Cathy Lapid (MSW '08) serves with compassion throughout the journey
You graduated with your MSW in 2008. What were some of the challenges and inspirations from your student years?
I faced several challenges while in the MSW program. One challenging area involved my reactions — mostly transference or countertransference issues — that resulted from working with patients or clients in the field. As an MSW student, I was just beginning to make sense of the field of social work, my role and my reactions, including their connection to my past history. These challenging experiences forced me to become more self-aware and to then develop ways to manage and cope with my reactions when they occurred in the moment.
With these challenges also came many inspirations, which helped me to navigate the MSW program successfully. The first thing that comes to mind is the endless support that I received from other students, including those in the Health concentration. It was necessary for me to build positive and supportive relationships that felt safe. These friendships allowed me the opportunity to process my experiences, whether in the classroom or in the field, so that I could continue moving forward re-energized and ready for the next experience. We also learned how to have fun together, whether it was going out dancing, playing co-ed softball, or finding a new café at which to study.
The faculty and staff also played a major role while I was in the MSW program. I relied on their expertise and guidance on a variety of subject matters. As often as I could, I utilized office hours to have one-on-one conversations about classroom or field work topics. They helped me explore my many questions, thoughts, and reactions, which often led to more self-awareness and understanding of my experiences.
Tell us about your journey to employment, where you've been working, and what that's been like.
My second-year placement at the Center for Special Problems (CSP), a mental health clinic in San Francisco, required their MSW interns commit to an internship that lasted until the end of June. Because of the length of my internship, I did not begin my job search until July. I applied to about three different agencies and was called in for two interviews. The first interview was at a substance abuse clinic in which I would work as a substance abuse counselor. I knew immediately that it was not the right fit for me.
I then interviewed with the Contra Costa Transitional Age Youth Services Program (CCTAY) within the Fred Finch Youth Center (FFYC). I was drawn to the position of Personal Services Coordinator and the program philosophy, which focused on Assertive Community Based Treatment. It also seemed like a plausible next step in terms of putting into practice the therapy and case management skills I had learned at CSP. I accepted the position and have been with the program for over three years.
In that time, I have learned numerous personal and professional lessons working in the field of mental health, including how to serve others in a non-judgmental and compassionate way and to take care of myself when faced with intense and often traumatic situations and stories. I have grown to be a stronger, more confident and skilled clinician thanks to the endless support from my colleagues and supervisors.
What are some of the professional and personal milestones you have reached or are in the process of reaching?
On a professional level, I obtained a Master in Public Health in 2002 and then a Master in Social Welfare in 2008. These degrees have given me the opportunity to work in both fields in a variety of positions and roles. With my current position focusing mostly on micro-level social work, I hope to eventually transition to a placement that combines both my MPH and MSW skills and knowledge.
On a personal note, I'm happy to report that I recently got married to a wonderful fella in July 2011. Our current adventures involve local, domestic and international traveling. We hope to travel as much as possible within the next year before adding a ‘mini-me’ or junior to the family.
What's the next for you personally and professionally?
I had the opportunity to expand my role with the CCTAY program and assume managerial duties while the program director was on leave. With more responsibilities as an acting manager, I gained first-hand experience of how to manage a diverse team of clinicians and staff. This opportunity also allowed me to incorporate a few of my public health skills in the arena of program planning.
Another new development is that I have begun supervising several staff members, including a community services worker and MSW intern. My goal for the next two months is to complete the testing process and become a licensed clinical social worker. One more exam to go (fingers crossed)!
[Note: Since the interview, Lapid has successfully passed her licensure examination in California and is now a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.]
What advice do you for have for new MSW graduates?
I would begin by saying trust in the process, which relates to one of my favorite mantras in life, "It's not the destination but the journey.” When applying for jobs or internships after graduation, think about your short-term and long-term goals as a social worker. If you're unsure about a job/position, weigh the 'nuggets' (e.g., skills, experience, opportunities, salary, etc.) that are presented to you. Each job has something to offer. If you know yourself well, you can tell if it's a right fit or not. Also, continue to check in with yourself over time and determine if you are meeting your professional and personal goals in life. This check-in can prevent you from becoming complacent and to help you to continue moving forward on your journey.