Misunderstanding Social Work and the Helping Professions

Help!

During one of my first supervision’s as a social worker I was asked what I like about being a therapist. I replied: helping people.
The psychologist providing supervision replied: that’s a bit nebulous, help how?

Well, do this day, I’ve always felt strange about that psychologist’s response. This psychologist just didn’t get it at all. If helping someone is unclear in someway, something is very wrong with the service being provided to your client. Help may be specific to the person being served, but the act of helping, that is as clear as day. 

Helping someone, a family, a kid, and/ or adult, is one of the most rewarding things I can think of doing in a world riddled with competition, violence, and tragedy. The act of helping, the helping profession, is and needs to be must, in a world of “nebulous” shoulds.

I wake up every morning thinking and hoping that my words will uplift a person, and improve the quality of someone’s life in some capacity and/or form. It brings me joy in its most platonic form: It drives my work forward and the lives of those I serve in manner that challenges me to tirelessly continue to practice my skill and improve my craft to do better for my clients.

Social Work and psychotherapy continues to be misunderstood. People don’t go into this work for the money. Most of us have other jobs just to support our work as undervalued helping professionals. We do it because we love to see people better themselves from the work we do together as therapist and client. It’s a relationship we enter to experience positive change, growth, and greater happiness/health: a contract to become our personal best at all times. 

Most of all, social work and psychotherapy is learning from the mistakes that interfere with that process of positive development, and becoming better for it. 

So helping professionals, keep your heads up, and keep the work going! Continue to support people through hopeless times instilling inspiration to all you grace with your helping hands.

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Max E. Guttman LCSW

Max Guttman is the owner of Recovery Now in New York. Max provides psychotherapy, complex case management, community consultation, and self-management skill-building groups. His approach is based on evidenced-based practices (EBP). Max earned a master’s degree in Social Work from Binghamton University. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and a field instructor for both postgraduate and undergraduate students at Lehman College. He is also a social work supervisor and psychotherapist at Courtlandt Avenue Clinic in the South Bronx where he teaches students social work praxis in New York City. In addition to this responsibilities, he manages Mental Health Affairs, a mental health blog.

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