“I am a Clinical Supervisor at Aetna’s employee assistance program (EAP) called Resources For Living (RFL). EAPs are a set of professional services purchased by employers to promote the productivity and overall wellbeing of employees and to advise and train employers on mental and behavioral health issues impacting the workplace. I supervise twelve licensed mental health professionals who provide clinical and consultative services to our clients. Most of our work is done over the phone, but I also lead a specialized crisis response team that travels to worksites around the country to provide onsite services following traumatic events affecting employees. All the Counselors on my team are credentialed as LCSWs, LMSWs, LCPs, or LCP-Interns. Because the vast majority of our work is completed by phone, you’ve got to have the ability to assess without visual queues, relying only on your keen listening skills. You’ve also got to be able to convey empathy through voice alone, without the use of eye contact or body language. Clinically, you need knowledge of short-term therapies, such as Solution Focused Therapy, and the ability to know when a client needs to be referred to a high level of care. UT’s MSSW program prepared me clinically to start my first role as a Counselor at RFL. I especially think about how a crisis intervention course taught by Jonathan Singer piqued an interest that would eventually be harnessed for the crisis response team at RFL. In terms of my supervisory role, the foundation of critical thinking instilled in me and modeled by my first placement faculty liaison Shirley Haulotte was invaluable.”
“I am an independent consultant, working in the field of organizational development and workplace wellness. I started Creating Transformational Workplaces (CTW) as a vehicle to bring diverse wellness professionals together to serve the needs of small businesses in central Texas. I also provide individual coaching on launching effective career transitions and aligning work and life goals. I am a social worker and true generalist at heart. My relationship-building and collaboration skills allowed me to form unique, innovate partnerships among seemingly disparate groups. This led to the creation of a niche for myself, helping organizations thrive by implementing new organizational development initiatives and discovering new business opportunities. A typical week for me includes 60% of my time spent in direct contact with my customers and clients, 20% of time in maintaining current and previous networking relationships, and 20% of time in cultivating new business. For this line of work you need superior relationship management skills, flexibility, creativity, and a natural comfort with the unknown. Working for yourself means that there is no illusion of stability. I utilize all of the skills I learned in the MSSW program at UT: advocacy, community/macro practice, diversity, strengths-perspective and meeting clients where they are. Social work prepared me for viewing my work (and life) as a process, which has given me personal resiliency in the face of adverse or uncertain situations. Social work and the MSSW program prepared me for life, not just a job!”
“I am the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Gender and Sexuality Center at The University of Texas at Austin. I am responsible for developing and facilitating workshops on LGBTQ and women’s issues for students, faculty and staff. I also teach and coordinate a peer facilitation program for which participants receive academic credit. Another part of my position is to talk with students who have questions or are working on something difficult in their lives. Going into the School of Social Work it was my dream to be a full-time educator around social justice issues, especially LGBTQ issues. I did many of my papers and projects on LGBTQ issues. I was also was able to TA for the ‘Foundations of Social Justice’ course as well as the ‘Gays and Lesbians in American Society’ course. Enhancing my clinical skills has also helped strengthen my facilitation skills. When I graduated I worked as a therapist for about four years until my current position was created. I feel that it is vital for people to understand the ways that power, privilege and oppression work in our society and to let people know how they can work to make our society more socially just. Students who have a passion to make a difference in the lives of the LGBTQ community and in society as a whole may enjoy this line of work.”
“I serve as Academic Advisor to 400 students and manage 38 degree programs in addition to being the course scheduler for the School of Social Work as well as the grade submission representative for the school. Using my MSSW allows me to combine my love of social work with working with students in higher education. For this line of work you need skills like multi-tasking, working with people, good communication, time management, boundary setting, being able to re-frame for students, flexibility, and problem solving. The MSSW program at UT set me up for this position perfectly, having been a student and TA in the program. It taught me how to be a social worker as well as how to critically think. I had a unique understanding of the UT system as well as the SSW before starting. Having been a student, I can relate to our MSSW students because I know exactly what they are going through. The bureaucracy of universities is immense. They are great places to work, but the system can be cumbersome. The more experience you have, the more short-cuts you find to getting things done! My job is not black and white–it is all shades of gray!”
Elissa Shapiro received her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Emory University in 1997 and her Masters in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin in 1999. She has worked in the field of mental health for over 15 years, in settings such as psychiatric hospitals, schools, non-profit organizations, and residential treatment centers. Elissa is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, as well as movement and dance facilitator. She is a workshop and retreat leader whose passion and skill has been in utilizing the creative arts, such as art and movement/dance, to assist others in areas such as self-esteem, body image and disordered eating. Her personal and professional journey has included extensive training in the Nia Technique and Soul Motion™ movement practices, and other expressive arts modalities, in which she has witnessed and experienced their powerful healing effects on physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing. Elissa is the owner and founder of Body Vida Movement & Expressive Arts and teaches classes, workshops and retreats in Austin, Texas and nationwide.