Jacob Berelowitz, MSW '09
When Jacob Berelowitz, host and executive director of "Talk Therapy Television," was applying to graduate schools he envisioned a career in direct practice. He ultimately enrolled in the NYU Silver School of Social Work (SSSW) because of its clinical social work reputation.
"It's interesting because I join a lot of other students who come into NYU with the idea that they really want to do clinical work, and a lot of students aren't even aware that social work has other components," he said.
But through his two years at the SSSW, Berelowitz, MSW '09, enrolled in a variety of courses -- including those with a public policy focus -- that began to change his perspective on career possibilities. Berelowitz said he began to think, "Maybe more can be accomplished by working on a policy level or in a community organizing role."
In the months following his graduation, Berelowitz founded "Talk Therapy Television" on Queens Public Access Television. The show aims to educate the public about the warning signs and symptoms of mental illness and treatment options.
On every episode, Berelowitz hosts a conversation with experts in the mental health field. He also refers viewers to resources, including suicide hotlines and state and federal health agencies. The show began airing once a month in Queens and now also airs on Brooklyn Community Access Television. Five episodes have been broadcast a total of 30 times and more episodes are in the works.
Berelowitz's experience at his second-year internship at the Holliswood Hospital, a Queens psychiatric hospital, served as the impetus for Talk Therapy's creation. He was surprised by the lack of knowledge patients, their families, and their friends had about mental illness. And people often did not know something was wrong with the patient until acute care was required.
"One of the biggest things that I saw was that … a lot of times [issues] could have really been addressed earlier had the patient or family members known there was something wrong or that there was something they could do," he explained.
Berelowitz learned about public access television from a friend and decided to apply for a time slot in his hometown of Queens. He said, "Most of the stations are really excited to have new programming that's useful to the community and presents a new viewpoint."
With a studio and equipment provided, Berelowitz took courses to train as a producer. He also hired a few staff members to help with camera work and scheduling.
"I really enjoy what I'm doing," he said. "I really like when I get feedback from other people saying, ‘This is really good.' It's always nice to get a little bit of support." Among the attention he has received: public praise from Michael Hogan, commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health.
As for his future, Berelowitz is not ruling out returning to direct practice and he is pursuing a post-master's certificate in advanced clinical practice at the SSSW. "It helps keep me attached to that part of social work," he said of the course.
"Right now I need to focus on [the show] to really make it happen. I like both sides of social work, and I think that community organizing and just doing this more global kind of work is very effective."
Clark Williams, MSW '97
When Clark Williams, MSW '97, learned he had been named the 2010 Social Worker of the Year for Santa Clara County, he was shocked. "As social workers, we don't perform our work for honors or awards."
The award, handed out in March by his local chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, recognizes a social worker that exemplifies the best of the profession's values, demonstrates leadership, and inspires community action. The latter was the theme of this year's Social Work Month, and Williams' career epitomizes community action at work.
Williams, a consultant to nonprofit organizations, holds an array of community leadership positions in the San Francisco Bay Area, including serving on boards of the Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits, the Santa Clara County Democratic Party, and the San Jose Appeals Hearing Board.
"I think what I do in my work, and what other social workers do in public service, is take knowledge from working with individuals and families and apply it across systems," he explained. "For example, I'm aware of the impact that a lack of children's health insurance has on a family. I take that knowledge and apply it to build services to benefit millions of families."
One role Williams enjoys most is chairing the San Jose Appeals Hearing Board. Many of the homeowners appealing property code violations are struggling with underlying mental health issues, often pushing cases beyond legal bounds.
Bringing a property into legal compliance often involves making referrals to mental health treatment. He said, "It takes lots of work to educate the city's code enforcement staff and to make sure fellow commissioners understand mental health issues before making a legal order."
In addition to his community roles, Williams works as a nonprofit management consultant. "I apply my work to nonprofits in the same way as I apply it to helping individuals in crisis."
Many of the organizations he advises are dealing with an emergency -- a slew of bad press, a major flaw in their business model, or financial ruin. Williams assesses the situation, provides initial steps out of the crisis, and then provides more systemic solutions. He consults in areas ranging from strategic planning to executive coaching to program and resource development.
Following graduation from the NYU Silver School of Social Work, Williams worked as a clinician in the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office. He then moved to the nonprofit world as the director of a Baltimore organization that served prostituting women. "It was there that I realized I enjoyed executive management, being in charge of social change, and saw my executive management skills as an extension of my advocacy for individuals and families."
This discovery led Williams into nonprofit consulting and public service, a career he never imagined when he graduated. And that is one valuable lesson he learned at the Silver School -- be open to the many ways to use one's education and training.
"I'm always curious as to where my social work career will take me," he said. "And I realize as someone who has a high public profile in this part of California and identifies as a social worker, to make sure I do my best work because it impacts the view of our entire profession."
Roxana Sobie Tetenbaum, MSW, '06
Geriatric Mental Health Social Worker
Roxana is a mental health social worker at Henry Street Settlement Supportive Services for Seniors, working with the Hispanic elderly. She assists seniors across a range of issues, from housing and social isolation to navigating new Medicaid rules. "The most rewarding aspects are the appreciative words I receive every day from my clients when I get to offer advice and counsel about their pressing problems," she said. "It is extremely gratifying to observe that my recommendations and actions result in real benefits." Roxana credits her education at NYU with giving her the training that made her success possible: "The classroom and the internship programs provided the key foundation for my current work. Once we succeed in providing assistance - even small things - the closed door opens, and we can do wonderful, helpful things for our clients and improve their lives."
