Master of Social Work | Westfield State University

Master of Social Work | Westfield State University

October 17, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


I’m Christy O’Brien, I am the Director of Integrated Treatment Services here at Clinical and Support Options Friends of the Homeless Shelter in Springfield, Massachusetts. We pride ourselves on providing a variety of mental health services throughout communities all up and down the Pioneer Valley out into the Berkshires and beyond. And we really prioritize doing so from a trauma-informed perspective. We hold that very near and dear to all the work that we do in every sort of different level. Here at Friends of the Homeless, what we do is provide emergency shelter, case management, housing placement opportunities, and now an array of clinical services as well. Because my internship was mirrored at both the clinic and here at Friends of the Homeless, I was able to see and work with children and adolescents, adults, and families on one end and then also I had the beautiful opportunity of getting to work with people who are experiencing homelessness and the learning that came from that was something that I don’t think could be duplicated in a textbook or classroom. You’re thinking about their mental health, you’re thinking about substance use, you’re thinking about ways that you can get them housed and working with different systems to sort of wrap them around in-services in order to help them be successful and that’s something that I would have never had an opportunity to do had I not been able to do an internship. I had the unique opportunity with being part of the Integrated Fellowship at Westfield State to then be able to take those skills and work on the integrated team that they were building here at CSO. And it was a fantastic opportunity to be able to be part of the fellowship, to have a cohort at Westfield State, while also simultaneously working and learning for an agency that so fundamentally has trauma and trauma-informed practices interwoven in their culture. So to be able to mirror the two to learn different techniques and different skills in the classroom to then have an opportunity to both discuss them in an integrated, collaborative meeting with other professionals, and then also go back to the classroom and process it and discuss it with my cohort, my mentors, my professors. My intern this past year, Kelly Noga, was not only incredibly intelligent, organized, professional, but she was really impassioned for the work that we were doing. Having also had much more experience at Westfield State, I know she’s not just one-of-a-kind, that we’re really partnering with an organization that has very similar values as we do and that has a very similar ethic towards the work in really designing a new breed of social workers whose really prepared and tasked for all the work that we have ahead. We’re really looking forward to doing more work together in the next years to come. I always felt like I was part of the team, I always felt like my thoughts and my ideas had value. My favorite part about the internship experience was the opportunity to work on a team but really have an opportunity to meet some of the clients that I work with. They’re some of the most interesting, fascinating, creative people I’ve ever met in my entire life. When you’re going into meetings and you’re working with a lot of different people from all over professions like keeping focused on the client, staying client-centered helps you come from a genuine place, helps you communicate better, helps you collaborate better, and I think that’s probably one of the most valuable things that I’ve learned.