Profession: Licensed Clinical Social Worker currently working as a mental health/substance abuse counselor
Favorite Gender Studies memory: I really enjoyed my Feminist Theories class with Dr. Heckman
How has the major/minor helped you in your career?: The transition from Women’s Studies major to Social Worker was a natural one for me. Social justice is a primary focus for some social workers and certainly an underlying concern for most. It is in the Gender Studies program (then Women’s Studies) that I first explored issues of social justice. Additionally, it was in these classes that I was first made aware of the intersection of race, class and gender and the reciprocal relationship between an individual and society. This is similar to what social workers call “person in environment” or “systems theory,” which suggests that there is a reciprocal relationship between an individual and the system with which she interacts (e.g. family, community, society.)
These concepts are important for social workers to understand because they are working to assist individuals and/or change systems. They cannot do this effectively unless they understand issues of race, class and gender and how they intersect. It is important for mental health and substance abuse counselors to understand this as well because they are not working with isolated individuals. For example, an individual’s substance use patterns, from initiation patterns to help-seeking behaviors and treatment retention, are shaped by a number of factors including family, community, culture, race, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, etc. One cannot build rapport with an individual or provide effective treatment if these things are not accounted for. Indeed, the strong correlation between gender, substance use patterns, and help-seeking behaviors has led to a growing number of “gender-specific” treatment programs.
What advice do you have for current students?: Ummm….
1) Learn to write. No matter what you do after college, you’re going to have to write a lot and you’re going to have to know how to communicate well.
2) Be ready to explain your major to people (every time!) because they’re not going to get it.
3) Have a major or minor in addition to Gender Studies because lots of employers don’t know what Gender Studies is. Otherwise go to grad school for social work because they love gender studies students.