Celebrating Our Mental Health Professionals

Celebrating Our Mental Health Professionals

As we reach the end of National Social Work month, which runs through March, we want to take the opportunity to thank our wonderful staff at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, which consists of social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, all of whom devote themselves to the children and families they serve.

Following are thoughts from some of our dedicated staff members on why they chose to work in the mental health field, making a difference every day of the year!

Although my undergraduate school major was economics and I thought I was headed for a career in big business, I chose to pursue a career in social work after working as a volunteer, first as a Big Brother with a couple of school-age kids while at Rutgers University in the early 1970s. About a year after I graduated, I joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and worked with teenaged boys and girls in a low-income Mexican-American community in Grand Island, Nebraska. After spending three years in Nebraska, I knew I had to go back to school if I wished to pursue this kind of work as a career. After some research, I thought the social work field suited me best because of its values. Social work didn’t only see troubled kids as broken objects to be fixed, but as whole persons with assets and strengths. It recognized one’s environment as a critical influencing factor in their life—for good and bad. And, finally, social work believed in self- determination, human dignity and social justice. It was a good fit.  – Andrew Malekoff, LCSW

“Blessed are the flexible for they shall not get bent out of shape.”

We are living in a time of unprecedented chaos and transitions; our children and families are in search of an accepting, calming environment to strengthen their skills and successfully overcome challenges.  As therapists we can provide a much-needed safety net and take a transformative place in role modeling effective communication, adaptive self-care and mental health wellness in children and families. It is a privilege and a passion to continue my journey as a Mental Health Counselor.  – Hillary McGrath, LMHC

The past year has highlighted the importance of mental health services and support for our society.  As social workers, we’ve known this for a long time, and I think it’s a reason that many of us have chosen to do this work.  It’s not easy work, and it’s often undervalued, but the reward that comes from making a difference in the life a child or their family is what keeps me going. – Vanessa McMullan, LCSW

“Social work didn’t only see troubled kids as broken objects to be fixed, but as whole persons with assets and strengths.”

I chose social work after realizing that no matter where I worked or in what role, I always wanted every person I spoke with to feel like no matter what issue they had at the time, someone was in it with them. There’s no stop sign on your corner? That is concerning, let’s call public works together! Not enough crunch topping on your ice cream cone? Maddening! Let’s see what we can do. (Yes, I was fired from TCBY). I got my Master’s in social work as my third degree. I have worked as a journalist, supervised a long-distance learning department and managed a local radio station. I worked in various settings, from a run-down office in Southern Brooklyn to a posh corner suite on Wall Street. It was never quite right, and whatever I did never seemed enough. Working with children and families is special; so much of our understanding of the world and ourselves comes from the experiences from our family system. Small changes at home can really generate positive impact in other areas of our lives, especially for little ones. – Laura Mauceri, LCSW

After I started my Master’s degree, I knew right away that I would do clinical work. If only I can help people tolerate their distress and contribute to their better mental state by being empathic, listening to what they go through, teaching them coping skills and sharing my positive energy. They say, “Better late than never.” I am very thankful to my new profession which allows me to contribute to others and wake up every day knowing that I can make a difference. – Masha Leder, LMSW

“Having chosen the career pathway to work with children and families has proven to be both invaluable and rewarding during these unprecedented times.”

A career in social work provided me the choice of working in a multitude of settings. Counseling is a rewarding practice, as this service can improve outcomes for children, families and their communities. I have always valued the importance of a stable family unit. Having chosen the career pathway to work with children and families has proven to be both invaluable and rewarding during these unprecedented times. All children deserve the opportunity to thrive throughout their lifetime, and I am proud to foster their success. – Julia Bassin, LMSW

I wanted to be a social worker and to work with adolescents and families because I had hoped to become a trusted person that youth could connect with and let inside their world.  Having children and teens open up and share their inner feelings and experiences during the most challenging times in their lives is an honor and a privilege.  – Brooke Hambrecht, LMSW

“Small changes at home can really generate positive impact in other areas of our lives, especially for little ones.”

In retrospect, there was nothing I wanted to do more than to become an agent of change, and I found that in social work.  One could say that social work found me!  As I went through my years within the social work field and up to the day I decided to complete my Master’s in social work, I found that my passion lied specifically in working with children and families.  That is where I felt that I would have the most impact to make change possible.  Families live, grow and heal together, so why not be present for these struggles, changes and achievements to support families in seeing the end of their own rainbow? – Edenny Cruz, LCSW 

I have no children of my own, and it is heartache, but I feel good about them and me when I reach out to these little ones and see them grow.  I am in the fight to save as many lives as I can during this season. – Ruthellen Trimmer, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner 

“I am very thankful to my new profession which allows me to contribute to others and wake up every day knowing that I can make a difference.”

I entered the world of social service post undergrad due to my own personal experience with individual therapy and watching my own family navigate various systems of care for my older sister who is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, and my father who was diagnosed with a terminal illness early on in his life.  I spent five years working with adults with a variety of psychiatric diagnosis in various settings prior to return to school to obtain my Master’s in social work. The turning point to obtain this degree for me very much had to do with wanting additional knowledge and training to have more accessibility to other settings of care. My supervisor during my first clinical placement said something to me that made me pivot to working with children. She said, “Whenever I have felt complacent or that I was overly knowledgeable in an area, I have challenged myself and changed the populations or setting I was working in.” Perhaps she sensed my complacency in the adult mental health world at the time. This is what led me to request that my second clinical internship be with young children and families. That was a defining moment for me, and I have been working with children and families since. I didn’t know it then, but I most certainly know now, that this is in fact my calling: to help children and families heal with an array of challenges and dynamics that this life presents. I take pride in wearing this title and continuing to improve my practice.  –Gillian Pipia, LCSW

I went into psychiatric nursing with children because I always liked working with children and their families. I like getting to know people in a more intimate and involved way. The relationships are ongoing and meaningful for the time that you are with them. It is rewarding and gratifying to see them move on and make progress. I am happy to be a part of that. – D.S., Psychiatric Nurse