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The role of religion in society | Reflective piece

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Published: Thu, 18 May 2017

Growing up in a strong Christian household, my parents always emphasized the importance of helping others. My father was a Methodist Minister at three local churches and encouraged my family to take part in the community. He was very active in the Urban Missions Christian Care Center located in Watertown N.Y, participated in Bridge meetings (an alternative to incarceration program), and was also the founder of the Watertown N.Y based Wheels to Work Program. I remember as a young child having my dad come home with the look of pure joy on his face when he gave his first car away to a single mom. I was so amazed how he could literally transform the lives of individuals through his ministry and participation in the community. One of my fondest memories as a child was going to the Urban Mission with my dad on the weekends and just following him around. The Urban Mission offers many great services to individuals in need such as a food pantry, thrift store, critical needs assistance, housing assistance, and the Christian Care Center, which provides a place of caring and acceptance. It was always wonderful seeing the joy on the recipients’ faces after receiving such services. My dad definitely set the foundation for my interest in the social work profession.

Up until my dad died in 2005, I would often volunteer my time at picnics that my dad hosted for families in need, primarily those with little or no income who were regular visitors at the Christian Care Center. I enjoyed preparing food for the picnics because I knew how much these individuals looked forward to a cooked meal. During the picnic, I loved socializing with teens my age. At first I was uncomfortable because I did not know what to expect from someone whose lifestyle differed so much from mine. But soon I determined that these individuals were not that different from myself. Yes, they were less fortunate than I, some were even homeless, but these girls still had the same aspirations and goals as I did, still enjoyed the same activities, and still needed someone they could relate with. I realized how much of a difference I was making just by looking past our differences and embracing our similarities. From that point I recognized the true importance of treating others with dignity, regardless of their lifestyle. Eventually, I realized that I, like my dad, had developed a genuine passion for helping others.

Upon entering 12th grade, I knew that I wanted to enter the human services profession. I originally wanted to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, so I did my undergraduate work in psychology. But I soon realized that the MSW degree was a more effective degree for my career choice. My ultimate goal is to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a concentration in Mental Health, and open a private practice. Currently, treatment by LMHCs is not covered by insurance. Therefore, becoming a LCSW is the better option for me because in regards to treatment, I will be able to bill insurance, which will make my services more affordable. In addition, opening a private practice will allow me to be financially flexible with those who do not have insurance. It is extremely important to me to help those with low income and give them the option to take advantage of such services.

Inadequate resources is a huge social problem faced by many, primarily those with low income. I feel as though everyone has the potential to improve their overall well-being if the proper resources are available. However, all too often, certain resources such as counseling are not available financially to those with low income. Without these resources, many individuals may not have the chance to reach their highest potential and become productive members of society. That is why I have a passion to enter the Social Work field, and provide beneficial services to those even in the low income population.

Another major social problem is that there is a strong stigma attached to mental illness. Many believe that having a mental disorder such as depression is attached to personal weakness. As a result, those suffering from mental illness are sometimes reluctant to seek out treatment. I strongly affirm that it is important for society not to label individuals with mental illness. I personally encourage others not to define people as their illness but to see their illness as just a part of who they are.

Thankfully, religious institutions have a role in society in promoting social and economic justice, by providing behavioral guidelines and offering moral support. The Methodist churches that I have been a part of growing up were non-judgmental and worked to provide social equality. As a teen, I was able to experience the diverse community of the congregation at my church. The organist of the church was gay but the congregation did not discriminate against him. Not all churches accept homosexuality, but my dad lived by the rule that you should treat others how you want to be treated. He emphasized the fact that you do not have to support their lifestyle, but you still need to treat them with dignity and respect. He was very accepting, and encouraged our family to be the same way. He always enforced living by the Ten Commandments, which gave our family a solid Judeo-Christian foundation. My dad definitely had an extraordinary influence on how I live my life today. Religion was and still is an important aspect of my family, and these values have continued with me throughout my adult life.

I strongly believe that my solid family and religious foundation has enabled me to acquire characteristics, which will help me succeed in the Social Work field. One characteristic I am blessed with is empathy. I am able to understand others’ emotions and feelings and convey my understanding of how they are feeling. My parents always said when I was younger, “How would you feel if you were in his/her shoes?” I often think of that statement, and I do put myself in others’ shoes and I am able to understand what others are feeling. In regards to counseling, I believe empathy is an important characteristic because it allows the client to feel heard and understood. Empathy will help me as a counselor to connect with my clients. I also believe that I have exceptional communication skills. One strong component of communication that I often demonstrate is active listening. I believe this will be beneficial in a counseling setting because it will allow me to interpret what the client is saying and as a result will enable me to deliver a beneficial response. Most importantly, active listening is important in the counseling setting because it will enable the client to develop trust and respect for me as their counselor.

Aside from my strengths, I also have areas in which I need to grow and change. One weakness of mine is that I often find it difficult to establish boundaries. I believe that being able to set up boundaries in the Social Work profession, especially counseling is critical. My main problem is not being able to say no to individuals. I feel as though if I say no to people, they will be disappointed and I therefore, will experience a strong sense of guilt. However, with the direct practice offered at Roberts Wesleyan College, I believe I can transform my weaknesses and learn effective ways of setting up boundaries. I believe that the ability to set boundaries relies on self-confidence. At Roberts Wesleyan College, I know I will be able to develop a stronger sense of self-confidence through the compassionate and supportive environment. Based on the Christian context offered at Roberts, I trust that my weaknesses will be accepted and my strengths will be recognized which will ultimately lead to my growth and development.

Overall, I’m convinced that the MSW program offered at Roberts Wesleyan College is the best program for me. I believe aside from my determination, my current GPA reflects my ability to succeed. My grades have placed me on the President’s list for the last two semesters here at Potsdam. I know that graduate level work will be challenging, but with my motivation and determination I have faith that I can succeed. I am determined to get accepted into the best MSW program, which I believe is offered at Roberts Wesleyan College. Education and religion have always been important to my family and I. I know that my dad would truly be proud to have a daughter attending Roberts Wesleyan College, which offers a solid education foundation along with a Christian context. I know this is the best college for me and will ultimately allow me to achieve to my fullest potential and improve my overall well-being.


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