Where did M2SW Come From?

 

When Clay was in his MSW program, he wanted to find podcasts, websites and other cool spaces to learn more about the social work profession. At the time, representation for the social work industry was pretty barren. Clay began dreaming up the idea of starting a podcast for social work.

 

A couple years ago, Clay told Meagan about wanting to start the podcast and Meagan suggested also having a community too. They took lots of notes and had many discussions and the results are what you see now!

We hope to provide a space for social workers to find community and unique resources that they deserve. Social workers serve so well and deserve to have something invested back into them. Looking forward to where we are headed and you being a part of that. 

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Their story according to Clay:

 

"I was living with my roommate in a house just off campus while in undergrad circa 2009. Due to an unfortunate event, I was in the process of replacing our living room coffee table (my grandmother had been nice enough to lend me one from her house). As I was moving this table into the house, I noticed this stunning young woman standing there talking to my roommate. I knew he had a friend visiting over the weekend from highschool, but I had no idea he had such good looking friends. Wanting to play it cool (and at the same time not wanting to seem uninterested) I brought the table in along with my sackful of Krystal hamburgers I had picked up on the way home and began talking. As it turns out, Meagan was very interested in how a skinny guy like myself could eat an entire bag full of Krystal hamburgers. That was kind of funny.

 

The part that was more serious was how we loved talking to each other all night. We spent time talking about family, friends, old stories, and even had the same favorite movie. What was weird to me, is that meeting Meagan was different than meeting any other girl I had been attracted to in the past. From the first conversation that we had together, I felt confident that I was really attracted to her - but at the same time I felt a calmness that helped me not act like a smitten idiot (which would obviously have scared her off). Fortunately for me, Meagan was just as hooked the night we met. She ended up visiting again over the weekend and we have at least talked on the phone probably every day since that first meeting. 

Since meeting Meagan, it's hard to imagine life without her. I think for those of us lucky enough to have already met our soul mate, it's understandable when I say I was living life with only 50% of myself. Then you meet your soulmate and this person continuously unlocks more of who you are. One day you look back and realize that you are so much more because of the positive impact this person has had on your life. You also get to be part of something bigger than yourself because you are connected to this other person.

 

I remember the first thing I noticed about Meagan's personality is how sweet she is. She is not Southern sweet-- where you want people to think you're nice so you try to act sweet when you first meet someone-- but she genuinely cares about how others around her feel. She is also a very deep person. She is the type of person that you can easily initiate a topical conversation with. Then after about ten minutes, you start discussing deeply held, emotionally raw thoughts (that you would never have necessarily wanted to come out) but you just feel so comfortable with this Meagan person. I often tell people that Meagan is the best social worker I know, which is true, but I think she is just wired in such a way that she really gets it. So I'm lucky that I get to learn and grow with her!

 

As a couple, I don't think we have arrived at perfection by any means, but I think we are well balanced. I am almost always the laid back, relaxed, "don't worry be happy" type whereas Meagan is the planner type. I keep her relaxed at times and she keeps me moving at times. Of all the things we do well together I think our communication is next level. Being the dude of the relationship, I think I've had to work on this more than she has. Being a therapist helps, because when I tell clients to be mindful and walk through certain exercises, I allow myself to gain whatever wisdom at the same time. Meagan takes self-improvement seriously and she wants to be the best social worker that she can be. She wants to help any client that walks into her office the best way that any one person could possibly help another. 

We have been through a lot and relied on each other to get by. From my changing careers to her mother passing unexpectedly, we are each other's best friend. When things are bad you need your best friend to support you or pull you into what you need. 

Meagan also is extremely generous. This is why we have four dogs (all rescues). She regularly reminds me of how blessed we are to have a nice home and that we both have good jobs when so many others are struggling. Meagan is always quick to remind me that we are supposed to live a different kind of life that includes giving, even when I'm looking at the bank account wondering why. Fortunately, there have rarely been times in which we adamantly disagree with a decision the other wants to make. Whenever this happens, Meagan has always talked to me about it and both of us end up being good with whatever we decide to do. 

 

She's the best. And I'm excited for you that she was all in when I presented the idea of M2SW to her. She is surprisingly astute when it comes to website work!"- Clay

Their story according to Meagan:

“First of all, I just have to say how incredibly blessed I am to be married to someone as perfectly suited to me as Clay really is for me. Plenty of people say that their husband is their best friend and it has become sort of a cliche at this point. Clay really is my best friend and even when we do argue, it doesn’t take me too long before I remember how much good there is so that whatever we are arguing about becomes microscopic. 

