Social Work in the Public Eye (March 2013)

Leah Gunter LucasAt the Dayspring Center for Christian Counseling in Alabama, equine therapy is recognized as an effective method for treating anxiety, depression, substance abuse and trauma, according to an article in The Sand Mountain Reporter.

NASW member Leah Gunter Lucas, a social worker at Dayspring, is working with the Cha-La-Kee Ranch in Guntersville, Ala., to offer an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Program to adults and children. According to the program description, this form of therapy uses horses to help individuals experience emotional growth and learning.

Since horses are naturally dynamic, powerful and genuine, they give individuals the opportunity to experience metaphorical learning, Lucas says. This technique is different from more traditional counseling methods, but the premise is the same, she says.

“It is a different way to get to a solution. It is very different from traditional counseling where you bring someone in and sit down and talk,” Lucas says in the article. With the equine program, clients are required to apply certain skills, such as nonverbal communication, assertiveness, leadership, confidence and problem-solving.

“ … You are actually out in an arena, and there are many activities that present opportunities to learn,” Lucas says. “You typically get results in 12 sessions of equine therapy versus a year of traditional counseling.”

Not every patient is a candidate for the program, she says, but those interested in exploring it can schedule an evaluation.

To learn more, visit Dayspring Center for Christian Counseling. The center has two Alabama locations: Albertville and Owens Cross Roads.

Wendy LieblingNASW member Wendy Liebling, a social worker with 20 years of experience, saw that families with aging relatives needed help in finding the appropriate resources, according to an article on Chestnut Hill Local.

She founded Liebling Elder Care in 2010 to provide a place where people could find the information they need to care for their aging and/or disabled family members.

Liebling says in the article that people often need guidance to various resources, and she has seen the quality of lives improve significantly with the introduction of psychiatric support or a community day program.

“The boomer generation is really being hit now and I’m in the age group where a lot of my friends and colleagues have aging parents,” Liebling says in the article. “I also get referrals from home health agencies when they feel the client’s needs are beyond what they can offer.”

As a certified advanced social work case manager, Liebling brings experience from her past position as an ombudsman for the Montgomery County Office of Aging. She says that usually children of aging parents will seek her services, and sometimes senior citizens will directly hire her.

“I don’t think people are inclined to be proactive with a lot of the issues,” she says. “Human nature is to wait on things that we are uncomfortable with. When a care manager can work with someone proactively, that is great. But when they are working in a crisis mode, their optimal choices are limited.”

Liebling offers clients a knowledge of resources that allows them to see the options that are available to them.

“No client situation is really the same,” she says in the article. “Needs differ according to an individual’s situation, and I approach each client and their needs differently. I give them a roadmap and they choose what direction to take. Some choose to work in tandem with the care manager, and others choose to work more independently.”

For more information, visit Liebling Elder Care..

David FawcettIn an article in Positively Aware magazine, NASW member David Fawcett writes about the stigma that gay men, especially those with HIV, face.

“Stigma is powerful, painful, and often confusing because it resonates with our own internal fears,” Fawcett says. “Overcoming it takes persistence, courage, a strong sense of self, and a willingness to work with others.”

The article, called Spoiled Identity, says this specialized notion of stigma became prominent in the 1960s with research by Irving Goffman, who studied prisoners, mental health patients and homosexuals.

Goffman’s findings showed that stigma sprang from a perceived violation of shared attitudes, beliefs and values, and when certain attributes are deemed to be negative — such as HIV status, homosexuality or substance abuse — the individuals who have those characteristics become deeply discredited.

Fawcett says that for gay men, the experience of stigma is often compounded because they have multiple characteristics that are devalued by society: They may be gay, substance abusers, HIV-positive and disabled.

Whether the stigma is enacted, felt or perceived, Fawcett states that it not only affects well-being, but could hinder access to prevention, testing and care. He says that one’s willingness to be tested for HIV is driven by stigma, which accounts for at least a portion of the estimated 20 percent of people living with the virus who don’t know their status.

The perception that a healthy-looking person could not be infected with HIV is a stigma in and of itself, Fawcett says, that extends to health care professionals and can affect how they provide treatment.

Although there are programs and activities designed to combat HIV-related stigma, the effectiveness of these methods is largely unknown. However, Fawcett provides recommendations in the article for ways to cope with stigma, including joining a support group, seeking counseling, connecting with others, volunteering, educating oneself about HIV, learning from others who have been through similar experiences, and, most importantly, advocating.

Positive coping strategies that move an individual toward healthy empowerment are the most effective tools to address stigma, he says, and these involve a variety of methods aimed at reclaiming a healthy sense of self, a feeling of personal power, a shared identity with others, and a solid sense of self-acceptance in the face of painful stigma and discrimination.