By: Sophia Vega
Reggie Dorsey MSW '89 is the owner of the private practice, Abundant Life Counseling, LLC in Yardley, PA, which specializes in providing counseling for relationships of all kind. To get to this point in his social work career, Reggie gained 30 years of experience at the site of his field placement as an MSW student, Advocates for Children of New Jersey.
We recently spoke with Reggie to gain insight on the lasting impact of his field placement site, his private practice, advice that he has to current students, and his thoughts on the relevancy of social work in today's world.
Q: You mentioned a career at Advocates for Children where you originally completed your MSW field placement. Thinking back to when you were in the MSW program and starting field, did you know this was the path that would carry through your career?
A: The quick answer is, no, not at all. It was very exciting when I began my field placement at Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ). I looked forward to the opportunity to impact the lives of children and families and to do so in and from the city of Newark. To be truthful, I never imagined that the field placement would turn into a full-time job. What a blessing to not have to do an extensive job search as I transitioned from grad student to full time employee.
Still, I had the mindset that I would probably be there perhaps 5-8 years and definitely no longer than 10 years. Since ACNJ is a statewide organization, it allowed me to meet so many people and be exposed to the many ways that people were making a difference in the well-being of children and families throughout NJ. I assumed ACNJ would be the first stop in a career to impact and help transform lives. No way would I have guessed that 30 years later, I would still be working for ACNJ. But looking back, it was exactly where I was supposed to be and what I was called to do.
Q: Do you have any advice for our current and new students? Both about their field work or studies in general?
A: For those presently doing field work, I say explore, stretch yourself and seek to learn what you are called to do. I see field work as an opportunity to learn firsthand what the field of social work is all about and the many roles that social workers can play in our society. From my perspective, field work is about education, gaining experience and developing relationships and connections.
With regards to studies and education, I would encourage students to not focus only on getting good grades but to understand that what you learn will be what you need to know to be proficient in your career and to successfully impact the plight of those you will serve. Your impact will affect your own community and several generations to come.
Overall, be devoted and stay focused. Being a MSW student may be one of the most challenging times in your life. When I was in grad school I was taking classes, doing my field placement and had a part time job. It was a juggling act to say the least in balancing my school work and personal life. Remember it’s only for a season. One day in the near future, you will look back and feel so accomplished. It will fuel you to be able to take on whatever comes your way.
Q: As the owner of Abundant Life Counseling, LLC, what does your practice focus on and what are some of the unique guiding principles that you use to counsel your clients?
A: The main focus of my practice is relationships. I do quite a bit of premarital and marriage counseling, grief counseling and walking along side of care givers. I also work with individuals that are having challenges with other relationships in their lives including significant others, family, friends, on the job, with God and with themselves. Relationships can be challenging, but the work and commitment placed towards them can yield a rewarding outcome.
Q: Is there any advice that you could give to a social work professional looking to open their own private practice?
A: The first thing I would say, is prepare yourself for a journey. I believe that if you want to have a successful private practice, it takes time to get everything in order that needs to be in place. There are so many issues and details that need to be accounted for and not overlooked including, making sure your credentials are in order, understanding budgeting and finances, having office space and how much that will cost, deciding if you will take insurance for payment, marketing your business and so much more. Like any journey, you have to be committed to being persistent and persevering through various challenges, ups and down and unexpected unknowns such as a virus that quarantines people to their homes. Opening your own practice is not for the faint of heart.
Additionally, just as continual education is required for a counselor and social worker, it must also be a commitment for anyone seeking to open a private practice. Learning never ends and it requires lots of studying, reading, podcasts, workshops, research and any of the strategies we can access for learning about all the issues that come with opening a private practice. With that being said, I would encourage new professionals to have a mentor or to partner with someone who has private practice experience. Once again, relationships are invaluable.