about how you document hour accumulation, I might consider purchasing a membership once I graduate.

Please click on the following for more information about BBS requirements for MFT and MSW licensure in California.

September 11, 2011

Applying and Getting into UCLA’s MSW Program: Tips to Help You Succeed Part II

Application essays.

Laborious. Tedious. Torturous.

In my opinion, writing personal statements is worse than getting dental work done. Trying to be genuine, smart, creative, convincing, and individualistic, all while abiding text restraints is an extremely painful task.

I agonized over writing my personal statements. Every time I sat down to put my ideas on paper, I felt overwhelmed. It took me weeks to create polished essays, but I could not have produced quality product without following the advice and recommendations of several people along the way.

In an effort to help you avoid any proverbial head banging against the wall, here are my tips for writing successful personal and professional statements:

Before You Write:
  1. Get in an inspired state of mind. It doesn't matter what you do – watch Ted Talks, read the Harvard Portrait Project, recite poetry, etc. Do anything to get your passionate juices flowing. 
  2. Create a detailed lifeline. Those aspiring to be social workers usually have several experiences that have created a desire to work in this field. Dig deep, and find those reasons. For me, I traced back to decisions I made in high school (such as why I decided to write a thesis on self-mutilation).
  3. Voice your ideas out loud. Do this by meeting with a good friend and try to answer the questions to your essay prompts honestly. Doing this will make your first approach to putting something down on paper a lot easier.
  4. Organize your thoughts by making an outline. The following excerpt from Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance describes this strategy perfectly: 
"[G]etting stuck is the commonest trouble of all. Usually, I say, your mind gets stuck when you’re trying to do too many things at once. What you have to do is try not to force words to come. That just gets you more stuck. What you have to do now is separate out the things and do them one at a time. You’re trying to think of what to say and what to say first at the same time and that’s too hard. So separate them out. Just make a list of all the things you want to say in any old order. Then later we’ll figure out the right order."

While You Write:
  1. Be authentic. It was not until I stopped thinking about what the admissions committee wanted to hear, and started formulating real answers to essay prompts, that I was able to get any decent writing done.
  2. Tell a story. I tied together several anecdotes and relevant experiences to answer the essay prompts. Although it is geared towards business school applicants, this article gives some great tips on how to draw the reader in with your personal story.
  3. Be efficient. It sometimes took me hours just to pump out a few paragraphs. Most of the time, I was pedaling backwards when I should have been strategizing. This article by Write to Done has 7 great strategies on how to increase your productivity each time you attempt to write.
After You Write
  1. Rewrite, revise, repeat.
  2. Have others review what you've written. Give your personal statements to the people you trust and ask for honest feedback. Do keep in mind that you don't want to be overwhelmed with feedback. Having 10 people read your personal statements might create anxiety or interfere with your productivity.
  3. Take advantage of resources on the web. For example, Kibin offers proofreading and editing for free.
For tips on how to secure great recommendations for your MSW application, please reference this post.

Photo Credit

September 8, 2011

UCLA MSW 2011-2012 Academic Calendar

One of the most useful tools I used as a student for the 2010-2011 academic year at UCLA was the School of Public Affair's (SPA) official Google Calendar. I highly recommend all entering students who have a gmail account to add the SPA calendar immediately. Because the department does not always announce orientation or events with sufficient notice, the calendar is critical for MSW students to know the dates of field modules, orientations, speaker events, etc.

Syncing your gmail calendar with your smart phone is particularly handy, as room reservations can change last minute. For recommendations on the best calendar applications, you can visit Lifehacker, my go-to site for technology-related questions.

Non-gmail users don't fret, you can use a google calendar as well.

A note of caution: Even when an event changes location or time, the department does not always update the calendar to reflect changes.