 

We first met in 2009. He was college roommates with two of my best guy friends from high school. I came up to visit them and that was when I met Clay. We were marred in 2013 after I graduated with my MSW. 

 

Soon after we got married, Clay and I discussed him going back to school at length. He had said many times to me since we started dating that he never knew Social Work offered so many options and he had decided on an advertising degree because that is the path he thought he was supposed to take. He wound up working in Advertising but would say, “I would never tell someone to buy a Cadillac or GMC.” He was mentoring through our local church and loved service work in his spare time but wanted more.

 

So, we both agreed he needed to go back to school to pursue something that gave him a sense of purpose. For over two years, he went back to school for his MSW and worked part-time until he had to do his internships. I was the primary source of income for a while which was difficult on my nonprofit salary but it taught us a lot. We learned to budget and it reminded us to focus on the things that matter even when things are difficult. I learned to cook so that we could have good meals and we enjoyed a lot of board game nights with friends so we didn’t have to go out and spend money.

 

We experienced a lot those first few years. We had gotten close to our marriage mentors who did our premarital counseling. They prayed over us on our wedding day. We went to their house to talk after our first big married fight. They taught us so much about having a healthy marriage. Unfortunately, during the first year of our marriage, Mr. Jim wound up being diagnosed with cancer and passing away within just a few short months. 

 

We faced more loss in those next few years including my grandfather and the devastating loss of my mother from alcoholism. I’ll never forget or appreciate Clay more for the memories I have of him staying up to read to me out loud when I couldn’t sleep those first weeks after losing my mom, even though I could tell he was fighting to stay awake.

 

Clay is intentional in our marriage. He is always striving to be a better version of himself. He is a good listener. He is a good communicator. He does not hold a grudge. He is steadfast. He is my favorite."- Meagan

Clay's Finding Social Work Story:

I never wanted to be a social worker. In fact, I had no idea what social work was for the first twenty years of my life. My family had been immensely helped by social workers but I was oblivious. Initially attending school for business (because what else do you study in college??), I transferred into Advertising due to its focus on creativity and working with people to solve problems.

 

When I met Meagan, she was in school for Social Work - which blew my mind. "There's an industry where you get paid to help people?!" was my initial thought. This was appealing to me because I have always been involved with church service projects, mentoring and providing tutoring services for kids who could not have afforded a normal tutor (FYI I was never a genius at school, but anyone can spend time helping a kid learn algebra or review vocab, history, etc). Too close to completing my degree, I finished my undergrad in Advertising. Ironically, my first internship coming out of Advertising was with United Way. I was more involved on the business side, but was still strongly connected to each of the partnering agencies who offered social services throughout the city. I learned a lot about social work. I then returned to Birmingham to work for the city's largest advertising agency.  

 

I really tried to make that work. Imagining goals to work toward and a career that I could look back on one day and be proud of. The problem was that I kept having dreams that did not align with these prospective goals. Honestly, getting to the point of owning my own advertising agency one day felt miserable. The thing I lived for was the mentoring I continued to do through our church's local outreach center. My daydreams consisted of how to shape our city in such a way that created the strongest safety net, providing more opportunities for individuals stuck in poverty and what type of organizations needed to be put in place to make this happen. One other random thing I started doing was hanging out, grabbing lunch or just talking to some of the homeless people who were living around the building I worked in downtown. After five years in advertising, I had to get out. 

 

My dream was to do some type of therapy and I wanted to achieve this through any type of education except for social work. Meagan was a social worker and I didn't want to copy her - not individual enough - too enmeshed with the wife - not cool. However, after a little research and calling different types of providers, I was advised and encouraged to get a degree in Social Work. So this became the plan to achieve the dream. The next problem was that Meagan was working an entry level social work job at a non-profit making very little money and I had been in an entry level advertising job making almost as little money. I have to give Meagan all the credit, because as little as it was, I would not have left my salaried position, putting our family in financial jeopardy, without her insistence on me working toward something that I could love.

 

That season of life was messy and blessed at the same time. I was able to continue working at my job part time. We bought a house (thanks to Nelson). We found a great checking/credit account that did not penalize us for overdrafts. We stumbled through renting out a bedroom in our house. Then finally, somehow I completed a 2 year degree in Social Work -- even though I thought I was going crazy and wanted to burn all my books on more than one occasion. 

 

I landed a great practicum as a LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities) intern and would eventually get hired on full time into a hybrid position. This hybrid position was extremely difficult as 1 day per week was spent in a clinical setting and then 4 days were spent in more of an administrative role for a grant funded early education program. Just FYI, the idea for Married To Social Work was initiated during my time as a LEND intern trying to find a social outlet for all things social work. After a few years, I was able to sit for and pass my clinical licensure (LICSW). Soon after I began working as a contracted employee with a local counseling agency. Again, I was blessed to have met an extremely hard working and driven social worker during my first practicum. This social worker had started her own agency and had been talking to me about working together since before I became independently licensed. 

