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Gwen Corley: Social work is the 'profession of hope'

Mar. 24, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

March is the month for Madness, leprechauns, wild weather patterns and social workers.

The field of social work goes beyond the welfare department, child protective services and foster care. These are the areas that most people think of when they think about social work, but did you know that social workers can be found in hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, jails and the legislature?

Every year, the National Association for Social Workers (NASW) takes this month to recognize the achievements of our profession. This year the theme is: Weaving Threads of Resilience and Advocacy: The Power of Social Work. This theme resonates with what social workers do best, and that is bringing the best out in people and advocating on behalf of those who can't advocate for themselves.

Dr. Elizabeth Clark, the executive director for NASW, poignantly wrote in a recent article:

"Social Work is the profession of hope. It is not simple 'optimism' that defines us, but a grounded full bodied hope. In the face of the direst situations, social workers remain hopeful. We know how difficult it is for people to change, and maintain how hard it is to overcome suffering, setbacks, disappointments, and just plain bad luck."

There is tenacity about social workers that goes beyond the glass-is-half-full optimism. We are a different kind of "gold digger." Digging the gold out of individuals, helping them to shine and reach their full potential.

Social workers dig for gold in our social systems. too, creating innovative programs that address neighborhoods, communities, cities and the nation at large as they advocate for social change. "This singular capacity -- to be hopeful about future change -- allows social workers to practice in prisons, in drug rehabilitation clinics, in domestic violence shelters, in suicide prevention centers, in child protective services, and on the battlefield." (Clark, NASW.org, 2013).

In my 30 years as a social worker, it has been the tenacity and faith of my colleagues that inspire me to be a better social worker. I have had the privilege of working in hospitals, community agencies, and private practice. Now I have the distinct honor of working with other social workers, therapists and medical health care providers to provide mental health services to our local veterans.

Each member of the multidisciplinary team at the VA Medical Center is weaving an incredible tapestry of resilience and advocacy as we meet the needs of our veterans from every era. Social workers in particular are leading the charge to create a stronger fabric for personal growth and community welfare. I salute them and honor their work as we dedicate this month to reflect on all of their accomplishments.

Gwen Corley is a marriage and family therapist at the VA Medical Center in Huntington.



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