Beyond the Study Group: Fostering Relationships with Peer Social Workers

Seven clinicians walked into a bar…Shot taken by author. (shot as in photography shot, not alcohol shot…because, you know, total decorum and colleague boundaries still apply)

Last Thursday, I went to my first-time event for a Meetup group targeted to therapists in New York City. Four social workers, two licensed mental health counselors, and a psychiatric nurse practitioner walked into a bar…complete the joke at your will.

Because we are awesome and low-maintenance (and totally not the stereotype of the stuffy therapist on the Upper East Side), we went to a favorite dive venue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and it reminded me of one of the primary reasons I became a social worker: relationships. Our relationships with our clients provide a healing vehicle of change, and our relationships with our colleagues keep us energized and excited about the field. In addition, if you’re asked about social work values on the LMSW exam (Hint: This will be straight out of the Code of Ethics), the dignity  and worth of the person and the importance of human relationships will be two of those values.

Even if you didn’t like group work, considering a study group can work to your advantage since each member will bring their academic strengths and help fill in the gaps for others’ areas of weakness. Maybe you have a friend who is good at basic definition questions such as psychotherapy theories (If you have the ASWB study guide, you will recognize these as “recall” questions), but you’re better at knowing how to apply the stages of engagement and assessment you learned in your generalist practice courses to clinical vignettes.

Forming a study group can also bridge the camaraderie you felt with peers as students facing similar stressors and challenges from the classroom into the real world (Because, let’s face it, even for us, termination at graduation is just too much to process). Your challenges will continue to be similar, yet widely diverse across the areas of practice you and your classmates plunge into when you get your first jobs.

Summary

1. Study groups use the strengths-based perspective to highlight your own strengths and facilitate peer strengthening of your weaknesses.

2. Graduation doesn’t always mean termination.  Forming a study group will plant the seeds and develop your skills for forming peer professional support groups in the future.

3. Major test hint #1:  Read/print/memorize/record-and-play-in-your-sleep the NASW Code of Ethics.

4.  One of the peers at the event I went to was a recent MSW grad.  He told us he took and passed his exam yesterday after just reading this blog’s inaugural virgin post.  Ok, kidding about that one (too soon to have this blog be cool like that).  Still, welcome to the ranks, kid!

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