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GSSW Alumna Awarded Judith Holm Award

Annalee Sweet, who earned her Master’s of Social Work degree from the Graduate School of Social Work this spring, was one of two recipients nationwide of the Judith Holm Award

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Jun. 6, 2011

Annalee Sweet, who earned her Master’s of Social Work degree from the Graduate School of Social Work this spring, was one of two recipients nationwide of the Judith Holm Award, which honors MSW student papers that demonstrate mastery of the essentials of clinical social work and readiness to enter professional practice.

Sweet’s paper, “Assessment and Interventions for an Adolescent Female Client with Major Depressive Disorder,” was based on her clinical fieldwork experiences at a Boston-area collegiate counseling services office.

 “I felt very honored at being selected,” said Sweet of the Holm Award, which is named for the first president of the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work. “I was glad to represent Boston College. It felt like a real validation, not only of my writing, but what I’m doing as a therapist.”

As part of her Clinical Practice with Children and Families class, Sweet worked in the counseling services office of an area college, providing individual therapy for undergraduate and graduate students. One undergraduate in particular presented “an interesting case,” she says: talented, creative, imaginative, but suffering from major depression; as a native of another country, the student also was grappling with homesickness and language and cultural differences.

To help the student, Sweet used what she calls “a hybrid” treatment of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) — the traditional approach — with solution-focused therapy, a technique she had learned at GSSW.

“This treatment involved, among other things, the student imagining a future where her problems were gone,” says Sweet. “She was so imaginative and good at creative thinking, so why not use these qualities to help herself?

“Through the treatment, she was able to uncover some fundamental assumptions about herself and her ability to fight, and recover, from her problems.”

The experience was an important step for Sweet, as well: “I was able to take something that had been part of my classwork and use it in real life. That meant a lot.”   

A New York City native, Sweet says her undergraduate years at the University of Texas at Austin — from which she holds a bachelor’s degree in English — stoked her interest in issues of feminism and women’s studies. This newly realized affinity led her, when she moved to the Boston area in 2008, to work as a resident counselor at the Cambridge Eating Disorders Center.

“It was very intense, very eye-opening,” she recalls. “I just felt that doing individual therapy was very important to me, and I asked my colleagues what would be the best kind of degree to get. They pointed me toward social work, because it so flexible and multifaceted a profession.”

Sweet said she had “heard good things” about BC’s social work program, and was impressed by the atmosphere she found on her visit to GSSW. The school turned out to be a perfect match for her.

“GSSW offers such a wide range of classes and concentrations. They emphasize a global, macro approach, instead of being exclusively clinical, and that did a lot for me,” says Sweet, who cites GSSW Field Education Director Susan Coleman as one of her most important influences.

Sweet plans to move back to New York City later this year, and while she can envision returning to a college setting for her social work career, “for now I am open to anything — I would like to have different kinds of experiences in the field.”