Social Work in the Public Eye (October 2011)

Ellen SmithIs it healthy to seek new adventures in middle age? An article in the Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal quoted Ellen Smith, a licensed clinical social worker and professional life coach, who confirms the benefits of doing new and exciting things later in life.

“When people move out of their comfort zone they’re really re-energizing themselves,” she said in the article. “They’re really pushing themselves to learn skills.”

Too often people fall into a midlife rut, Smith explained. This can lead to boredom and depression.

“You can still have big goals — it’s important to have dreams, even in your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond,” Smith said. “As long as we’re alive it’s wonderful to dream and do something different.”

She cautioned that risk-taking requires a common-sense approach, as well as the acceptance of certain limitations.

“There is a line between doing something totally foolish and setting a goal and being prepared for it,” such as pursuing fitness goals before taking a whitewater rafting trip, Smith said in the story.


The Times-Picayune in Louisiana reported that the National Organization of Forensic Social Work awarded the eponymous Sol Gothard Lifetime Achievement Award to Metairie, La., resident and retired judge Gothard, who is also a social worker.

“Sol Gothard is the first recipient of this award, which the organization has named after him,” said Paul Brady, executive director of NOFSW, in the article. “It will be given through the years to someone whose lifetime of service as a social worker epitomizes the objectives of the NOFSW, and the advancement of the practice and education in forensic social work.

Brady went on to say, “As a social worker and judge, Judge Sol has been at the forefront of bringing social workers into the legal system so that they may better service their clients. He has worked tirelessly to win recognition for the role of social workers in the legal process and to encourage social workers to participate in the legal system.”

The article noted that Gothard has been active with NOFSW events for 25 years. “Receiving the award was a complete shock to me,” Gothard said.

Gothard said the pairing of social work and the legal system was a great match for his career. Growing up in the Bronx, Gothard’s had an often-traumatic childhood due to domestic violence in his family.

“I still have vivid memories of that time,” Gothard said. “Social workers often intervened and they became my role models, father figures and heroes. They helped to define me and gave me hope and purpose in life.”

He continued, “I feel that I have been able to help people with their problems in the same way that social workers helped me. I’m always bumping into people who remember me from the time I was a juvenile court judge. And they tell me how much I helped them.”


Sonny ProvettoSonny Provetto is a former Burlington, Vt., police officer and Vermont state trooper. He now helps law enforcement officers properly deal with their job-related stresses as a licensed clinical social worker.

Provetto was profiled in a story published on the Vermont-based The article noted that gruesome crime scenes stay with law enforcement officials long after the incident fades.

“As a trooper, I can remember just about every mile marker where I had a fatal car crash,” Provetto said.

He explained that cases that cause the most emotional distress for law enforcement involve missing children, deaths in the line of duty, losing a duty partner or having a near-death experience.

Such trauma needs to be addressed; Provetto told that police officers are twice as likely to commit suicide as die in the line of duty. The story reported that “25 percent abuse alcohol to cope with their experiences and 6 to 14 percent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. But unlike war, police officers don’t get to leave the geographical area that sparks the trauma.”

Provetto said: “The only way police officers are going to stay healthy in seeing stuff like this is by having a great support system. Being able to talk about it and process their emotions and not being afraid to process their emotion.”

The Vermont state police offers a peer support team, and the Burlington Police Department has started a wellness program. Provetto said he hopes to see improvements at the academy and administrative levels.

“It’s important when a police leader or administrator can share experiences with younger officers or subordinates because it allows them to make meaning of that stressful event,” Provetto said.


U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who is a social worker, was honored by the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement as part of its 15th anniversary celebration recently. WISER said Stabenow is respected for building coalitions to protect families and children.

“As a member of the Senate Finance and Budget Committees, she has a powerful and unique role to play in shaping our nation’s policies,” a statement from the organization said. “Sen. Stabenow understands the role women play in our workforce. She was a leader in the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and ... is a strong advocate for working women, small business, and for seniors and caregivers.”

WISER supports opportunities for women to secure adequate retirement income through research, workshops and partnerships. NASW is a WISER partner.


Anne BlairChildren’s anxiety over going back to school in the fall was explored in a story in The Cherry Hill (N.J.) Sun . Being prepared and promoting healthy communication are critical, the story stated.

Anne Blair, a clinical social worker from Voorhees, N.J., noted: “The parents must ensure that they allow their child enough time to fully understand the transition that will take place, and how that transition may look for them.”

“This provides the child an opportunity to ask questions, tour their new school, meet their new teachers and become familiar with the physical surroundings they will be required to function in,” she added.

Contact with school officials is essential to deal with any transition issues as well.

“Establishing a line of communication with the appropriate school personnel and parents is essential in assisting a struggling student,” Blair told the newspaper. “This enables the therapist to approach the student’s issues with a team in place at the school that can provide necessary support for the new student while at school.”