Jackie Barton is an Administrative Assistant III in the King Center at the Community College of Denver, but also handles attending classes at Metropolitan State University for her Master’s degree in social work.
How is it that you became interested in social work?
So I did my undergrad with two majors and one was psychology and I wanted a break from school for maybe a year. I really only planned to take a year and then the economy tanked and I saw people coming to CCD who were doctors of psychology who couldn’t find work. I always had reservations about psychology, which is that it sees people as very negative focused or pathology focused. Pathology is a what’s wrong or a sickness or a disease and it tends to focus on talking about the past and be very long term. It’s focused on what’s wrong and not what’s right with the person in a nut shell and it has a little bit of a negative focus.Then I discovered after I was out of school for a couple years I had graduated with my bachelor’s and I took some art classes that I realized Metro had a new Master’s program in Social Work and I hadn’t really known what that was about, but when I researched it I realized it was strength focused, so it’s focused on what’s right with people and their strength and building on that instead of concentrating on what’s wrong with the person and it’s also very action focused, so it’s like what do we need to do to get you where you want to be? and that’s when I realized that was a much better fit for me.
What is your focus on in the field of social work and how would you describe it?
I want to be a Forensics Social Worker working in corrections, which is relatively new. My passions are reintegration and reentry. You’re really changing laws that would benefit society and offenders more. Social work takes into consideration the person’s ecosystem so they know that what’s wrong with the person can have a lot to do with their social situation, their family dynamics, the society they live in and the structure, their norms and rules, the problems in their society and all these other factors. For example, did they grow up in poverty, did they grow up with the same educational opportunities, or did they grow up in an abusive situation and not everything is just solely because the person has character flaws. Social work is also very broad and we can do a lot of different things in social work, you can work with varied populations , every age group and all kinds of different social problems like drug abuse, child protection, geriatric, hospital social work, school social work, or even prisons and your options are just limitless.
What is the most important thing you have learned from this field?
To keep an open mind. Basically, that means do not assume anything about anybody based on their looks, their background, their ethnicity, their race because there’s variation within, there are cultural commonalities, but there are variations within every family and every person is unique. Unconditional positive regard is the other thing, it’s very powerful but I always knew that. You don’t ever judge your clients, ever. It doesn’t do you any good, it doesn’t do them any good, there’s no purpose to it, but it will do some harm if you do it.
Do you think social work overpowers any other treatment?
Social work isn’t a treatment, it’s a field, better yet it’s an approach. There’s all kinds of treatment moralities, they’re all specific to different disorders and evidence based practices are very important now like you have to show that it’s one that works for your population or what your treating. There’s a website called SASHSA.gov, it’s a substance abuse and mental health services administration site. Under programs and campaigns is the national registry of evidence based programs and practices and under here you can look for an intervention and you can look up all the disorder you want to treat like PTSD or anxiety or you can look up the therapy. It should pull up all the ones that they’ve done a review on, there’s old ones and ones they’ve reviewed recently. It also shows the programs with effective outcomes, others with promising, and some that were ineffective.
What do you hope to accomplish from being a social worker?
My goal is to teach everybody to be their own therapist so they can be self sufficient. Also to help people change their lives and to help people suffer less and feel more joy. I also want to change laws regarding sentencing, over incarceration , and over sentencing.