Social Work Advocacy: Why Social Workers Need Their Own Social Workers

 Nikita Banks, LCSW discusses the importance of social workers advocating for themselves and their profession; Also in this episode the need for grass root organizers, advocating for advancement of the field of social work on the whole. 

   Nikita Banks, LCSW  0:00  

I am New York City based psychotherapist Nikita Banks, a licensed social worker, and I’m your host of The Black therapists podcast, formerly black in therapy. Black therapists podcast is a podcast where we discuss the unique issues people of color face with dealing with mental health issues and mental health diagnosis. You can listen to us on SoundCloud, iTunes, Google Play, and wherever podcasts can be played. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, at Black in therapy, and on Instagram and YouTube at Black therapists podcast sign up for our mailing list, or contact us at Black therapists podcast com email feedback general show suggestion general so suggestion guests and show topics at Black therapists podcast at gmail. com. If you liked this show, comment light especially Leave us comments on Soundcloud and iTunes, follow and share. Hey, guys, so welcome to our show. So piggybacking off last week’s show where I discussed the policies that I went on Capitol Hill to advocate for the Dorothy Height, Social Work Reinvestment Act, which would help provide needed critical funds for research and provide funds to help expand access to mental health care that is provided by social workers in the community as well as community development project. The other thing that we were supporting was House Resolution 1290, which was sponsored by Barbara Lee. And what it will do is raise reimbursement rates for mental health services provided to the elderly, by social workers, or LCS W, which I am one of, and

   Nikita Banks, LCSW  1:41  

I’m in a group that has a lot of black mental health professionals. And I often put in that group, how many of them have gone to Congress, how many of them are politically active, and this profession can really truly burn you out, it can really truly beat you down. Because a lot of what we do, or I can speak for myself, a lot of what I do is see a lot of the same clients who I know for a fact they are severely mentally ill. And because of that they don’t, they don’t follow medical directives, they don’t take the medications as prescribed, they don’t take the medications, they are just going to consistently and continually continue to go back and forth in the hospital. But some of them that’s just where they feel safe. For some of them. That’s just what they want to do. But it can be a daunting task when you see a 19 year old who is chronically mentally ill, and the only thing standing between him and the reduction of symptoms and normal life is the fact that he doesn’t believe in therapy, and he doesn’t want to take his medication, and he’s not going to do it. And so I can imagine, after 20 years of doing this job, I could be burnt out if this is the only aspects of the career choice that I chose to focus on. Or if I only spoke chose to focus on those that I can’t reach. And those that I can’t help as opposed to the many clients that I have that are doing wonderful in their lives, and they reach full recoveries, and they feel better, right. And so for a lot of social workers, what ends up happening is that we become burnt out. And over this year of doing of receiving payments from health insurance, I can see why. Because the embarrassment rates for some of the insurance companies they suck, just to be honest with you. And for the most part, I would probably make a lot more money. If I didn’t take insurance, I would probably make a lot more money if I didn’t want to only limit a lot of my client base to people of color and people who are impoverished and people from my community of Bed Stuy where I work and where I live. So part of what I have to do and what we have to do is we have to become engaged in other areas of the process. And part of that is advocating by going to our legislators and going to our government for better payment for mental health care. Now I’m lucky to live in New York City, New York City’s First Lady Charlene McRae who is married to a two time Mayor now just was reelected. Mike de Blasio has done amazingly to expand the access to mental health care in New York City. I can’t say that it’s done a major boost to my business. But what I will say is that I love the fact that she is doing what she can to normalize therapy for black people in this city. And it is making those of my community who may not have thought about going to therapy, the large campaigns that she does, it’s making it easier for people to say that they have mental health problems that have mental health issues and are willing to go and get help. And they’re very transparent. When they talk about Shalane herself. She’s battle with depression, and some mental illness and their daughter who also battled some illness. And I’m proud of them. I’m also proud of her and the fact that my son and Dante also went to school together, I love the fact that she is the first lady that is really committed to black mental health and mental health as a whole. And so the reason that I’m doing this show today is because what I realized is that not a lot of mental health professionals are doing what they have to do to remain engaged. And I came across an article recently where Dr. Steve Perry, most of you guys may know him from Oprah, or the school that has been Diddy open or the show or save our sons on TV, one where he was the host, and he would provide interventions and strategies for families who were dealing with sons that were just kind of out of control. But I recently came across an article on the social work helper, the top five reasons Social Work is failing. And a question did a speech by Dr. Steve Perry, who is a social worker I didn’t even know and where he was talking about the role of a social worker, and where we fail to advance the career as a whole. And one of the reasons he gave was title protection, what he meant by title protection is that any body can call themselves a social worker. So a lot of times when people when I’m going to do a visit, or if I’m going to see someone and I have clients that I’m going to see as an LCS w A lot of people said, Oh, his son, his social workers here, and I kind of hate it because he makes makes me feel, or it makes them feel like I’m the welfare, and I’m coming in and I’m intruding on their homes and their home lives. And I have to explain to people that that’s not who I am. And that’s not what I do. But the fact that there is no differentiation between myself and anybody who’s a case manager and or a case worker, who may just have a high school diploma. And I’m not seen as a licensed and credentialed mental health professional, it’s a problem in it, if the means and it reduces the way I’ve seen, and it doesn’t make me feel good. But it also doesn’t translate to monies. The fact that Ms. WR in large part, women and women of color is the reason that we get paid less and less, and the reason that we are not paid what we are worth, and part of that is that we don’t advocate for ourselves, how is it that we advocate for everyone else, but we won’t advocate for ourselves, we won’t advocate for title protection. And we won’t advocate for the raises that we deserve. Anytime that there’s any kind of social movement or any kind of social crisis, social workers are on the front line. So how is it that we are not demanding that we get paid as as we as we deserve, and we not demanding the respect that we deserve? That’s a problem. Second point they brought up in this article is macro versus micro. So when I attended college, I was able to get like a minor or a focus. And my focus was macro versus micro flow. And what that meant was that I would work with organizations that not only implements it policy, but advocated for social change. So I worked at a domestic violence shelter called food First, Inc. And what they did was they actually sat on several boards, or my field instructor field instructor, she sat on several boards that allowed me to go in and advocate for policy changes that affected the our population, which was women and children affected by domestic violence. And so in the article, she says individuals who once flock to social work to do community and social justice work, are now seeking out other disciplines instead, many social workers who wants to be politically active and social justice focused are forced to do so under the banner of a women’s organization or other social justice nonprofits. And so but as the work is becoming more and more clinical, which is what I am, and is what i a part of what I do, and I love to do, I also think that it’s very important that no matter what, we have to be civically engaged, and community minded, when we are advocating for change in policy that that affects the community as a whole. And that doesn’t mean that you have to be a social work or social work student, or a psychologist or therapist or whatever to do that you just have to go out there and get involved in your community.

