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Michelle Walsh

M.S.W. Class of 2010

In my third year of case management for a major mentoring agency in New England I felt compelled to go back to school. I had gotten my undergraduate degree in social work and in my job I found I enjoyed those opportunities I had to counsel others. I wanted to do more in depth, relational type work with people. I chose Smith for its focus on psychodynamic theories and clinical orientation, knowing that I would be getting a sound education in clinical social work practice. I was drawn to Smith's block plan which offers mobility within a vast array of work settings and geographic locations. This flexibility allowed me to fulfill my interests in using the arts in therapy and working with children.

My experience during the academic summers has been rich. Material provided in the classroom offers a wealth of literature and resources. In addition to texts and articles, discussions in class between instructors and classmates have proven fruitful and have deepened my learning process. Smith's unique calendar of summer classes, although intensive, provides an opportunity for connection with other Smithies and allowed me to develop relationships as colleagues that have enriched the overall experience.

During the eight months of field I could really focus on clients and apply material that had been taught during the summer. My first field placement, in one of Boston's public schools, was very rich and challenging. I learned to advocate for my clients' needs within a school setting and navigate therapy around each client's individual issues. My second field placement, also in the Boston area in an outpatient mental health agency, was a fantastic experience. I worked primarily with young children, adolescents and families. During both years I had supportive faculty field advisers who facilitated in Smith/agency relations and enriched my work at each location. I have found that faculty and staff at Smith are welcoming and engaging in and out of the classroom.

A major support during the Smith experience has been the chance to be near other Smithies during field placement. I found this to be beneficial to my learning and a lot of fun.

As I continue on my path as a clinical social worker I feel equipped to work with a range of clients in a variety of settings. I find that my understanding of theory and ability to work with all people has been deepened and challenged in positive ways because of my Smith experience. I developed a strong relationship with my second year field supervisor and her sound clinical ability and style of supervision prompted me to apply for a position at the agency, which I got. I plan to continue working in the outpatient setting, doing some outreach and family work as well, as I accumulate my clinical and supervision hours needed to acquire my independent license. My end goal is to land a school social work job in addition to working part time in private practice incorporating dance/movement therapy. I feel confident that carrying the Smith name with me will grant me many opportunities.