The War-Time Social Worker

The War-Time Social Worker

I have been thinking very macro recently. I have also been thinking about intersectionality. In this vein, and a few things come to mind. Governance, war, social work, mental health, and wellness. Where do these discourses collide? For the purposes of this discussion, let us think of the office of the president. In times of war, we term our presidents’ wartime leaders or even wartime presidents.

These are presidents described as strong, persevering, and able to lead during times of extreme national distress or even division. These presidents unify the populace around them. If you’ve never struggled with a major mental health disorder, or issue in your life, you might not liken disorder to war, but I do. Every day for me is a war against my illness, and I am in it to win it or else suffer the tragic unfortunate process of florid psychosis in full bloom.

As a practicing social worker (really, the reader need only think of a mental health clinician), it is my duty, my responsibility to teach the people I work with to carry on despite their plight. My clients suffer from a full range of mental health disorders, all complicating their lives to the point where the best route to health may be too obfuscated to identify at first glance. This is where I come in, and this where I thrive. I am a wartime social worker. Yes; this is a thing if a president can lead the nation to peace and victory. I can lead my clients to health and wellness out of the annals of disaster, grief, or any of the endless symptoms people can become stricken with under the terror of mental illnesses.

This is serious, this is also important.

War time social work is the micro level counterpart of the war time leaders in our nations long history of challenging wrongers throughout the world.


Instead, I challenge my clients to confront their evils, inside, and many times in their interpersonal landscapes when their social world gets out of hand. I am now challenging all social workers, psychologists, and clinicians in mental health to take on a new acronym and designation as a wartime clinician.


Like the point person who owns their case. The wartime social worker is your go-to clinician when the odds are pitted against the client to recover. There is a reason why you bring on the wartime social worker into the clinical picture. Because; serious harm was done, endured, and must be righted if the client is to survive or return to their baseline. The wartime social worker has a job, a great task ahead.

They are charged with not just a simple intervention. They are charged with major restorative clinical work and progress. If this is not experienced or produced, the client is surely in peril. Wartime social workers are as savvy in their skills as they are speedy in their writ to produce brilliant outcomes. Their skills outpace the constraints of most people’s movements and the speed of societal waves to interfere or complicate the lives of their clients. In fact, the wartime social worker mobilizes the community and its resources around and for their client. They stretch and use resources in a way that creates new opportunities for their clients.

I have been a wartime social worker for my clients’ time and again. I have had to manipulate billing to justify needed services so my clients would be met consistently and frequently when they needed it the most. I have gone to war for my clients to secure housing, bridge connections, and natural supports, and create safety plans that are so radical, they transcend the bounds of conventional status changes around the protection of health. I’ve held meetings across multiple systems until the right person in the government was reached that could bring about the needed oversight across systems to ensure my clients would not fall through the cracks of treatment when they need it the most.

So, I ask you: what kind of social worker are you? Are you willing to escape the confinement of conventional clinical wisdom and depart from the textbook? Or are you going to sit idly by while your client falls apart when the minimum work just doesn’t cut it? I am encouraging you all, with every breath I can spare, to expel out of your lungs the disease of inactivity and traditionalist thinking when it comes to clinical practice. Understand the intersections that guide our lives and don’t let the lines get blurred when it comes to intervening in the most effective way possible, every time.

J. Peters

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association. Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia. "I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others." "In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."

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