About the ORVCSWS
Ohio River Valley Clinical Social Work Society (ORVCSWS) advances and promotes the practice of clinical social work through continuing education, collegiality and professional action in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.
The mission of the Ohio Clinical Social Work Society is to develop, advance, and promote excellence in all clinical social work practice settings for the benefit of clients and the clinicians who serve them.
What Do Clinical Social Workers Do?
“Clinical social workers are highly trained professionals who are skilled at listening to problems clients bring to us and adding new ways of looking at and understanding what is going on. We try to help clients find new solutions, make new choices, and see things from a different point of view. We work with clients until the problem is resolved as well as it can be.
What kinds of problems do people discuss with us?
Work related problems, relationship problems, alcoholism or drug abuse in the family, worries about children or adolescents, sexual problems, difficulties in controlling anger, worries about older parents or their own retirement.
The Cincinnati chapter of the Ohio Society for Clinical Social Work (the precursor to ORVCSWS) was founded in 1975 by a group of Cincinnati social workers interested in fostering support for clinical social work practice. It was the third local chapter founded in Ohio (Columbus was the first, Cleveland the second) and Ohio was the seventh state society to be included in the newly organized National Federation of Societies for Clinical Social Work. The climate for clinical social work practice and education in the late 1960s, early 1970s was a major factor leading to the formation of this new professional organization. NASW and other social work groups had taken a position that community organizing and social change were the preferred models of professional activity and clinical work only served to pathologize the client. Believing that clinical work was an important modality and desiring professional affiliation and representation, the Clinical Societies were formed. The organizational model selected was that of a loose national federation of State Societies with local city chapters organized as desired by members. One’s membership was in a state society rather than in a national organization and two representatives from each state society formed the National Board. (This was different from NASW where the membership was primarily in a national organization and secondarily within a local representative group.)
During the first decade of its existence the Cincinnati chapter of the Ohio Society for Clinical Social Work offered monthly programs on many topics of clinical interest in keeping with the reason it was originally formed. Various members of the Society were presenters for these programs and a great sense of collegiality and support developed. Much of the members’ energy not involved in clinical programming during this time was devoted to issues of credentialing – who could belong to the organization and how to achieve formal recognition as a “Profession” (not just licensure and but vendorship at the state level). During the 1980s a number of Cincinnati chapter members were very active in State board affairs. The membership of the Cincinnati chapter during this period rose from 15 (1975) to 95 (1985).
Programming continued to be quite vigorous during this decade again addressing contemporary clinical issues and emerging therapies. Of particular note was the Family Therapy conference sponsored annually by the Society for many years, often bringing nationally known speakers in the field of Family Therapy to Cincinnati. A social work licensing bill was finally passed in Ohio in 1984 after 3 attempts and 8 years of very difficult work. Immediately after the passage of the bill efforts were re-directed to try to achieve independent vendor status. At the national level, the Federation (of Societies of Clinical Social Work) worked to establish uniform educational and supervisory standards for one to qualify as a “clinical social worker” and moved to develop a National registry (ABECSW) for such “approved” persons which would result in an advanced standing credential. The Cincinnati chapter membership rose from 95 (1985) to 117 (1995) during this time.
Beginning in the late 1990s the society began inviting other community clinicians (psychiatrist, psychologists, psychoanalysts) to give presentations on clinical topics (i.e.PTSD, hypnosis, EMDR). Contextual issues grew in significance during this period as the growing managed care environment made a significant impact on the Society and its members. Pro-actively, members were involved in working toward Consumer Choice legislation and in exploring the feasibility of developing private social work practice groups in the hope of securing managed care contracts. More subtly, members began to feel ground down by the strain the managed care environment placed on agencies and individual practioners in terms of higher productivity demands, less time for supervision and major increases in paperwork and reporting requirements. The net effect of these environmental realities was the depletion of time and energy with many members having less available for continuing educational programs and involvement in administrative roles of the Society. For example, considerable energy was involved in the late 90s early 2000s with the issue of collective representation for the purpose of acquiring group health care coverage and developing greater political leverage. The societies of the Federation, concerned about fiscal and political disenfranchisement of social workers but aware of their relative powerlessness debated joining a Guild of the Office of Professional Employment International Union (AFL-CIU affiliate) Looking forward to good health care coverage and political representation a number of members of the Society did so in 1998. The hope expressed in joining the Guild was not realized however. Problems developed with the health care coverage and many members had costly difficulties with reimbursement. The Guild association was ultimately terminated. The membership declined during this decade from 117 (1995) to 42 (2003).
2003 – 2005 from OSCSW to ORVCSWS
The above issues led to a problem of leadership fatigue in the early 2000s and it was difficult to find members to fill committee roles – particularly at the State Board level which required considerable travel to Columbus. (This problem was not unique to Ohio. By the summer of 2003 several state chapters of the National Federation had disbanded for lack of person-power.) In 2004, recognizing the “writing on the wall”, a quorum of members voted to disband the Ohio state society effective June 2005. Pat Fedders and Margot Marples provided Herculean, albeit sad service, during this time as a transition team attending to all the legal and financial matters to ensure that the State Society was brought to careful and responsible closure.
In April 2004 the current Ohio River Valley Clinical Social Work Society was formed by many of the previous members of the Ohio state society in order to continue the tradition of a clinical social work group in the greater Cincinnati area. It is organized as a free standing society with a focus on continuing education for members and the mentoring of young professionals in the Cincinnati area. In 2005 the national Clinical Social Work Federation also voted to discontinue its federation structure and re-organize in 2006 as a national membership organization – the Clinical Social Work Association. Members of ORVCSWS are free to join or not join this national association. In the national newsletter outgoing CSWF President Abigail Grant stated that two of the original purposes of the organization had been achieved (all 50 states now had licensure and the BCD credential was in place as an advanced clinical credential) and a new structure requiring g less member person-power was needed.
2004 – Present
Since 2004 the Ohio River Valley Society for Clinical Social Work has worked to enhance local programming, to provide mentoring to young professionals and to liaison with schools of social work. Joint programming with other local groups (e.g. Smith College School for Social Work Alumni Association, NASW) has also been implemented. The current (2013) membership of ORVCSWS is 60.
In response to the dissolution of the Clinical social Work Federation, the American Board of Examiners for Clinical Social Work (ABECSW) created the Center for Clinical Social Work which now co-exists with the Clinical Social Work Association. In October 2006 the ORVCSW voted to join the Center as an organization in order to create a bridge to local and national legislative activities involving clinical practice and to provide a professional resource and support network for our members.
In spite of the contextual and structural changes of the past thirty years it remains clear that a forum for clinical social workers to come together, to provide mutual support, to explore new ideas and to mentor younger professionals continues to be an important need. The Ohio River Valley Clinical Social Work Society and its members, past and present remain committed to addressing that need.