The latest in our regular feature spotlighting the professional journeys of our alumni and how attending Hebrew U influenced their future career paths.
After attending HU, did you continue your university studies?
I studied Social Work at Hebrew University from 1972-75. Upon graduating, I travelled to the United States to continue my Social Work studies at Berkley University in California. But during my travels, I met my husband, got married in Israel in February 1976 and moved to Montreal a month later.
My initial plan was to obtain my MSW at McGill University but as it wouldn’t accept me without clinical experience in Montreal, I began a social work job in June 1976. It was a tough beginning, working with multi-problem families with little English, no French, no driving licence. But both my military service in the IDF and my social work training at HU made me feel confident and resilient.
A year later, I started the MSW program at McGill’s School of Social Work, graduating in 1978, (two weeks before giving birth to my first child).
After about 25 years of working as a social worker, I decided to further my education, studying Psychodynamic Psychotherapy in the post-graduate program at Montreal’s Argyle institute from 1993 until 1997.
What are you currently doing career-wise?
Upon graduation from the Argyle Institute, I decided to gradually leave the public social services network and develop my own psychotherapy practice. For about five years, I continued my social work employment while developing a private psychotherapy practice. My last social work position was at a Local Community Service Clinic in Montreal’s Notre-Dame de Grace neighbourhood, specializing in mental health and domestic violence services. I ended my social work career in June 2001.
Since then, I’ve been teaching at the Argyle Institute (on Grief and Depression) and supervising students. For the last few years, my focus is on private psychotherapy (specializing in Loss and Grief). I’ve also been leading groups of young adults, addressing anxiety and cultivating resilience (in collaboration with Youth Employment Service Montreal).
What advice would you give someone interested in getting into this field?
I feel grateful for choosing a profession that provides so many opportunities for learning, personal growth and connection with people. I definitely chose the right profession for me. However, it’s a draining profession in which burnout is high. Social workers love the contact with clients but are often frustrated with the bureaucracy of public service organizations.
There’s also a concern for what we call Vicarious Trauma: How are we, the professionals, personally affected by constantly dealing with losses, trauma, violence, etc.? My advice for contending with the risk of Vicarious Trauma is to focus on the ABC approach: Awareness, Balance, and Connection.
If you could do things all over again, what would you do differently?
I feel blessed! The work I pursued has been the right path for me.
How did your experience at HU help shape your future career path and personal goals?
At Hebrew University, I learned about the importance of creating connections, empathy, the importance of outreach, community, self-reliance. I benefitted from a rigorous academic program, accompanied by community intervention, from the beginning of the program to its completion.
- Pnina’s practice is located in the Montreal neighbourhood of Westmount. For consultation, she can be reached at 514-815-5505