National Professional Social Work Month.

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Leaders. Advocates. Champions.

Every day, the nation's 650,000 social workers act as advocates, champions, and leaders who make our society a better place to live. April is National Professional Social Work Month. It’s an opportunity for social workers across the country and their allies to turn the spotlight on the profession and highlight the important contributions they make to society. AHCH Therapist Melissa Grant said when she was in high school, her family became homeless and lived doubled-up with another family member. That experience left a major impression on her, and is one of the main reasons why she has been drawn to social justice work. Melissa recently received her credentials as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) from the State of New Mexico after taking a licensing exam issued by the Association of Social Workers Board (ASWB). Further, she procured a Master’s degree from the University of Michigan, endowing her as a Licensed Master of Social Work and has worked as a Program Director for AmeriCorps where she managed volunteers to work with people who were experiencing homelessness. She has been a therapist at AHCH for over two years and currently facilitates the Life Transitions Group every Friday. She said the group focuses on providing support for grief and other life transitions such as exiting homelessness or new relationships. “They are the experts in this situation and we are here to guide and support,” said Melissa. She also co-facilitates the Trauma Survivors Group. Within her practice, Melissa said she has identified post-traumatic stress disorder as the most common condition seen with people who are experiencing homelessness. “A majority of the people who I see are affected by PTSD,” she said. “Which can lead to substance abuse.” According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, (opioid) addiction can cause and prolong homelessness, and the experience of homelessness complicates one’s ability to engage in treatment. Further, persons experiencing homelessness have even higher rates of substance abuse disorders, poorer health, and higher mortality rates by opioid overdose than national averages, according to the Council. Therefore, Mellissa said consistency in therapy is key to untangle and treat the disorders. Other forms of therapy she administers are eye movement desensitization processing, which uses eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation to assist trauma victims in processing distressing memories and beliefs and cognitive behavioral therapy, a psycho-social intervention that is the most widely used evidence-based practice for improving mental health. In the tranquility of her office, decorated with vibrant colored mandalas, soft lighting and tabletop sculptures from ArtStreet artists, Melissa said practicing behavioral therapy can sometimes become overwhelming so she emphasized self-care is essential to her profession. “I work out about three times per week and I’ll play video games too.” Eating healthy and reading are also part of her self-care regiment. Melissa thanks the AHCH Behavioral Health team for standing with her during her journey to become a licensed clinical social worker. “The behavioral health team is so strong and so talented,” she said. “We lean on each other.” The Behavioral Health Program provides a variety of services to persons experiencing behavioral health issues including individual therapy, group therapy, behavioral health assessment and crisis intervention. Services are provided by licensed behavioral health professionals (social workers and counselors) at the AHCH campus and at multiple outreach sites that also serve people experiencing homelessness. The program benefits from an interdisciplinary model in conjunction with the AHCH medical, dental, social services, case management and harm reduction programs. For more information, call the Behavioral Health Team at (505) 242-3531 or visit abqhch.org.

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