Sunday, February 19, 2017

Death and Grief in the Digital Age: Interview with Carla Sofka, Ph.D.

[Episode 109] Today’s episode of the Social Work Podcast is about Death and Grief in the Digital Age. I spoke with Dr. Carla Sofka, professor of Social Work at Siena College. Dr. Sofka has been studying and writing about the intersection of technology and death and grief since the earliest days of the world wide web. Her edited 2012 text, Dying, Death and Grief in an Online Universe, looks at how changes in communication technology have revolutionized the field of thanatology.

In today’s episode we talk about the role of social media in how, why, where and when, who we grieve. She shares stories of people whose loved ones have died, only to find out that because of social media they are the last to know. Carla provides some digital literacy around death and grief in the digital age. She talks about social media posts as death notifications, about establishing digital advance directives and thinking about our digital dust.

She talks about STUG reactions which are Sudden Temporary Upsurges of Grief. I had never heard of a STUG reaction, but I actually had one during our conversation. You’ll hear me talk about college friend of mine who died several years ago and during the interview start to tear up as I recalled getting a Facebook notification that it was her birthday.  We then talked about internet ghosts, memorial pages, memorial trolls, how and when people should respond to death notices online and what that means for the loved ones. She suggests that just as we provide sex education to kids, we should be providing death education.  She also recommends including technology assessment in the standard biopsychosocialspiritual assessment. We ended our conversation talking about resources for mental health professionals who want to learn more.

Download MP3 [34:14]

Saturday, December 31, 2016

[Rebroadcast] So you want to work abroad? An interview with David Dininio

[Episode 58.1] Today's episode of the Social Work Podcast is a rebroadcast of a 2010 interview with international social work recruiter David Dininio. I'm rebroadcasting Episode 58 because Kai Searle with Amicus Recruit has a fantastic opportunity for licensed social workers from the USA, Canada, South Africa, and Australia to do child protection work in the UK starting in January / February 2017. If you’re a licensed social worker with experience in child protective services and want to do social work in South East England, email

In today's Social Work Podcast I speak with David Dininio, Recruitment Manager for HCL Social Care International, about how social workers in the United States can work as social workers in other countries. Let’s be honest. You didn’t become a social worker because you wanted to travel the world. Even if you’re someone who has the travel bug – You’re a social worker. You’re not making a whole lot of money? How are you going to finance it? Today’s Social Work Podcast is about how social workers can work abroad.
Download MP3 [46:54]

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Self Psychology for Social Workers: Interview with Tom Young, Ph.D.

[Episode 107] Today's episode of the Social Work Podcast is about self-psychology. Tom is a retired professor of social work from Widener University and the author of several publications on social work and self psychology. In today's episode Tom talks about the role of empathy in self psychology, the function of mirroring, idealizing, and twinship experiences in the development of the self, how self psychology can be applied in individual, couple, and family contexts. Tom talks us through a case involving an adolescent male and shares resources for those interested in learning more.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A #ZeroSuicide World: Interview with David W. Covington, LPC, MBA

[Episode 106] Today's episode of the Social Work Podcast is about a healthcare initiative called Zero Suicide.  In today’s episode, I spoke with David W. Covington, LPC, MBA who, along with Mike Hogan, developed the Zero Suicide initiative. We talked about how he went from clinician to health care executive, from running a crisis service to organizing Zero Suicide initiatives around the world. We talked about what Zero Suicide means for providers and health care leaders and ended with information about how you can get your healthcare organization involved in Zero Suicide.

Download MP3 [54:49]

So why should social workers care about Zero Suicide?
  • Zero Suicide fits social work values. Zero suicide can only happen in a culture where people are encouraged to reach for the moon – that is no suicide, but are not punished for falling short. This idea of a “just culture” comes from Henry Ford Health System’s “Perfect Depression Care.” 
  • Zero Suicide can’t happen without social workers. Social workers provide more mental health services than all other professions combined. Social workers are team players and Zero Suicide is inherently interprofessional. 
  • Social workers are advocates. What if health care organizations use best practices, but those best practices haven’t been developed with diverse racial and ethnic groups, or don’t into account complex medical or trauma histories? What if Zero Suicide means that health care organizations have to spend more on training and staffing? Who will advocate for consumers if those costs are passed along to consumers rather than investors? Social workers have a professional responsibility to be involved in those conversations.   
  • Social workers are trained to identify and respond to issues at the practice – the micro, and policy – the macro – level. Well guess what – ZeroSuicide is like the holy grail of micro-macro integration: it requires coordinated changes in values, beliefs, and practices at the provider- and system-level. David will talk more about this during the interview, but in plain English it means that as a social worker I have to believe that suicide is preventable, know how to assess, intervene, and coordinate care, and trust that my organization will have my back. At a systems level, health care organizations have to make a multi-year commitment of time and resources to reduce suicide deaths, train and support clinical and non-clinical staff, screen and assess everyone in the system, and use data-driven quality improvement.  It can’t work without changes at the micro and macro level.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Recovery High Schools: Interview with Lori Holleran Steiker, Ph.D.