Rick Steinhaus, MSW, '06
Social Worker, Adult Caregiver Support
Rick is a social worker at the Mount Sinai Care Givers Resource Center, helping to provide services, support, respite, education, and counseling to caregivers of people 18 years or older in upper Manhattan. Rick's interest in social work was inspired by the desire to make a difference in the wake of 9/11, combined with his personal life experiences. He is enthusiastic about his work: "What could possibly be better than advocating and being proactive for people who are overwhelmed by the system?" He looks back on his education at NYU for present-day insights: "I can reflect upon certain courses and professors I had at NYU.when I reach a fork in the road, I try to recall what they may have encouraged me to do." In addition to his social work career, Rick has been a successful disc jockey and stage performer in NYC.
Jasmine Thomas, MSW '06
Program Officer, New York Community Trust
Jasmine Thomas is a Program Officer at The New York Community Trust. Her responsibilities include crafting and funding grants to non-profit organizations in areas of HIV/AIDS, local environment, Native Americans, Appalachia, and the Gulf Coast. She describes working in philanthropy as "a dream come true," adding, "One of the most rewarding aspects of my position is the ability to provide grant support to organizations that serve the needs of underserved, often disenfranchised clients. I get to see how philanthropy makes a positive impact on complex social issues." Although her job is not typical of most MSWs, Jasmine states, "I am still a social worker even if I do not provide direct services. I'm more than content with the fact that my job is to enable and support my peers/colleagues in organizing communities." Jasmine was raised in the Maryland suburbs, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland.
Amber Kline, MSW '06
Psychiatric Social Worker
Amber Kline is a psychiatric social worker at the Capitol District Psychiatric Center in Albany, NY. Amber is part of a team (including a psychiatrist and a nurse) that provides comprehensive evaluations of patients brought into the facility, to determine whether the patient is in need of hospitalization or can be released with a referral for follow-up care. In this position, she works with a wide range of patients "across the socioeconomic spectrum," she notes, including children and the homeless mentally ill. Right after graduating NYU, she was a crisis worker at the Albany County Children's Mental Health Center. "I always knew that I wanted to go into social work," she said, "and I knew I wanted to be in a clinical program in Manhattan. NYU was a perfect match."
Nathan Thomas, LMSW, MSW '06
Coordinator, GLBT Youth in Foster Care
Nathan Thomas, originally from Los Gatos, California, is the Independent Living Skills Coordinator for Green Chimneys Children's Services at the Gramercy Residence in Manhattan. He works with gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in foster care, one of only a handful of programs nationally that works specifically with this foster care population. According to Nathan, "The most rewarding aspect of this job is most definitely the youth that I have the opportunity to work with on a day-to-day basis." He notes that his NYU education has helped him "become a much stronger social worker with regards to clinical skills. I have noticed that NYU graduates that I work with in the field generally have a strong clinical sense and better self-awareness." Why did he choose social work? "Ever since I was a very young child I have had a deep appreciation for human behavior, and I never grew out of that."
Drena Fagen, MSW, '06
Counselor and Art Therapist
Drena Fagen grew up in Florida, studied graphic design, and had a career in advertising in Los Angeles . until a solo journey around the world changed her perspective, becoming "the catalyst for a career change." After earning a masters degree in Art Therapy, she became increasingly interested in the clinical aspect of her work. She enrolled in NYU and earned her MSW. Currently, she puts her social work training to use in several capacities: she works at a clinic with child survivors of sexual abuse, and she is developing an arts-based wellness center in Brooklyn (NY). Reflecting on her decision to pursue social work, Drena stated, "I wanted the credentials and knowledge to expand the clinical skills I had acquired working as an art therapist, so that I could focus my work more on social causes and issues that were important to me."
Michelle Bagan, MSW '06
Pediatric Social Worker
Michelle Bagan, 24, works at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell Weill Medical Center as a Pediatric Social Worker, counseling children and their families. Michelle is the social worker for the majority of the hospital's ambulatory pediatric clinics, including general pediatrics as well a multiple specialty clinics. She also works in the general pediatric inpatient unit.
Michelle has found her experience as a pediatric social worker in a medical setting to be rewarding and exciting. She writes, "Although it sounds like a cliché, I really do wake up every morning excited to go work and, more importantly, proud of my title as a Social Worker. I have the opportunity to work with diverse populations in an environment that I find to be supportive and intellectually stimulating." Much of her work is with disadvantaged families with children who have chronic or multiple medical problems. She works closely with those families, and has gained valuable experience in crisis intervention. Describing her path into social work, she said, "For as long as I can remember, I have had a desire to better the lives of others. Earning a master's in social work has allowed me the opportunity to truly fulfill a lifelong goal."
Ilana Horowitz, MSW '06
Assisted Outpatient Treatment Coordinator
Ilana Horowitz, a native New Yorker, works at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center (Brooklyn, NY). Ilana coordinates court-ordered mental health treatment for patients in compliance with The Assisted Outpatient Treatment Act, or "Kendra's Law," a New York law ensuring that individuals diagnosed with mental illness . in particular, those who present a danger to themselves or others . follow their prescribed treatment. Ilana interacts with a broad range of people, including psychiatrists, lawyers, case managers, medical personnel, and patients, to help provide services to patients in need. Ilana credits the School of Social Work with providing the training and knowledge enabling her to work with chronically mentally ill patients and their caregivers: "NYU definitely trained me in engagement, in working with people, and to reflect on the ways illness is approached."