Affecting Heart and Soul
Graduate School of Social Work Students Learn to Be Mindful Post-Election
Almost 200 Touro College Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) students and alumni gathered for GSSW’s community day on November 15. While the event was devoted to encouraging mindfulness in the day-to-day occupations of social workers and future social workers, the event didn’t ignore the elephant in the room: the results of the most bruising election in recent memory.
Opening the event, Dr. Steven Huberman, Dean of GSSW, said that though the country is very divided over the outcome of the election, he believes that the new President-elect Donald Trump deserves every opportunity to succeed. “We are hopeful about the next few years,” Dr. Huberman stated. Putting the election in the context of greater political process, he added. “Even if the baton is dropped, you keep on going forward. I know it’s difficult, but as social workers and students, be like [Olympian] Carl Lewis, if you fall, get up and try your best to move forward..”
His speech was followed by a message from Dean Dr. Harry Ballan, J.D., of Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law School. Dean Ballan, who was appointed in August, spoke about the democratic history of America. “The principle of peaceful transfer of power is something we have faith in,” he said. Dean Ballan told students that regardless of who they voted for, they should be engaged in the government on a local level. “Be optimistic and hopeful no matter who you voted for,” he said.
The second-part of the Community Day focused on teaching participants how to use mindfulness in their social work practice. For the presentation, GSSW brought in four leading practitioners including David Kohn, director of DK Counseling; Bonnie Owens, a trauma specialist and the creator of KAYAKTHERAPY; Meditation teacher Bernice Todres, and Dr. Annecy Baez, associate professor of social work at GSSW. Both of the latter are trained in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.
“Mindfulness is an incredibly important and useful tool for our social workers to be able to use in their daily work,” stated Allison Bobick the Director of Student Advancement at GSSW who coordinated and organized the Community Day event.
Mindfulness is loosely defined by MBSR founder Jon Kabat-Zinn as "Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally."
All four speakers stressed the advantages of using mindfulness in their social work practice.
“Both social work and mindfulness allow people to build on their own strength,” explained David Kohn.
Bonnie Owens spoke about the biological processes behind mindfulness and how it engages the sympathetic nervous system. Bernice Todres and Dr. Baez spoke about their own mindfulness program and led the participants through a series of breathing exercises similar to formal meditation.
“Right now there is more right with you, than wrong with you,” intoned Bernice Todres.
Christian Rodriguez, a student at GSSW, said that he appreciated the lessons on being mindful and had been studying mindfulness on his own.
“It affects your heart and soul,” He said. “One thing that always stands out to me when practicing mindfulness is that, acceptance goes a long way. To find true happiness you must always be present.”
Student Sheryl Frishman was grateful for the event.
"Community Day was a wonderful opportunity for us, as students, to learn about the practice of mindfulness,” she said. “It also allowed us to take some much needed time out to be mindful and take care of ourselves.”