Social Work in the Public Eye (April 2009)

Mary RaymerMary Raymer, a psychiatric social worker and marriage and family therapist who has served the terminally ill and their families for 29 years, was elected by her peers as a Distinguished Practitioner in the National Academies of Practice (NAP) in Social Work due to her significant and enduring contributions to health care practice. Raymer was awarded a National Academies of Practice medallion at the NAP Forum and Banquet in March.

NAP is a nonprofit organization composed of elected representatives from 10 academies representing health care practices in the areas of social work, dentistry, medicine, nursing, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, podiatry medicine, psychology and veterinary medicine. Raymer, of Michigan, is president and chief clinician for Raymer Psychotherapy and Consultation Services, P.C., where she specializes in complicated grief issues and life-threatening illness.

NAP’s central purpose is to advise public policy makers on health care issues, using NAP’s unique perspective — that of expert practitioners and scholars joined in interdisciplinary dialogue. It is the only interdisciplinary group of health care practitioners dedicated to these issues.


Carrie Hag (no photo) was quoted in the Santa Fe Reporter in a story about a workshop that she and her partner conduct through the Santa Fe Center for Relationships.

The article explained that Haag is a licensed clinical social worker and certified Imago therapist. Her partner, Cat Scheibner, is a certified Imago educator.

Imago, in Latin, means image, the article pointed out. Haag was asked to explain the Imago process. “Part of the theory is that we’re drawn to be in a relationship with someone that has some of the positive and some of the negative characteristics of our early caretakers,” Haag said. “This person also has what we don’t have. Maybe, in some respect, they’re more of a thinker and we’re more of a feeler. And initially this feels really great, because they kind of feel like they complete us. But then there’s friction around that. And so this whole theory is about explaining what goes on in relationships and also what we can do about that.”

Haag was asked why couples experience friction. “When you have conflict in a relationship, it’s about growth wanting or needing to happen. We just have to use it so that it can bring us closer together,” she said.

The interviewer asked whether two people drawn together because of their creative minds might be doomed when they stop inspiring each other. Haag said it can be a huge disappointment when such a situation happens. “It feels terrible,” she said. “You feel like you had found a person that made you feel so alive, when, in fact, that aliveness was really within you. Romantic love rekindles that full aliveness that we feel when we’re born and when we’re little kids, before we start getting all those ‘don’t’ messages. And I think that, as we come out of romantic love and there’s that disappointment, we think it’s the other person who’s changed, but it’s not at all. It’s as if when we meet and fall in love we’re wide-open, but then, when these power struggles come up, then you start to protect. I think you can’t really go back — you can maybe understand about why that happened, but it’s more helpful moving forward.”

Haag also had relationship advice: “When we can begin to understand our part of relationships and be curious about what we do, then we can begin to identify that and make changes,” she said. “The only person we can change is ourselves. And I’m not saying that in a blaming way of people who are struggling. On a daily basis you should think, ‘What am I doing to try and connect?’ versus pointing [your] finger at somebody else.”


Joseph RyanSocial work professor Joseph Ryan was quoted in a article about recovery coaches being effective in reducing the number of substance-exposed births as well as helping reunite substance-involved families.

Ryan, a faculty member in the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois, issued the study, part of a larger collaboration among the university, the Department of Children and Family Services, and Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities. The study appeared in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect, according to the article. The sample included 931 women in Chicago and suburban Cook County who had temporarily lost custody of their children to the Department of Children and Family Services, and who were chronic substance abusers referred for alcohol and drug assessments. Sixty-nine percent of the women had given birth to at least one substance-exposed infant prior to enrollment in the study.

At the study’s conclusion, 15 percent of mothers assigned to the recovery-coach group had given birth to a subsequent substance-exposed infant compared with 21 percent of mothers assigned to the control group. Overall, mothers assigned to the recovery-coach group were more likely to access substance-abuse services, and were more likely to achieve family reunification, saving the state of Illinois $5.5 million in foster care and other placement costs.

Reunification rates for substance-involved families typically are the lowest of all families involved with the child-welfare system.

“One reason that they don’t achieve reunification is that they are unable to address the core problem of substance abuse, and that really presents an obstacle toward judges making decisions to have the children return home,” Ryan said in the article. “A recovery coach increases the reunification rate by about 6 percent, which is a small but significant gain.”

Often, substance-involved families are grappling with several major problems, such as mental illness, inadequate housing, domestic violence or unemployment, “so it’s somewhat unrealistic to think that one case worker can effectively manage all those types of problems,” Ryan said in the story. “

No single intervention is going to solve the complex array of problems that these families encounter. But if we chip away at it — increase reunification rates, close out foster care placements at a higher rate, decrease the likelihood of additional substance-exposed infants — it produces gains for families and for the state,” he said.