“A desperate need” provides endless opportunities for passionate, compassionate certified therapists.
When she was a freshman in college, after years of seeing a social worker, Sarah Ferguson ‘24 decided she wanted to become one.
“I think that if I didn't have the support from my current social worker and therapist, I would have been really lost,” she recalls. “I think a social worker wants to see you succeed and they do it out of compassion, love, and genuine admiration for people.”
Anyone who tried to find a social worker or even make an appointment with their therapist in the past few years can tell you how the pandemic revealed cracks in our healthcare system.
“There is a desperate need for social workers,” says Assistant Professor Ababa Abiem, field placement director for the Regis College Social Work (BSW) program. The shortage that was so acute even before COVID now makes career opportunities even more prolific. “It is important to understand social workers are always in demand.”
Social work focuses on helping individuals, families, and communities and was born out of an increased sense of social responsibility towards vulnerable populations. Social workers are found in every facet of community life, including schools, hospitals and clinics, military, and in numerous public and private agencies. Some of the examples Prof. Abiem sees are in government and with start-up health care organizations. “Social workers are needed in every corner of the world,” she adds. “I believe that social workers will be guaranteed a job at any time.”
For Erica St. Onge BSW, who will graduate December of 2022, a dream job would be clinical social worker in a hospital setting. “I stumbled upon social work my sophomore year,” she recalls. “I knew I wanted to help people not in a physical aspect, but more in a psychological and therapeutic way. I then started to look into social work. The ethics and flexibility originally drew me in. The NASW [National Association of Social Workers] code of ethics held many values that I also held dear to myself and continue to do so. Throughout my years at Regis, I have had great experiences in my field, I have met some fabulous people, had life-changing experiences, and have made connections that I know will last me a lifetime.”
St. Onge originally chose Regis because “something about the school when I visited made me feel as if I was home.”
This sense of community, cited by students in every program at Regis, may be even more apparent in a program like social work. Abiem actually sees its personalized, more intimate size as an advantage for students compared with some of the larger programs at other colleges. Another difference is the opportunity for students to complete a junior year field experience, rare for an undergraduate social work program.
Whatever they were seeking, both Ferguson and St. Onge feel they found it in the program they chose. St. Onge says, “I 1,000% got what I came for and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I have had an amazing education, found a support system and family, and gotten to live a life most people would love to have, this is all due to the Regis community.”
Ferguson also says, “I am definitely getting what I came here for and so much more.” Initially, she chose Regis because of the community. “It is a small school with important values, those values are even carved and painted onto the walls.”
Yet she envisions her education leading to another path aligned with her personal history.
“My family is barely middle class, we had our moments struggling financially and on top of that my mother suffered from both physical and mental illnesses,” she recalls. “She got breast cancer when I was twelve. I also struggled with my mental health due to these things as well as others.”
When she graduates, Ferguson plans to apply her training as a social worker to a career as a lawyer.
“My heart has always been drawn to wanting to help victims of human trafficking, families in poverty, sexual assault victims, and immigrants. All of these struggles caused me to want to prevent others from doing the same.”
According to Abiem, whose own experience includes case management and crisis counseling, when asked why our students have entered the BSW program, “there is always either the response of, ‘I love people, I want to be a part of making change, I want to help those who are stuck,’ or ‘I want to see the stigma of mental health be broken,’ she explains. “It’s not often that you see someone enter this field who doesn’t have the desire to see change be made.”
Adds Ferguson, “The world is so much bigger than me.”