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An Interview with Dorlee Michaeli

dorlee michaeli“It is important to note that the majority of the encyclopedia article was researched and written by Dorlee Michaeli, MBA, LMSW. Dorlee has been consulting with the Center for Financial Social Work since 2012. Her knowledge, skills and talents have made an immeasurable contribution to FSW.” –Financial Social Work Blog

Dorlee Michaeli, LMSW, received her degree from NYU’s Silver School of Social Work and later expanded her education in the social work field by attending the Center for Financial Social Work. Michaeli has been recognized for her skill in applying cognitive behavior techniques with clients who suffer from anxiety, anger management, and sleep disorders. She is the author of the respected blog, Social Work Career and is the co-author of Financial Social work located in the Encyclopedia of Social Work.

Today we thank Dorlee Michaeli for taking the time to participate in this interview and share her experience and wisdom with us.

1. What brought you to the field of social work?

It was my desire to make a difference that led me to social work. I think that is what brings most people to this field! I originally worked as a project director in the marketing research world helping firms decide on optimal new products/services offerings, positioning strategies, and customer satisfaction strategies. While helping companies grow their businesses was fun and challenging, there was a market downturn and my firm went through some financial difficulties (as did many other companies and the whole marketing research industry). This ended up being a blessing in disguise for me because it enabled me to go back to school and get my Master’s degree in social work and start a career in which I could make a meaningful difference to people.

2. Why did you choose the field of social work rather than psychology, counseling, or another helping profession? What circumstances or influences led you to pursue a career as a social worker?

I chose the field of social work because I felt that it was the best fit for me. Prior to pursuing my MSW at NYU’s Silver School of Social Work, I did my homework by speaking to a few friends and colleagues in the field and attending open houses at a few universities. In a nutshell, with a social work degree, I found that I’m a strong advocate of its strengths-based systems approach, whereby you take into account the work, community, and family that the individual is living and working with and build upon all the positive actions and steps an individual is already taking, as well as its social justice and advocacy underpinnings. In addition, I love the career flexibility afforded by the degree; you graduate in two years ready to practice in a wide range of positions and settings. Once you are licensed, the sky is your limit!

3. How has your career grown and changed over time?

Thanks to my MBA, MSW and the social media presence I had built up with my SocialWork.Career website, my career opportunities have expanded over time. Three years ago, I started consulting for the Center for Financial Social Work, helping to educate social workers and community advocates on how to empower their clients to develop a better relationship with their money and establish healthier money habits that lead to a more secure financial future. A few months after my first consulting position, I was asked to also provide social media coaching/consulting to the University of Buffalo School of Social Work. And now, I’m working on developing the materials to teach my first online course, “Your Brilliant Career,” at the University at Buffalo starting in January of 2016.

When the right opportunity will present itself, my plan is to also incorporate working with clients in a clinical setting. During my graduate placements, I worked with individuals at both a hospital’s outpatient mental health and a women’s health clinic. It was a true privilege to help clients out of a depression, change self-sabotaging behaviors and increase their coping skills. To that end, I’ve earned a certificate in Advanced Clinical Practice from NYU and I’m keeping up-to-date with relevant training.

4. Please describe a typical day in your role.

I spend most of my time consulting on behalf of the Center for Financial Social Work (FSW) so I will describe a typical day when I’m wearing my FSW hat. I usually divide my time and attention between a few different FSW projects. The overarching goal of these projects is to expand the firm’s range of offerings; i.e., to create more products to help social workers and community advocates empower their clients to develop a healthy relationship with their money. In addition, I work to broaden the Center’s marketing reach.

As I’m writing, editing collateral and/or collaborating with Reeta Wolfsohn, the president, I’m periodically communicating with her via email and/or phone. (I cannot just walk over to her because we are located in different states. I am in New York while the Center is based in North Carolina.) Last but not least, I also have the opportunity to continuously learn about Financial Social Work from Reeta.

The work we do truly makes a difference in the lives of the social workers who become certified in FSW both because of all the clients they help and because their own financial circumstances improve. This change takes place because Certified FSW social workers must go through their own journey of empowerment before becoming mentors to their clients.

5. What do you see as the top social justice issues facing social workers today?

I believe that the top social justice issues facing social workers today are: child welfare, gender inequality, institutional racism, poverty, homelessness (or lack of affordable housing), as well as disparities in healthcare and education. While the United States is becoming an increasingly multiracial and multiethnic society, economic inequality by gender and race remain. Similarly, those who are poor have access to fewer health and educational resources, thereby limiting their well-being and social mobility.

6. What advice would you give to new social workers entering the field today?

I would suggest that new social workers do their utmost to stay up to date with the latest developments and meet new colleagues in the field. This may help them not only find a job but advance in their careers.

One of the most effective ways of doing so is to get active via social media. Laurel Hitchcock, PhD, MPH, LCSW, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and I created two online toolkits for new social workers so as to help them develop a professional learning network (a group of colleagues to start following/connecting with via social media) and begin/advance their careers along with some exercises.

7. Social work can be very rewarding but challenging as well. What self-care strategies do you recommend for new social workers?

When it comes to self-care, I like to think of Dr. Dan Siegel’s healthy mind platter. It contains 7 daily activities that are essential for optimal health and if you make sure you are getting all or enough of these, you are re-energizing yourself physically and emotionally.

The 7 activities are: exercise (20-30 minutes are sufficient), sleep (usually 6-8 hrs.), play (however you define this), connecting (talking with a friend/loved one), down time (letting your mind wander), time in meditation (for at least 10 minutes), and focus.

Mary Jo Barrett, MSW also has some simple ways for you to incorporate self-care into your day.

8. What has been your proudest moment as a social worker?

I was most excited to have an article I co-authored with Reeta, “Financial Social Work”, published in the Encyclopedia of Social Work. I also felt most honored to have been interviewed by the inSocialWork, the podcast series of the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, on How Social Media Expands Social Work Career Choices.

9. What personal strengths do you bring to your career in social work and why are they important?

The key strength I bring to social work is my love of learning and willingness to grow. The mental health (and overall healthcare) field is continually evolving with new evidence-based treatments, protocols, and systems. When you are someone who enjoys the process of learning new techniques and broadening your skills, it makes adapting to new changes much easier because new developments feel fun and exciting! You are also more likely to see and/or create innovative ideas/techniques. This, in turn, will help you perform better at work and advance your career!