When we think of social workers, our minds often conjure images of those who help children or the elderly, but social workers play a prominent role in addiction treatment as well. At Spectrum Health Systems and our subsidiary, the New England Recovery Center, social workers are at the heart of helping clients in recovery from drug and alcohol use disorders.

For World Social Work Day on March 19, we hear from two social workers holding unique positions at Spectrum Health Systems, Chief Operating Officer Sherry Ellis, LICSW and Program Director Christina Rossi, LICSW in recognition of all social workers who help transform lives.

Like many people entering the field of social work, Sherry and Christina wanted to help people. Both were attracted to the wide range of career directions available to social workers  – child and family services, school counseling, marriage therapy and mental health.

“Clinical work in addiction is so much more than meets the eye,” Christina explains. “We’re working with people with co-occurring disorders and people from all walks of life. You can have one client who is homeless and the next client has two Master’s degrees.”

Sherry agrees. In fact, her career path has touched on multiple aspects of social work – from her time running her own private practice for family therapy, working with the elderly population, overseeing crisis teams and running hospital programs for the mentally ill.

Christina started out as a clinician at Spectrum’s Worcester outpatient treatment center and later became the Program Director for our Haverhill outpatient site. Today, she’s the Regional Program Director for both Haverhill and Saugus. After many years with us, her job still motivates her every day.

“I love it and there’s not a moment where I’m bored,” she says. “No day is the same. My job includes clinical and macro focuses, program management and clinical management.”

She arrives at work bright and early for the clients who receive medication-assisted treatment before starting their work days. Throughout the day, she meets with clients and staff and ensures that programming is running smoothly. She’s always brainstorming ways to improve programming. She networks with local agencies who can provide additional services and support for clients. Day-to-day, she says she has a nice balance of helping clients, assisting clinical staff and maintaining Spectrum’s high-quality treatment programming.

“The most rewarding part about my career is seeing enormous changes in our clients’ lives,” says Christina. “You get to see the physical and psychological change in clients from when they first arrive at our center to seeing them healthy and excited to be in recovery. I’m always reminded of the great work we’re doing.”

“One of our greatest challenges is understanding the level of trauma most of our clients have experienced,” Sherry explains. “It can be hard to understand that degree of pain they’ve experienced, but it’s necessary to know where certain behaviors come from.  We work with clients on their mental health and behavior, and then their addiction to drugs and alcohol.”

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in social work, our advice is to find an employer with whom you connect. Does their mission and philosophy speak to you? Do you feel like you’d make a difference in this role? Look for all kinds of experiences, including addiction, family care, geriatrics, and more.

“Every part of my career has involved learning something new. This is such a varied profession and the capacity to learn is limitless,” says Sherry.

Social work offers vast amounts of opportunity and the career paths are endless. This World Social Day, we’d like to thank our incredible social workers, clinicians, counselors, program managers, directors and mental health professionals for their dedication and passion to improving the lives of others!

If you’re an aspiring social worker or mental health professional, consider working in the addiction treatment field. At Spectrum Health Systems and our subsidiary, the New England Recovery Center, we have many open career positions and advancement opportunities. Visit www.SpectrumHealthSystems.Jobs.Net for a listing of current job openings!


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