August 21, 2018 - Report from Scott Graybow on Ad Hoc Student Outreach Committee:
I am a member of the Diversity and Social Action Committee and the Public Relations Committee. I am the chair of the Student Outreach Ad-Hoc Committee. In this article, I would like to share with you details about recent AAPCSW efforts to connect with MSW students around the topic of psychoanalysis in clinical social work. These efforts are part of the wider effort by AAPCSW to increase interest in our organization among younger social workers and social workers of diverse backgrounds.
While we at AAPCSW see psychoanalytic work as very much in sync with key social work values like meeting the client where the client is and treating the whole person, current MSW students are often unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the idea that social work and psychoanalysis share a common perspective. Although unfortunate, this seems understandable given the marginalization and at times complete absence of positive references to psychoanalytic theory and practice in MSW curricula.
To address this dilemma, members of the Diversity and Social Action Committee, the Public Relations Committee, and the New Professionals Committee began working on a student outreach project. The project is presently being carried out under the auspices of the Student Outreach Ad-Hoc Committee. The committee was first chaired by Golnar Simpson and, as of August 2018, I am the chair.
The project seeks to engage MSW students via on-campus presentations by AAPCSW members. The presentations take as their starting point the goal of deconstructing what we believe are the most harmful myths about psychoanalysis in clinical social work. The first myth is that psychoanalytic work is not evidence based. The second myth is that psychoanalytic work inherently lacks sensitivity to diversity, class, and other matters of social justice. When assumed to be true, these myths support the conclusion that there is a lack of fit between the psychoanalytic perspective and clinical social work's venerable emphasis on ethics, diversity, and the promotion of social justice.
After many months of discussion about specific content to be presented and how to locate a social work school to host an initial presentation, the student outreach project had its first major success on April 24, 2018. On that day, I gave a presentation to a group of MSW students at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College titled, “Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work: Science and Social Justice.” The presentation attracted a diverse group of students, all of whom sacrificed their lunch hour to attend. The group included first and second year students. There were students who had positive associations to psychoanalysis and students who were curious about the idea that psychoanalytic thinking and social work practice might somehow intertwine. All could recount the various anti-psychoanalytic tropes about analysis being classist, racist, etc.
The presentation's emphasis on undoing what we refer to as the myths about psychoanalysis in clinical social work clearly resonated with the students. My explanation that psychoanalysis is both a theory and a practice and, therefore, one can utilize psychoanalytic ideas without applying a rigid psychoanalytic framework excited many of the students, who became eager to think about how social work and psychoanalysis might overlap in their field placements. We talked about how thinking psychoanalytically might decrease risk of clinician burnout and deepen the rapport between clients and social workers meeting for case management, home visits, discharge planning, crisis intervention, and other traditional social work services.
Given the positive response to the presentation at Hunter, the outreach project is now engaged in efforts to scale up and provide similar presentations at other social work schools. We are also working on adding a special page to the AAPCSW website describing the project. Lastly, we are considering ways the project might play a role in increasing the number of MSW students who attend the 2019 AAPCSW conference.
I and other members of the student outreach project are especially eager to hear from:
- Social work academics interested in hosting a student outreach presentation at their school
- Individuals active in their social work alumni organization who can bring us on campus through an alumni event
- Individuals interested in giving an on-campus student outreach presentation
- Individuals who have ideas, reactions, or comments about the student outreach project
Please join us in our effort to connect MSW students with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about the psychoanalytic perspective and its potential place in their developing identities as clinical social workers!
Scott Graybow, PhD, LCSW
August 21, 2018