[Episode 105] Today's Social Work Podcast is about Recovery High Schools. I spoke with Dr. Lori Holleran Steiker, Distinguished Professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work, and author of the 2016 book, Youth and Substance Use:  Prevention, Intervention and Recovery. We talk about risk factors for addiction, adolescent brain development, how to think about addiction from a biopsychosocial-spiritual perspective, why recovery or sober high schools fit an essential gap in the continuum of care for youth struggling with drugs and alcohol and how you can help to bring one to your community. We end our conversation with Lori making an impassioned plea to join the fight against adolescent addiction.

Download MP3 [50:48]

Monday, June 13, 2016

Guardian of the Golden Gate: Interview with Kevin Briggs

[Episode 104] In today's episode of the Social Work Podcast I spoke with Kevin Briggs, retired Sergent with the California Highway Patrol. As part of his duties patroling Marin County, Sgt. Briggs responded to calls on the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most lethal suicide spots in the world.

In April 2016 Sgt. Briggs and I talk about what it was like to be a negotiator working with people seconds away from jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Sgt. Briggs shared some of his strategies and his struggles working with hundreds of people, some of whom jumped and some of whom didn’t. He talked about getting famous and doing a TED talk. And then he shared something very personal – the story of how he found out that his son had been thinking of killing himself. Sgt. Briggs provides valuable insight in the professional and personal side of crisis work.

Download MP3 [35:50]

You can read more about his story in his book, Guardian of the Golden Gate and on his 2014 TED talk "The Bridge Between Suicide and Life."

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Grand Challenges for Social Work: Interview with Dr. Richard P. Barth

[Episode 103] Today's Social Work Podcast is about the Grand Challenge initiative for social work. In today’s interview I asked Dr. Barth if there was a plan to bring practitioners, educators and policy makers on board with the Grand Challenge initiatives – he said they were already on board. I asked him to walk us through a Grand Challenge topic – he picked the challenge Ensure Healthy Development for All Youth. I asked him if he hopes the Grand Challenge Initiative will make more funding available to the profession – he said that he hopes for more resources, not just funding. I asked him if he thought doctoral students should hitch their wagons to the Grand Challenges. He was very diplomatic, but basically said “yes.” I asked him about the challenges coordinating between the major social work organizations, NASW which represents practitioners, CSWE which represents educators, and SSWR which represents researchers. He said he’s never seen organizations working together so closely as they have with the Grand Challenges. I asked him if there were topics that people would be surprised to find out were not Grand Challenge topics. He said, there were several and then explained why. As an author of a Grand Challenge paper, I know that we were asked to conceptualize what could be accomplished in the next 10 years. So I asked Dr. Barth what he hoped he would be able to say at the 10 year anniversary event of the Grand Challenges.

Download MP3 [35:50]

Here's what the AASWSW website says about the Grand Challenge Initiative:

"The Grand Challenges for Social Work represent a dynamic social agenda, focused on improving individual and family well-being, strengthening the social fabric, and helping create a more just society. Explore each of the 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work below:"

Ensure healthy development for all youth
Close the health gap
Stop family violence
Advance long and productive lives
Eradicate social isolation
End homelessness
Create social responses to a changing environment
Harness technology for social good
Promote smart decarceration
Reduce extreme economic inequality
Build financial capability for all
Achieve equal opportunity and justice

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Parenting Teenage Girls: Interview with Lisa Damour, Ph.D.

Update April 4, 2017: Untangled has been released in paperback.

