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Misunderstanding Social Work and the Helping Professions

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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.

About the Author

J. Peters

Bold 10 Under 10 award recipient Jacques Peters ’08, MSW ’12 . Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), therapist and disability rights advocate, Mr. Peters fights for those without a voice in various systems of care, such as the New York City Department of Social Services, the New York State Office of Mental Health or the city’s Department of Corrections. Jacques is the author of University on Watch: Crisis in the Academy, which he published under the pen name J. Peters in 2019, and First Diagnosis, published in 2020. Jacques refers to his stance on recovery in his journal articles as “Too big to fail.” No obstacle too big, no feat out of reach, Jacques let nothing stop him in his path to recovery and healing.
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