Breaking barriers every day: JBLM’s social workers The versatility of social work with Lt. Col. James MacDonald

By 1st Lt. Sanjeev Gurung, 555th Engineering Brigade and Madigan social work internMarch 10, 2023

LTC MacDonald
Lt. Col. James Macdonald, Ph.D., a licensed clinical social worker, director of the Behavioral Health Service Line and installation director of Psychological Health on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and the behavioral health market lead for the Puget Sound Military Health System, speaks to a group of social work interns on Feb. 24, 2023. (Photo Credit: Ryan Graham) VIEW ORIGINAL

MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. – If you have ever sought behavioral healthcare, have children in school, or received treatment for substance use, chances are you have met a social worker.

These healthcare professionals have earned a Master of Social Work or a doctorate and work with individuals, families and organizations to address their needs and concerns. They work in different settings, from community centers and schools to state and federal agencies.

March is national social work month. This affords a prime opportunity to inform the public and policymakers about the important role social workers play in varied settings.

This year the National Association of Social Workers has designated the theme of "social work breaks barriers."

Both historically and currently, social workers are on the forefront of social change and advancement. From Frances Perkins helping to establish a minimum wage and Social Security as the secretary of Labor during the Great Depression to cutting edge therapies that are supporting children and families.

Here at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., there are a numb

er of exceptional social workers breaking barriers to help Soldiers and families overcome hurdles and thrive in their social and professional lives.

How long have you been a social worker? How long have you been working with the military population?

I received my Master of Social Work in 1991. I joined the military in 2011.

What attracted you to this profession?

The versatility. I knew that I wanted to work in human services and knew that I was interested in working in several roles within this field. As a social worker, I have been able to do clinical, research, administrative, and policy work in both the private and public sector including in the military.

How has your work broken barriers?

By thinking differently. Innovative people are reexamining the ways in which we serve Soldiers. We are working toward changing our approaches to be more responsive to the needs of Soldiers and the readiness of the Army. This sometimes requires breaking down barriers as many of the existing approaches are systemically entrenched.

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