 

The next step in my social work career happened when Meagan, who had been working with the VA as a Suicide Prevention Case Manager, received a promotion to become the Suicide Prevention Coordinator at a regional outpatient center for the VA. It was difficult leaving the families that I served in my first official social work job, but I was thrilled that Meagan (who is the absolute best social worker I could ever imagine meeting) would be able to spread her wings and enter a position that she was more than capable of excelling. Fortunately for me, there has been an increased demand for therapists through the COVID-19 pandemic. In moving to this new city, I was able to procure a position within the same VA that Meagan works as a Mental Health Therapist. Funnily enough, my office in our VA is exactly 2 doors down and across the hall from Meagan's office. If both our doors are open I can wave at her from my desk - how weird!

 

I have loved being a social worker. It is work that can be extremely trying at times but it fills something in me that no other career could. I am so grateful that I get to do the things that a background in social work unlocks. I'm thankful to my wife for being the initial catalyst that got me into this line of work. Ultimately, I believe that a passionate, empowered, knowledgeable social worker can absolutely change the course of an individual's life for the better.

 

That's why I believe it is so critical that Meagan and I put this M2SW thing out there. Not just for other social workers but for me. It can be so draining at times to give so much of yourself to your clients. It feels hard to keep the passion and heart required to meet individuals where they are and let them climb up your back for a breath of fresh air. My goal (and Meagan's goal) is to give those who serve so well wind for their sails on days that feel empty. Let's do social work together and help empower each other to remember why we started in this field in the first place. -Clay

Meagan's finding Social Work Story 

I grew up in a rather tumultuous household with a crazy beautiful redemption story as of the last few years. I have always been attuned to the feelings of others and experienced a lot of things in my personal life that have been incredibly difficult. To say that I am in love with my profession is an understatement. In undergrad, I took an Intro to Social Work course and took vigorous notes until my hands were tired. I’ll never forget what it felt like to hear that there was a profession that so intimately tangled itself into the lives of others who are underserved, marginalized, forgotten and ignored. I always believed in the dignity and worth of every person but to hear that was a core value of this profession? Sign me up. Put a ring on it. I am 1000% in. 

 

My favorite Social Work professor, Dr. Newell, always stressed the importance of self-care and the reality of burnout. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s for the other people. I’m on fire and I’m not losing this. Early on in my social work career, another social worker told me, “I see you are super passionate now but just give it a few years and you will be just like me.” I was stunned. I vowed in that moment to do whatever I could do prevent burnout. Many years later, I have such empathy from where that tired social worker was coming from. We go in with such high expectations of ourselves and dreams of making tangible change in people’s lives only to realize rather quickly several things: it’s not that easy, not everyone is ready for change and you will not be appreciated most of the time. If you are looking for easy this is not the route. However, I have seen time and time again how my profession not only changes others around me but it changes me for the better. 

 

I graduated with my social work degree and went straight into grad school for my MSW. My first job out of graduate school was in a domestic violence shelter and then I worked for a Medicaid Waiver program with the elderly population. I then went on to work in inpatient psych (geri and adult) for several years. I never would have thought I would have ended up working in psych but I loved it. I learned so much about psychopathology and was grateful to sit with so many people going through very difficult circumstances. 

 

I then heard the VA was hiring onto their suicide prevention team and I knew that job was meant for me. I loved working with high-risk patients in psych but hated that my interactions were so short term. I often did not know how my clients who attempted suicide were doing unless they were readmitted later to our unit. This suicide prevention program identified high risk veterans at risk for suicide and provided extra support to them for ninety day periods. I already knew that this period after hospitalization is a very high-risk time for suicidal patients so this job was a dream. 

 

In early 2021, Clay and I moved to another city where I became the Suicide Prevention Coordinator for a sister clinic. I have the honor of working with veterans who are at high risk for suicide. I provide short term therapy and case management to quite a few veterans of all ages to help them find meaning for their lives and reduce their suicidality. I’m training in CBT-Depression, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and DBT. Another part of my job is education in the community as well as within our VA about how to best interact with high-risk. I feel I have truly found my place in the social work world now. I love working with veterans in crisis. It is such an honor to sit alongside someone at their lowest and offer them support. I don’t take my job lightly. I don’t take my responsibility lightly. I also realize I have to prioritize taking care of myself so that I can be the best possible social worker for these veterans. 

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