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Gregory Fox

Natalie Kiff (MSW ’03), SunShine Mills (MSW ’05), and Martin Heggestad (MSW ’05) are postgraduate fellows at the Depression Center whose two-year fellowships give them experience in individual, family, and group therapy. They recently shared some thoughts about their work.


In an individual therapy session, I help patients truly understand depression. I teach them that although depres- sion has a biopsychosocial component, they can control certain aspects to decrease depressed moods. We provide a support network to help patients uncover their positive attributes when they feel there is no hope.


Each person has a bright spot. I ask patients what life was like before depression. Once people are able to accept that they have depression and know what they can expect from themselves, then they realize that they can move on from this to success and find what their “new normal” might be.


We stay encouraged in our work because we know that most people do get better with treatment.


I have had a good fellowship here at the Depression Center with excellent supervision. I’m very impressed with the combi- nation of experience and train- ing I’m receiving in empirically

based therapy methods.

prevent recurrences and progression, counteract stigma, and improve public policy. Social workers are at the heart of this mission.”

Depression is one of the most disabling illnesses in the world. e World Health Organization considers depression to be the second most costly illness in terms of health burden due to lost work and overall functioning. Depression affects 25 per- cent of all women and 10 percent of all men in their lifetime.

  • ere is a clear connection between depression and

diabetes, cancer, heart disease, substance use, and anxiety disorders. Considerable evidence indicates that genetic and biological factors play a major etiologic role in mood disorders; however, stress, op- pression, poverty, trauma, and marital problems also interact with the disease. Pharmacological, biological, and evidence-based psychotherapies have been highly effective in treating the illness.


Social workers who work in the Depression Center actively collaborate with other team members—such as psychiatrists, psychologists, and nurses—to provide comprehensive depression assessment and evidence-based intervention/psychotherapy services to adults and children experiencing depression and bipolar illness, as well as their families. Social workers lead cognitive–behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy groups for adults and children.

Dr. Greden testifies that “the world-class, evidenced- based psychosocial research and treatments and the Center’s recognized education groups for families of patients” would not exist without the partnership between the Depression Center and the School of Social Work.

Several years ago, social workers at the Depression Center noted a common need of patients and their family members: information to make decisions about seeking mental health care and about ways to cope with the illness.

Kathy Schoof, a clinical social worker, and I took the lead to develop and implement psychoeducational programs for consumers and families living with depression or bipolar illness. We started the Family Education Workshop, which meets on a monthly basis. We also developed biweekly facilitated support groups for families and people with mood disorders, including a separate group for adolescents.

Because these programs are offered to people in the community free of charge, fundraising efforts have been crucial in helping to develop and maintain them. Development staff helped to raise money from organizations such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, individual donors, and other community groups.


Another aspect of the collaboration between the SSW and the Depression Center is the social work postgraduate fellowship program, which has provided important clinical staffing for the Depression Center. Sponsored by the U-M Department of Psychiatr , postgraduate social work fellows help provide treat- ment and facilitate support groups and therapy groups.

Martin Heggestad (MSW ’05), a second-year fel- low in adult psychiatry, has been a mainstay of the monthly didactic family education workshop. Natalie Kiff (MSW ’03), who completed her two-year fel- lowship in December, was a key participant in the biweekly support groups for people with depression and bipolar disorder. Sunshine Mills (MSW ’05) assists Kathy Schoof in providing leadership for a support group for loved ones of those who have com- mitted suicide. e talent and commitment of these fellows have helped launch these valuable programs.

  • e SSW also collaborates with the Depression

Center by setting up MSW student field placements.

  • e social workers train MSW social work interns,

as well as those in other disciplines, how to inter- vene therapeutically with patients and their families. By completing field placements at the Depression Center, several MSW students have learned how to deliver evidence-based treatments with fidelity. is year, eight MSW students are working at the Depres- sion Center.


Ms. Schoof and I have received enormous support from Professor Kathleen Wade, assistant dean of hos- pital social work services at the SSW and director of social work in the University Health System. Profes- sor Mary Ruffolo has provided regular consultation about evaluation instruments and helped develop a plan for measuring outcomes. We presented these results at the Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care Conference last spring.

Our initial evaluation of over 100 participants in the Family Education Workshop indicates that the groups assist them in addressing challenges of living with depression or bipolar disorder.

  • e materialization of Dr. Greden’s vision for a

network of depression centers will help to decrease the stigma of depression and thus better serve those struggling with depression. Foundations such as the one being formed in memory of Reggi Marder also will help people more easily find hope.

  • Laura Nitzberg is a lecturer at the School and

social work manager in sychiatry at the University of Michigan Hospitals Health System.

Ongoing Winter/Spring 2007


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