Common Questions and Answers from Current and Former Post-MSW Fellows
Common Questions and Answers from Current and Former Post-MSW Fellows
What does the fellowship experience entail?
“Being a post-MSW fellow in Social Services (SoS) and Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) is a great opportunity to gain a lot of clinical experience working with students who present with a broad range of mental health and other psycho-social concerns. Because the fellowship is split between the two units you have the opportunity to gain an incredible breadth of experience which makes this fellowship unique! You will be really prepared to be able to work with a broad range of clients.”
“I love having the opportunity to provide individual and group counseling as well as being able to develop educational workshops and outreach programs to the campus—particularly to help meet the needs of underserved students on campus. I was able to co-lead an alcohol and other drug harm reduction group in SoS and I learned a lot about group facilitation and about alcohol and other drug work. I love the harm reduction model and think it works really well for most students.”
“I wasn’t that familiar with providing very brief counseling, but I have learned that meaningful interventions can occur in a short amount of time. For students who need or are looking for longer-term therapy we are able to help link them to therapists off campus who are covered by their insurance.”
“A big component of the fellowship is the seminars. In the first year of the fellowship you are part of a cohort of 2 post-MSW fellows and 3 doctoral interns. Together you participate in clinical seminar, multicultural seminar and group supervision. You get to know each other well and learn a lot together. You also are part of a social work professional development seminar which is a great space to reflect on your identity development as a clinical social worker and your thoughts and plans about your next steps in your career.”
“In addition to scheduled weekly intakes and follow-up appointments fellows provide 2 hours of urgent walk-in counseling every week. While this work can be challenging I can definitely say that I have developed really solid skills in crisis assessment and intervention. I feel like I’m prepared for just about anything.”
“The fellowship is definitely demanding…and during peak times of the semester you will be working hard. It definitely requires you to take self-care seriously and to rely on your cohort and supervisors to help you.”
“The fellowship is a 40-hour per week position that begins in July of one year and ends in July of the next year. The first several weeks are devoted to orientation and training. The rest of the time could be said to follow a similar structure to the academic calendar at Berkeley: fall semester, a winter recess, spring semester, and summer semester.”
What’s it like working in both the Social Services (SoS) and Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) units?
“Post-MSW fellows split their week between both units, which means two different offices, two different supervisors, and two different caseloads. CPS focuses primarily on general mental health services and brief therapy, while Social Services provides brief therapy around specialized topic areas--alcohol or other drugs, eating disorders and body image, relationship violence or other violence, sexual assault, chronic medical conditions or new diagnoses, sexual health, and pregnancy. I found that working in both departments provided me with a real breadth of opportunity to deepen my clinical work in a number of different areas.”
“An analogy I like to use regarding the initial adjustment period to working in both departments is what it might be like driving a manual transmission in a hilly place such as the city across the bay, San Francisco! Already in each department, there is much variation and much to learn. Because the post-MSW social work fellows split their time between two units, it can feel like there is twice as much to acclimate to and manage! At the same time, I deeply valued the breadth and richness of the opportunities I had as a social work fellow to learn and work across a range of clinical topic areas, with different staff, and in different ways.”
“Working in SOS and CPS is a unique training experience. We have the opportunity to work with clinicians who come from all different backgrounds including Clinical Social Workers, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Nurse Practitioners. Social Services provides an opportunity to work with specialized populations. This was intimidating at first; I didn't have experience in certain areas such as Eating Disorders. In CPS we have the opportunity to work with a larger student population; this is typically the first place students come to when seeking mental health support. We see students who come in for support around stress, anxiety, depression, academics, relationships and more. This unit is structured and set up in a way that makes case consultation easy. As a trainee, this is so helpful.”
The website says that the fellowship helps to foster the development of knowledge, awareness, and skills for work with diverse populations. In what ways have you experienced this?
“UC Berkeley has a diverse student body, which translates to diverse clients served in both departments. The multicultural seminar in my first year fellowship mixed didactic training with dialogue-driven learning, and supervision continuously provided me with a space to discuss culturally aware practice. Additionally, I found an environment within CPS and SoS that promotes naming and engaging in dialogue around issues of diversity and multicultural service.”
“There is great diversity in the intersecting identities held by, as well as the concerns presented by, the students at UC Berkeley who seek and engage in counseling services at the health center. In addition, CPS’ and SoS’ organizational cultures aspire to values of equity, inclusion, and multiculturalism. Attending to the diversity and attendant relational intricacies in the clinical work here as well as engaging in training, supervision, and consultation within this context offers a post-MSW social work fellow a multitude of opportunities to enhance and enrich their self-awareness and ability for work with multicultural populations.”
What can you tell me about your experience of and quality of supervision?
“Supervision was hands-down the highlight of my fellowship experience. My supervisors in both SoS and CPS were both passionate about the supervision process, and it showed—they both actively fostered a space where I could push my growth edges and be vulnerable, and made themselves available for consultation even outside of our scheduled time together. Supervision absolutely supported me in becoming a more confident clinician.”
“One of the reasons I applied to the fellowship was a desire to participate in a training program, which prioritizes its trainees’ learning, growth, and development, which I have found to be true at CPS and SoS. All of my supervisors have been skilled, warm, and cared immensely about the supervision process and my supervisory needs. Because of this, I feel that I have been able to engage in supervision more deeply than I have before by being vulnerable, taking risks, receiving feedback, and in so doing, grow. My supervision experience as a fellow without a doubt has been one of the most important and influential aspects of my professional development and identity as a clinical social worker.”
