Social Work in the Public Eye (January 2015)

Scott LuetgenauNASW student member Scott Luetgenau is the co-founder of the Collegiate Recovery Community at North Carolina State University. The program helps students with drug and alcohol addiction, and it has been selected for a $10,000 grant from the Stacie Mathewson Foundation, which focuses on addiction recovery and prevention for young people.

According to an article in the Technician Online — which reaches the university’s campus audience — about 500 students at the school are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

Luetgenau says he got involved in the Collegiate Recovery Community when he began dealing with personal realizations regarding his own addictions.

“For me, it was realizing that I needed to use every single day, and that was the thing I looked forward to the most,” Luetgenau says in the article. “So as a college student, if you feel like you can’t function or deal with stress without getting high or drinking, and feeling like you can’t have a good time or go out without drinking or using, those are some pretty big red flags when you should probably begin doing some self-evaluation.”

Luetgenau and Collegiate Recovery Community co-founder Chris Campau — also a social work major recovering from addiction — say it’s important for students to understand the warning signs of drug and alcohol addiction, especially in a college campus atmosphere where many consider the overuse of these substances to be normal.

The Collegiate Recovery Community focuses on the recovery part of addiction, whereas other campus organizations help students dealing with the initial acknowledgment of drug or alcohol problems, Luetgenau and Campau say in the article. This is important because there was not a support system for students who have made the decision to get clean, they say.

Luetgenau says one of the goals of the Collegiate Recovery Community is to provide activities for students, such as retreats and tailgates. They also want to grow closer to other collegiate recovery communities.

The Collegiate Recovery Community caters to people recovering from any sort of drug or alcohol addiction and is also open to people with eating disorders and to those who self-harm, the article says. All of these issues can be isolating, and no one really wants to talk about them. Meetings are held on campus weekly, and do not have rigid standards. They are more for sharing experiences and leaning on each other.

“Everyone knows someone dealing with addiction or in recovery,” Luetgenau says. “We are battling stigmas. We turn on the TV and see people like Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen, and we never get to see people like [Campau] and me who got a second chance at life.”

Luetgenau is also involved with the Raleigh, N.C., Chapter of Young People in Recovery, a national grassroots organization advocating for young people making the decision to disengage from alcohol and drug use due to substance use disorders.

Clair MellenthinTalking about obesity — especially obese children — can be a touchy subject, according to a news segment on, a CBS affiliate serving Salt Lake City.

NASW member Clair Mellenthin was interviewed for the segment about children gaining weight and what parents can do if they start to notice this. She says a lot of parents are concerned with approaching the subject, and it helps to encourage a healthy attitude at home for the child.

“Invite your child to do something fun with you,” Mellenthin says. “Go out for a walk ... go out and do something enjoyable together.”

She says to eliminate junk foods slowly — not radically — to avoid a drastic change that could backfire.

“Everybody can still have a treat, but you just have that after vegetables and fruit or after you’ve done some exercise,” she says.

Part of having a healthy overall mentality is learning how to have things in moderation, and to never use the F word — fat, she says. Adults know when they’re not feeling good about themselves, and kids are no different, Mellenthin says.

“We want it to be along the lines of what’s healthy and unhealthy, and how to view that holistic approach instead of ‘you’re fat, and you need to do something about this,’” she says.

Some of Mellenthin’s other tips include seeking information regarding developmental phases in a child’s life that may cause them to naturally gain weight, and asking a pediatrician’s advice if a parent is extremely concerned about their child’s weight gain.

Allison GouldYoga can help those coping with the loss of a baby, according to a Huffington Post blog by Tara Shafer, who began practicing yoga after her second child was stillborn. 

The blog post says research shows that the loss of a baby often leads to post-traumatic stress disorder for both women and men. Symptoms can include insomnia, anxiety and flashbacks.

NASW member Allison Gould, a licensed clinical social worker and certified yoga instructor in New York, says in the blog that people who have experienced traumatic loss are especially prone to ruminating about their experience and worrying about what lies ahead.

“We tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the past and a lot of time wondering about the future,” Gould says. “It is much more difficult to stay focused on what is happening right now.”

The author writes in the blog that in the months following her son’s death, yoga helped open a pathway for her to experience herself in her body again. “It was liberating to let the rational mind go as much as I was able,” she says.

Iris FinebergExplaining a parent’s cancer to a child can be a difficult task, according to an article in Chicago’s Daily Herald.

NASW member Iris Fineberg, president of the Association of Oncology Social Work, says trying to protect children by keeping the problem from them isn’t the best approach, and if they find out from someone else it can break their trust in their parents.

“They sense tension, they sense fear, they sense anxiety,” she says, “but if they don’t have anyone communicating about that, then they’re sensing it but they don’t know what to make of it, which can be scary, too.”

Fineberg also says not to make a definitive statement that everything will be fine if you’re not sure it’s true, and to talk to about doctors and treatment being received.

“Pointing out all the things that are helping to make it fine, that gives them some material to work with,” she says.

Getting help from a social worker is a good place to start in getting the right help, the article says, as they can assist parents with how to talk to children about cancer.

“Social workers are very much trained in communication, they’re trained to think in family systems, they’re trained to think very holistically and to think about the environment that you are having to manage your situation in,” Fineberg says.

Emiko TajimaAn article in The Daily, of the University of Washington, says the UW School of Social Work was awarded a $500,000 federal grant to train nearly 100 behavioral health students over the next three years.

NASW member Emiko Tajima, associate dean for academic affairs at the UW School of Social Work, was one of the principal investigators of the grant, along with Tessa Evans-Campbell, director of the school’s MSW program.

The grant will help train students entering careers where they will work with youth, from children up to 25 years old. A new group of students in the MSW program will be selected each year for three years from a pool of about 160 eligible contenders, the article says.

Last year, 33 applicants were to start their training as early as November under the Northwest Leaders in Behavioral Health Program at UW.

“They’re definitely bringing their skills into the community,” Tajima says in the article. “Folks who would be getting one of these traineeships would be committing to a career in behavioral health with children and youth upon leaving the program.”

Trainees from the MSW program will receive a $10,000 stipend through the grant, as they train to work with youths in places like hospitals and schools in various counties in Washington state, including King, Pierce and Snohomish.

About 70 percent of the grant will go directly to the students, but some funding will go toward the development of training modules, which will be available to students and others in the social work field, the article says.