Social Workers and Balance: Professional Skill Development, Self-Care and Resiliency

The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is offering Social Workers and Balance: Professional Skill Development, Self-Care and Resiliency, a group designed to help alumni develop the tools and skills needed to become healthy and more productive micro, mezzo and macro practitioners and ultimately help improve the quality of care they provide to their clients, organizations and communities they serve. Participants will learn more about themselves and grow personally so they can be more effective with all the stakeholders including clients, community partners and colleagues.

Sponsored by generous alumna, Mary Mader, MSW ’92, this supportive, educational and interactive group designed exclusively for our alumni explores and addresses elements that impact your practice such as compassion fatigue, burn-out, vicarious trauma and professional stressors. You will learn to identify symptoms of compassion fatigue, including exhaustion, frustration, anger and depression, as well as negative feelings driven by fear and work-related trauma. Balance, skill development, self-care and resiliency will be themes. The topics of working with challenging client problems, contributing factors in the workplace, grief, trauma and countertransference will also be addressed. The primary goal is to enhance compassion satisfaction for social workers so that you are more satisfied with doing the work of caring.

Starting in September 2019, the group will meet once a month for 12 months at The Thelma McMillen Center for Drug and Alcohol Treatment at Torrance Memorial Medical Center located at 3333 Skypark Drive, #200 (Room 1), Torrance, CA 90505. Each meeting will last three hours and will include an additional hour of homework between sessions. You will receive the required texts for the group at no cost. The group facilitator will provide office hours between sessions to answer additional questions and offer further support and resources as needed. Participants will receive a certificate of completion at the conclusion of the program. Although personal and professional losses, trauma, stressors and challenges will be identified and explored, this is not a therapy group. If needed, referral information for therapeutic services will be made available to the participants.

** Participants who have registered as an Associate Clinical Social Worker (ASW) in the state of California and have supervision will receive 48 “Non-Clinical” hours that will count towards their licensure requirements once approved by their clinical supervisors.

Who is the ideal candidate for this program?

USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work alumni practitioners:

  • Who have graduated within the past three years (including micro, mezzo and macro practitioners) and would like to better understand how compassion fatigue, burnout, vicarious trauma and professional stressors might be effecting their practice.
  • With a capacity for self-reflection and desire to participate in exercises designed for in-depth personal exploration.
  • Seeking to better understand themselves so they can better support their clients, organizations and communities.
  • With a willingness to commit to attending 12 monthly group meetings which will include active group participation and completion of homework between sessions.


Participants will be able to:

  1. Define compassion fatigue, compassion satisfaction and vicarious trauma.
  2. Identify two of the symptoms of compassion fatigue.
  3. Identify three coping strategies for managing compassion fatigue.
  4. Discuss the key factors of the ethical and legal responsibility for self-care.
  5. Increase their knowledge and skill for working with trauma and grief.
  6. Explore transference and counter-transference that may arise when exposed to diverse client, mezzo and macro-related interventions and supervisory roles.
  7. Identify two types of complicated grief responses.
  8. Create a Life Balance Circle, a vison board and a professional/personal strategic plan.
  9. Learn and practice three relaxation and stress reduction techniques.
  10. Demonstrate the ability to use body awareness strategies for empathy arousal regulation.
  11. Effectively utilize professional judgment, critical thinking, knowledge of social work values and self-awareness to enhance professional engagement and support.
  12. Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of diversity and difference in shaping one's own and others' life experiences.


Claire Towle, MSW ’90, LCSW
Claire Towle is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over 25 years of experience combining direct clinical care, supervision, teaching, and management responsibilities. Claire is making a volunteer commitment to develop and facilitate this program because she acknowledges the importance and value of offering training and support to all social workers and especially MSWs new to the profession. She feels social workers may retire from their jobs, but they can still stay involved in the profession throughout their lives by giving back and making a difference.

Claire received a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California where her focus was health. She also has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from California State University, Long Beach. She is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, a Certified Bereavement Facilitator and is certified in Thanatology (the study of death and the practices associated with it). Claire’s professional career includes working in the hospital setting as Program Coordinator of the Pediatric/Family HIV/AIDS Program at Memorial Miller Children’s Hospital and as Supervisor of Social Services for Children’s Hospital of Orange County. She was also a consultant for California Children’s Services (CCS) on the county and the state level. Claire held the position of the Director of The Gathering Place, a center for loss and life transitions, and was the Associate Director of Bereavement Services for Providence Trinity Care Hospice. In addition, she has had a private psychotherapy practice where she specialized in grief and loss. Over her career, Claire has provided multiple presentations on grief and loss and health and mental health topics, including self-care for professionals. Claire has served on the Alumni Leadership Council for the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.


Minerva Ruiz, MSW ’10, LCSW
Minerva Ruiz is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 9 years of experience combining direct clinical care and management responsibilities. Minerva is making a volunteer commitment to co-facilitate this program because she wants to help newer social workers identify the “warning” signs of compassion fatigue and burnout, as well as share her passion and knowledge to help them develop healthy coping skills and, ultimately, more effective treatment.

Minerva received her Master of Social Work from the University of Southern California in the health concentration. She also has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from California State University, Los Angeles. Minerva’s professional career includes working with older adults and caregivers in the non-profit setting. Minerva has worked for SCAN Health Plan providing direct care management for clients, including initial psychosocial assessments, linkage to community services and resources, caregiver support, and crisis intervention. She currently supervises the Multi Senior Service program at SCAN Independence at Home, where she serves as an advocate for the needs of her clients through the facilitation of case conference meetings, as well as the management and advising of care management staff. Additionally, she has done contract work for Alcala Care Management Services focusing on connecting individuals with needed resources and she has also served as a member of the Long Beach Hoarding Task Force. Minerva has been a guest lecturer at East Los Angeles College, St. Mary’s University and UCLA where she has focused on issues affecting the older adult population. Minerva also served on the Alumni Leadership Council for the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

The application period for this program will reopen in May 2020. Please contact the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Alumni Association at if you have any questions.

We would like to thank the Thelma McMillen Center for Drug and Alcohol Treatment at Torrance Memorial Medical Center for graciously donating space to host the monthly program meetings.