I started working on my thesis these past few weeks. Last semester I was took my research class and began working on a project that I believe would turn into my thesis. It was on the lack of sexual education for adolescents with mental health diagnosis. I want to eventually work with adolescents with mental health diagnosis and that where my internship is this year. As I begin working on my thesis and reading the literature I felt bored. I missed the social justice aspect of social work that fed me last year and kept me going. I started thinking that this next year I would be so professionalized as a social worker that I would start to forget about the part of social work that is key to our profession. Working side by side a close friend that was reading about the civic engagement of social workers I decided to completely change my subject and move to the social justice side of things.
We partnered up and now are exploring what makes social workers more likely to be civically engaged versus professionalized. Feminism seems to be a link. The more social workers that identify themselves as a feminist the more likely they are to be interested in social justice issues, civically engaged and following issues affecting the world. We are only beginning our research so of course none of this is actually valid but it makes me think. Are social workers losing their social justice to become professionalized? I want to work in the mental health field so does that mean I have to give up all the passion I feel for social justice issues and feminism? Actually no.
When I work 9-5 and 40 hours a week in an office helping clients with their mental health I don’t see how I can leave the office and come home to my confortable home and say “yup, that’s it. I did my job”. I need more. I have to encourage change within the small walls of an office and with society. Changing the topic of my thesis was the first start to fusing the professionalism of social work with my passion for social justice. My daily work may be in mental health but I wont stop there. I will continue to work in my community for change.
Inevitably people start to ask me about the topic of my thesis. When I tell them with a sparkle in my eye all I receive is what I now refer to as “blank face”. The majority of the people in my life and the people that I encounter seem to think my thesis SHOULD be on something involving mental health. Rarely do I get an excited question regarding the topic. Which only makes me want to work harder. Our society may be pushing for social work to become professionalized but I will continue to fight for social workers to learn about social justice and understand it MUST become apart of your life in order for you to truly help clients.