By Khoi Ngo, as told to Sophia Vega
In his second year as board member for the SSW's Graduate Student Association (SSWGSA), Khoi Ngo has taken on the roles as Co-Chair and Treasurer. We recently caught up with Khoi to gain insight on his social work experiences, specifically in the mental and behavioral healthcare sector, and what led him to pursue a Rutgers Master of Social Work (MSW).
Khoi is a part-time traditional student in his second year of the four-year MSW track. He is also in the Addiction Counselor Training (ACT) certificate program. His personal and professional interests and passion are in both clinical alcohol and drug counseling and clinical mental and behavioral health. His current field placement is with the Camden County Correctional Facility’s Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) Program, formerly known as Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Program.
Q: What drew you to study the field of social work?
A: This is a tough question! I do not believe I can definitively pinpoint just one event or reason for why I chose to pursue a career in social work. However, I will say that my continued interest and passion in understanding human nature, including the ideas of resiliency and self-efficacy, led me to seek social change and social justice.
Q: What interested you in continuing your education and pursuing your MSW degree and why Rutgers SSW?
A: I decided to pursue my MSW degree after working in the mental and behavioral health and substance abuse fields for a couple of years in Bachelor’s level roles and at various levels of care. With a few years of professional experience, along with the support of family, friends, co-workers, and mentors/supervisors, I had come to the conclusion that pursuing my MSW degree was the right path for me both personally and professionally.
Rutgers University had always been my #1 choice for this path. I went to Rutgers-Camden for my undergraduate degree and am proud to see how much the University has grown and am excited to continue my graduate education at this wonderful institution.
Q: Can you describe your previous professional experience in mental and behavioral healthcare and substance use treatment?
A: I have been working in the mental and behavioral health and substance abuse fields for the past six and a half years providing both indirect and direct care to clients at various treatment settings. My current role is at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in South Jersey as a Mental Health Rehabilitation Counselor where I provide both individual and group counseling sessions to adults struggling with a severe and persistent mental illness.
What I have noticed these past years is the growth and acceptance - including implementation - of transitioning healthcare to a person-centered care approach as well as the need to advocate for alternative methods of treatment. Ultimately, change is coming and although it can take time, I am excited to see how the field will grow.
Q: What do you see for the future of social work?
A: Predictions are tough but I do hope that the idea of social work in general, and especially within the field of mental and behavioral healthcare, pursues a more holistic approach to supplement its current traditional approach.
More specifically, I would love for more, if not all, healthcare providers to focus on the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, which is a model that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) came up with as part of its Wellness Initiative. They are believed to be crucial to maintaining optimal physical health and emotional wellness are: emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social.