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Turning Heartache Into Hope Live Chat

If you missed the chat with Jane and her guests Sylvia Abrego-Araiza and Tracy Whitaker, you can catch the conversation here.

Pauley: Cindy, to follow-up your question that Sylvia has addressed, I’d like to just make the observation after having spent time with Sylvia that she’s one of the most cheerful people I’ve ever met. She radiates positive energy and enthusiasm, so I suspect she is constituted that way and that that’s a quality that makes her able to do such hard, emotional work.

Also, she volunteered various stories of successful or hopeful outcomes. So I think she is restored by examples of when she has been effective and that might counterbalance the sadness.

Comment from Georgia: How many years would it take for me to become a certified social worker, if I were to go to school full-time?

Whitaker: Hi Georgia. Going to school full-time, you can earn a Master’s degree in two years. Depending on the state that you're in, getting certified or licensed can happen right after graduation once you pass a test, or within 2 years if you'll need additional supervision for clinical work. It really depends on the type of license you'll need and your state.

Comment from Gwen: Sylvia, how many of your classmates were your age or older? Was it harder for them to keep up or vice versa?

Abrego-Araiza: I believe there were one or two students who were older than me, so many students looked up to me as a mentor. I was an honor roll student, so clearly the classes were easier for me. Of course, with age comes discipline, focus, and determination.

Comment from Brenda: Tracy, I recently earned my LMSW (in New York) and want to work with children and adolescents. Are there any certifications or specific programs I should look into, or is my LMSW sufficient? Thanks.

Whitaker: Hi Brenda. Your LMSW will be sufficient for many positions. However, you can always boost your marketability by obtaining additional certification. NASW offers a specialty certification in Children, Youth and Families that might interest you. You can get more information at

Comment from Brenda: Sylvia, are you a licensed social worker, or CASAC?

Abrego-Araiza: I have an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science (Health & Human Services.) and I am a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor.

Comment from Gwen: Tracy, where is the greatest need for qualified social workers? And in this economy is there a greater need for volunteers?

Whitaker: Gwen, right now vulnerable people are in the greatest need. Children and older adults are two groups that are especially vulnerable in these economic times. We see greater rates of abuse in both populations as the economy declines. The recession does fuel a need for more volunteers as many agencies are struggling with cutbacks.

Pauley: Gwen, last month our story about Antoinette Little, who had gone back to culinary school alongside students who were 30 years younger, made the same point--that the younger students looked up to her in the same way. And she found herself eager to be a mentor to them.

So this is a point I hope anyone contemplating enrolling in further education but worried about the age difference will keep in mind. Here’s the link to Antoinette’s story.

Comment from Tina: Sylvia, how did you get your current job?

Abrego-Araiza: Tina, I knew of the need for substance abuse counselors in our area and applied for a position with an outpatient facility.

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