“Supervision is something I look forward to every week. Both of my supervisors provide unique support. In Social Services I am able to process challenging cases that interest me such as Trauma. I feel grateful for a space that allows trainees to consult on our work as well as our own reactions to it. In CPS I am provided with supervision that really supports theories and interventions I am interested in. I have the space to break down cases and process my work. Supervision is taken seriously, I feel supported.”
“You receive a lot of supervision, as you have an individual supervisor in both SoS and CPS, you also receive weekly group supervision with the doctoral psychology interns, and you will also be part of a weekly all-staff case conference where senior staff, interns and fellows consult about cases and share support.”
How did you grow through the fellowship?
“I gained a lot of comfort in crisis work and risk assessment, alongside valuable skills working with the Social Services topic areas. I appreciated working with colleagues from a variety of disciplines, and learning from them through consultation.”
“First I’ll say that the sheer volume of clinical work in which the post-MSW social work fellow is engaged, especially in regards to the number and diversity of students in their caseload, alone helps foster significant learning and growth.”
“I found that providing services to so many clients, and with diverse backgrounds and presenting concerns, helped me greatly strengthen and further develop my skills, knowledge, and confidence around assessment, brief counseling, case conceptualization, and treatment planning. I also significantly increased my sense of ability and confidence for risk assessment and crisis-oriented work. All of this was facilitated and bolstered by working with and learning from skilled supervisors and colleagues in supervision and consultation.”
“I have had the opportunity to collaborate more than ever before. I feel I am becoming more and more comfortable speaking in group settings such as in case conferences and staff meetings. I have gained experience both clinically and within my own professional development.”
What are the challenges?
“Counseling services at UC Berkeley are highly utilized, particularly during certain times of the year, which can result in increased stress for clinicians to manage demand. There are definitely times throughout the year when I’ve needed to be intentional about self-care.”
“During my fellowship orientation, I remember being informed that one of the challenges of being a fellow at the health center at UC Berkeley is having to decide between many more interesting opportunities than one will likely have time for, and this is in addition to one’s expected responsibilities. I think this is true and a ‘good’ problem to have but can also be challenging to manage! There can and will be a lot of different ways your time and attention will be divided, so I found time management and being mindful about my limits to be very important.”
How do you make the stipend work living in the Bay Area?
“Housing is expensive in the Bay area! Some fellows have found success living with friends or family in the area to cut down on costs. Cal Rentals (https://och.berkeley.edu/), a website with listings for available housing around the university, can sometimes be helpful, along with Craigslist.”
“This is one of the biggest challenges in regards to the fellowship. The Bay Area is expensive so having a financial backbone is a must. Some fellows have had to take second jobs in order to make ends meet.”
What do people do after the fellowship?
“In the Social Work Professional Development seminar we recently met a former post-MSW fellow who is the Assistant Coordinator of Sexual Assault Counseling and Education at Temple University in Philadelphia and another who is in private practice in Oakland doing longer-term psychodynamic psychotherapy as well as teaching at a local college.”
“I know that former fellows have worked at residential eating disorder clinics, have been hired in college counseling centers locally and across the country, have opened private practices, have worked for hospitals…have worked for the Disabled Students Program at UC Berkeley…it seems like folks do a range of things depending on their professional interests and career ambitions.”
Do you feel like the fellowship prepares you for licensure?
“As a fellow you are required to register as an Associate Social Worker (ASW) with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences before beginning the fellowship, which ensures that all hours worked while at UC Berkeley can be counted toward California licensure. The fellowship allows post-MSW fellows to accrue hours within all the categories required by the California BBS, along with exceeding supervision requirements. Starting in 2018 fellows will also be given time to study for the California Law & Ethics Exam in the first year, which ASWs are required to take before their first ASW renewal. And you will also be given time to take some of the required post-graduate courses that must be completed before licensure. If you are interested in becoming licensed outside of California you will need to inquire with the board of the specific state(s) you are interested in to be clear on what you will need to do to ensure that your hours accrued in California can be used to prepare you for licensure in that state. This is doable—you will just need to research each state’s requirements.”
“In addition to being able to accrue the majority of the required hours across the course of the 2 years—you will definitely gain a lot of skills and confidence as you prepare to become licensed!”
“Yes! The training experience is extensive. In addition, the training directors are up to date with how to manage license requirements.”
What does the application process look like? Do you have any advice?
“The interview process is conducted by phone between you and the selection committee which is made up of a group of clinical social worker staff. While it can be daunting to answer questions by phone and not be able to see the people interviewing you, know that everyone in the room is excited to hear what you have to say, and is supportive. I recommend imagining the social workers on the other side of the phone line smiling and nodding along to your answers.”
“If you are offered an interview after submitting your application materials, it will be conducted by phone. You will be asked questions by a selection committee composed of a group of clinical social workers in CPS and SoS. The interview takes approximately 45 minutes and some of the questions will be based on vignettes, which will be described during the interview. There will also be time for you to ask the selection committee any questions you may have. Candidates are then informed of the selection committee’s decision sometime in the weeks following.”
“Different people have different approaches for preparing for interviews. Some find it helpful to think through potential questions and how they might answer them, and even practice them aloud, either by themselves or with the help of a friend, and/or write reference notes. For myself, I made sure to get a good night’s rest the day before as well as ensure that I had a quiet and private place to be on the telephone.”
“Think of the interview as a chance for both the interviewers and yourself to get to know the other a bit and discern whether this might be a mutually good fit. Also know that the selection committee is made up of folks who were impressed by your application, are supportive, and are excited to hear what you have to say.”
“Be yourself! UC Berkeley is a place that appreciates authenticity and embraces differences.”