   Nikita Banks, LCSW  9:34  

The third point that the article made, which is one of the things that I realized when I was in college is that NESW, which is the largest National Association of Social Work, organization, they kind of work for themselves. So they are very good. And they’re good at having their members legislate, I’m sorry, advocate for legislation. But usually what it does is unlimited access to licensure. And what I mean by that is, when I was in college, I remember that there was talk about lobbyist who worked for any SW, attempting to make the time that people needed to study or needed to get practical hours for their LCS w longer. And the reason that they wanted to do that is because in many states, in order to get your LCSW, or your advanced clinical license, you have to pay somebody who has an advanced clinical license for supervision. And so what they were doing is they were making sure that they can get paid longer, and they could keep more people out of the field. And they were advocating state legislation and national legislation to do this. And I thought that that was ridiculous. because number one, if anybody here is trying to get supervision and you have to pay for it out of pocket, you know, that in some states, it is almost impossible to do. I’ve had people tell me, oh, I’ll never get my LCS w it takes too long. I’ll never get it because I there too many hours, I’ll never get it because I can find supervision. And as I stated, if you listen to my older shows, I’ve had supervisors who flat out told me No, I don’t want to give you the supervision hours. And it was literally the difference between night and day in my pay and career advancement and what I could do, and I would never put myself in a position to be somebody’s supervisor and limit their access to getting to the next level, especially as a person of color because I know that the more clinicians of color we have, the better our community is going to be as a whole. And so yeah, I think that it sucks. And I agree with the article that not enough of us are doing what we can to legislate or doing what we can to advocate for legislation on our own without these organizations. The fourth point in the article was that there’s a lack of diversity in Social Work leadership in academia, we have to start doing what we can do to advance our careers in a way that allows for us to be able to not only be thought leaders, but to be leaders on the front lines of the field. And what’s happening is a lot of us are not engaged enough academically are not going to school far enough and not actually getting our license and not actually getting to the point where we can enter into these fields and enter into these spaces where we are accepted, you have to have a seat at the table in order to have your voice heard. And a lot of us are just not advocating for ourselves. The fifth point of the article is just the universal reason that everything fails. And we we fail to come together, we fail to support one another. And we all suffer in silence. And what I’m saying is that if you have a community, if you have a community of social workers, or if you know a group of social workers get together and talk about the legislation, and talk about the changes, then the ways that you can work together as a community to advance your career and just do it. I mean, there’s nobody else is going to fight for us. We fight for everybody else. And nobody is coming to our rescue. There’s nobody to save us. The social worker doesn’t have a social worker. So we have to know to advocate for the things that we need to have the changes that we need in our our career.

   Nikita Banks, LCSW  13:09  

This is

   Nikita Banks, LCSW  13:11  

Yeah, I want it to be one thing, I want it to be a psychotherapist, but I am a social worker, I was literally born to do this job. And I can’t do it alone. I can’t do it in isolation. I have to have my team. I have to have my my crew. And who else would I rather go through the fire with the people who do what I do and put themselves on the line every single day. So if you are thinking about changing your career, or if you are a social worker, and you’re getting burned out, think about ways that you could utilize your network in order to advocate for the things that you hate about your career, change them be the change that you want to see be Well, you’ve listened to another episode of The Black therapist podcast. Once again, I’m your host, Nikita Banks, a licensed clinical social worker, and this is black therapists podcast formerly black in therapy. If you are looking for any information, any resources about today’s show, or if you just want to drop a line and say hey, and subscribe to our mailing lists. You can do so at our website, black therapists podcast com, you can send us emails at Black therapists podcast at gmail. com and if you enjoyed what you heard today, please like comments, share and subscribe because we want the show to grow as organically as we possibly can. And we cannot do that without you. Thank you for listening be well.

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