New Year is a Good Time to Turn Negatives Into Positives

By Laetitia Clayton

Laetitia Clayton

I recently read in a book of quotes, a quote attributed to actress Jennifer Aniston that said: “There are no regrets in life, just lessons."

To me, this is another way of saying it’s how you choose to look at things. It’s better to see the positive rather than dwell on the negative. It also means we should try to learn something from the various situations life hands us. This often is easier said than done, and sometimes we need help to see the light or learn the lesson. This is where social workers — who understand these concepts more than most — come in.

In this issue, we look at the social work role in helping to educate the public about COVID vaccines. We also explore child development accounts and financial social work as solutions to economic inequality; discuss NASW’s support for reproductive rights and voting rights, and why it’s important; look back on the accomplishments of recently retired West Virginia Chapter Executive Director Sam Hickman, the longest-serving chapter leader at NASW; and more.

As 2021 comes to end, however, I’d like to focus on some of the topics we’ve covered this past year in the magazine and include a few of the social work comments. They sum up the positive-over-negative perspective and the profession’s constant search for solutions to the many social problems in our nation and our world.

Climate Change

Climate Change: Social Work Addresses Environmental Impacts on Physical and Mental Health

Encouraging people to respond in some way can help lessen the feeling of being overwhelmed, and promoting conservation and resilience also can help. 

“Responding, even in baby steps, is important so people feel engaged and feel they’re doing something.”
— Lawrence A. Palinkas, PhD, the Albert G. and Frances Lomas Feldman Professor of Social Policy and Health at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles

Elder Abuse and Elder Justice

“The NYC Elder Abuse Center’s vision statement is, ‘We envision a world where we can safely grow old together.’ I can envision that world.” From that vision can flow conversations and efforts toward prevention and support for communities to carry out the work.
— Risa Breckman, LCSW-R, co-founded the New York City Elder Abuse Center at Weill Cornell Medicine in 2009 and was the executive director until her retirement in 2021.

Back to School

Back to School: Social Workers Help Students, Families, Teachers Adjust After COVID

“I don’t know too many social workers that say we don’t need to listen to what the community says, what the kids say.” The best approach combines listening with evidence-based programming. “It’s a value we’ve always had — to do stuff that people want, not against their will, and to recognize the community knows more than we do what they need.”
— Ron Avi Astor, PhD, MSW, the Marjorie Crump Chair Professorship in Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

Housing Challenges

Housing Challenges Grow as COVID Drags On

Don’t judge any individual and do not do an assessment, but get their story. 

“Like a detective, pick out clues, little nuggets, and find what happened in their lives. Listen to their story, and you can help make a change in their lives.”
— Justin Behrens, MSW, CEO and executive director at Keystone Mission in Scranton, Pa.


Self-Care Conundrum: Social Workers Aim to Ditch the Veneer for a Wholistic Approach

“It’s really important that we not trivialize ourselves, our lives, when it comes to the work we do. Self-care is not a hashtag. I tell my clients that struggle around this issue — I ask them to think about saying to themselves, ‘I am the most important person in the world.’ Do you know how hard it is for people to say that? If you don’t value yourself and do what you need to take care of yourself, you won’t be here to take care of your children, your partner, your spouse.”
— Tonya Hutchinson, MSW, LCSW, private practice

Wishing all of you the best in the new year as you continue striving to make your communities and the world a better place.

Until next year,

cover of December 2021 / January 2022 magazine

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