[Episode 102] Today's episode of the Social Work Podcast tackles one of the most difficult developmental stages in the parent-child relationship: adolescence. If you’re a long-time listener of the podcast, you know that I’ve spent most of my professional career working with or doing research on adolescents. Like most clinicians I have more experience with adolescents when things are going wrong in their lives than when they are going right. And as a parent, I can tell you that I seem to be much more clued into when things are going wrong than things are going right. Like earlier this afternoon… no, I’m just kidding, I wouldn’t do that to you. What I will do is introduce my guest. Dr. Lisa Damour (@LDamour), clinician, researcher, professor, parent, writer of the Adolescence column for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, and most importantly for today’s episode, Dr. Damour is the author of Untangled: Guiding teenage girls through the seven transitions into adulthood.

I’ve read it. I think it is fantastic. I recommend this book without hesitation to anyone who is raising or will be raising a teenage daughter. The writing is engaging, scholarly without being boring, and full of practical tips that parents can adopt and implement immediately.

  • How often should my kid be eating dinner with me? 
  • When is the best time to have a serious and uncomfortable conversation? 
  • My thirteen-year-old rolls her eyes when I try to talk to her, and only does it more when I get angry with her about it. How should I respond?
  • Do I tell my teen daughter that I’m checking her phone?
  • Where’s the line between healthy eating and having an eating disorder?
  • My daughter’s friend is cutting herself. Do I call the girl’s mother to let her know?

Download MP3 [48:55]

I also think that any mental health professional who works with children and families should read this book. Dr. Damour basically hands you brilliant ways of explaining essential developmental concepts that will make sense to the parents and kids you work with. Plus, you’ll be able to legitimately recommend it as bibliotherapy for your clients. Check out the discussion guide:

In today’s interview we talk about why a teenage girl’s erratic and confusing behavior is actually healthy, necessary, and natural.  She talks about what’s going on in the minds of teenage girls and how parents can reframe their daughter’s thoughts feelings and actions. She talks about how society essentially abandons teenage girls and their parents. We talk about sex and the internet. And even though about 70% of the book focuses on how and when parents can know what’s going right, Dr. Damour draws on her extensive clinical experience to alert parents of when they have reason to worry. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Critiques of the DSM-5: Interview with Jeffrey Lacasse, Ph.D.

[Episode 101] Today's episode of the Social Work Podcast is a critique of the  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5.

The most basic critique of the DSM-5 is the same critique that has been levied against psychiatry for decades: that it does nothing more than medicalize or pathologize normal behavior. So is it ever ok to say that someone isn’t normal? Are there ever situations where giving a diagnosis is good? As it turns out, yes. And I’m not just talking about diagnosis as a means to finance treatment. Yes, third party reimbursement hinges on diagnosis. But I’m talking about something less institutional and more personal. There are people who like labels, who find comfort in being able to name or label what is wrong. The label draws a boundary around an experience. Labels can even draw up boundaries around a group of people. According to psychologist Gary Greenberg, “[the label] Asperger’s syndrome gave people whose primary symptom was isolation a way to belong and provided resources to those who were diagnosed” (Reese, 2013).

Download MP3 [37:19]

So, I know what you are wondering - is DSM diagnosis good or bad? Well, today’s episode won’t be the definitive answer to that question. But, it will give you cause to pause when you think about the role of DSM-5 in the professional life of social workers and the people we serve. My guest is social work faculty member from Florida State University, Jeffrey Lacasse, Ph.D. Dr. Lacasse has published several critiques of the changes in DSM-5. In today's episode, Dr. Lacasse critiques the definition of mental illness, the empirical support for and reliability of most diagnoses, the politics associated with the DSM and the implications for social workers who represent the single largest group of professionals who provide DSM diagnoses.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Private Practice for Social Workers: Interview with Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW

[Episode 100] Today's episode of the Social Work Podcast is about private practice. My guest, Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW is the founder and executive director of Wasatch Family Therapy. She is a columnist at,, and PsychCentral where she writes about private practice. She seems to be on speed dial for national media outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Market Watch, HuffingtonPost Live, and magazines like Cosmopolitan, Health, Health and dozens of others. Dr. Hanks has developed a 6-week e-course called Rock the Media School which is designed to help health and mental health practitioners build their online presence through media interviews, blogging, and building an engaged social media following. Get details at She is the author of the 2016 book, The Assertiveness Guide for Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships

Download MP3 [52:33]

In today's interview, Julie talks about key ingredients for a successful private practice including:
  • identifying your "big message;" 
  • building relationships online and offline; 
  • knowing what you're good at and outsourcing what you're not good at; and 
  • reconciling "social work" with "private practice." 
We end our conversation with information about resources for social workers who want to start or build a private practice