Humans of NHC: Joshua, Social Worker and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
At the UPMC Lawrenceville Family Health Center, there is no shortage of great healthcare providers as the health center offers more than just a typical primary care visit. The health center functions as a hub of multi-faceted care, from primary care to social work visits. Having the pleasure of speaking to Josh, who is also a licensed clinical professional counselor, we were able to speak about a wide arrange of topics and reflections on his work in public health. Josh (he/him) is a Social Worker and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who provides mental health counseling to patients as well as aiding in increasing access to social service programs. He has been working in social work for over 10 years and is an invaluable resource for the Lawrenceville and Pittsburgh community he serves.
Q: What are your responsibilities as both a social worker and licensed clinical professional counselor?
“There are two main functions I serve patients, through counseling and social work. Counseling side usually starts with a treatment plan for a patient. Facilitating care with depression, anxiety or any mental health disorders. Keeping in contact with their doctor to see what medications patients are taking and to coordinate care for counseling. If I am unable to assist, I look to find some sort of specialty provider and provide referrals for them. Social work side is generally broad as anything and everything I am able to assist with. Usually insurance disputes, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) application assistance, and aiding patients with any opportunities related to their social determinants of health. Acting as a bridge and direct them to the best resource either through community programs like training or vocational programs for jobs. Being in a community health center is unique as we house primary care providers, social workers and counselors all in the same place which makes care seamless as we are able to provider warm handoffs and connecting patient with high levels of care.”
Q: Do you feel like your job is essential to the healthcare system?
“Yes I truly believe so, everyone struggles with mental health, whether that be depression or any stress in life and having a social worker in the same place with your doctor makes it easier in holistic care model. Healthcare is more than just physical ailments as you have to be well mentally and emotionally to be able to truly thrive.”
Q: What initially interested you about your current career path/profession?
“I started off in a school counseling master’s program and after some time I wanted to understand people and help people drew him into counseling therapy. School counseling was driven more in test results and making appointments with students. I realized I was more interested in understanding people and hearing their stories.”
Q: What/who inspires you? Why?
“My mom was a psychiatric nurse so I think I had some inspiration when I was young, however I did not think much of it at the time. However, my dad inspires me as my mother has multiple sclerosis and my dad is her sole caregiver and has always been by her side caring for her. If I could be a tenth of a person that my father is, then I believe I have succeeded.”
Q: What do recommend for young professionals interested in pursuing a career in public health?
“Truly take some time to reflect on whether that is something you are truly interested in as it is a demanding career field. Most careers in public health and healthcare are driven in having personal fulfillment in helping people and it is not something that is going to make you rich. There is a lot of people realizing they are in it for the wrong reasons, as a therapist I tend to see burnout in this profession and there is a realization that isn’t what they want to do. For these upper level professions you tend to have to spend a lot of money in education to get to that point and then getting to the profession and finding out that you don’t want to do it anymore can be crushing. Getting into the field for the wrong reasons like having family pressure or because you want the status associated with the profession, may not be fulfilling long-term. Truly make sure you want to commit the rest of your life to helping people in this facet.”
Q: How do you suggest young professional reflect to recognize that public health is suitable for them?
"Take some time to see what interest you, your values and your virtues to make sure this career path aligns with your inner motives as a person. This looks different for everyone like taking a gap year and really discovering what they want to do for the rest of your life. Focus your first years in college to your general courses and get a holistic view of your prospective career field to make sure it is something you are passionate about."
Q: What did you want be when you grew up?
"Went thru different phases and wanted to be an architect for a while then I found myself interested in marine biology. I did a semester at Duke University and did a marine lab that focused on the preservation of sea turtle which was okay, however I realized I would be working on one project for my whole masters and possibly focusing on one thing like that wasn’t something I wanted to do, as I enjoy variety. I didn’t think it would be very fulfilling and I believe I chose that field because I enjoyed the idea of being at the beach and the societal view of what a marine biologist does, however getting to that point I realized I couldn’t see myself doing it for the rest of life. For me, variety is important and being able to hear individuals stories has truly brought joy in my life.”
Q: Can you think of a time in your career where you realized that this is the right field for me?
“You know I cannot think of a specific time in my career, however there was more of a buildup of many moments that fostered my interest in the field and going into helping people with mental health. More big picture, when I was in school going for my Masters of Social Work I was working part-time at a residential treatment facility for children that were teenage aged patients with behavioral issues. These patients were placed in this facility as their parents struggled to manage their children’s behaviors. This really shaded light as I could not imagine being separated from my parents at such a young age and realized he wanted to help these patients with their mental health disorders. This really made a profound impact in realizing that everyone goes through such different struggles and what piqued my interest in mental health counseling.”