StephenCast Friday: Can we really ever “leave it at the door”?

I should probably skip today’s StephenCast, but I figure this is about self-care in a helping profession, so I’ll try to walk that talk today. Listen here.

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Articles, posts, stuff:

Constance Grady writes about how the definition of sexual assault has changed: The rape culture of the eighties, as explained by Sixteen Candles:

My friend and colleague The Roving Social Worker (check out her podcast BTW) reminds us that it’s Friday.



This week’s StephenCast: Respect your colleagues, say “no” to them.

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This week on the StephenCast, I mumble my way through a quick reflection on how saying “no” isn’t just a self-care thing. Seriously, I am tired from presenting all morning.

Check it out here.




It’s Friday StephenCast time: “Put it on the schedule.”

StephenCast 2.0 (2)My short podcast experiment continues. This week, I challenge myself  (and any audience members I may have ) to put your self-care plans on your schedule.

Listen here:

The StephenCast is a way for me to share thoughts on the work of clinical faculty in a social work profession. My premise is simple: SWrs are bulit to give a lot of themselves, in a helping profession based on others. How do we take care of ourselves?

This week’s Moment of Tweet

This week’s podcast shout-outs

If you are a social worker and haven’t encountered Jonathan Singer’s podcast, it’s time to check it out.

My friend and #SWVirtualPal J started a new podcast devoted to the traveling social worker.

How do you get skilled at making a podcast? Make a second one.

I’ve been working with the #MacroSW Collaboration on a new podcast, focusing on macro social work. It’s been a goal of mine to launch this project, and I’m excited to see it finally taking shape.

There’s one detail I discovered throughout this process: almost 10 years ago, I dabbled with podcasting. I was learning about HTML coding through a personal blog. My 30 gig Apple iPod went everywhere with me, and content through iTunes included free (!) material. I was downloading whatever looked interesting: news programs, entertainment programs. A lot of stuff was paired down episodes from traditional terrestrial broadcasts, though the most interesting stuff was original material developed specifically for the platform. I was very much into the show “Lost”, and the producers of that show posted a podcast about their work routinely. I was all in on “Lost” so I couldn’t get enough of any details about upcoming episodes.

Once I learned you could create and post your own stuff, I figured I’d see how it all worked. I found the Podbean desktop web-based app, bought a cheap microphone from Radio Shack, and cut a couple of episodes. I was most proud that I’d locked in the name “StephenCast”. After a couple of posts, I got bored, I guess. I didn’t see the need to ramble on about random life experiences. I assumed Podbean would close at some point and that Apple would delete whatever I submitted.

I was wrong. As I loaded the new MacroSW podcast into the Apple Podcast Connect dashboard, I discovered my first foray into podcasting still very much existed. Of course, nobody was listening, but in fairness to the public, this was truly a podcast about nothing, and I’d abandoned it.

Except now I’ve decided to use all that old infrastructure to resurrect the feed. Podbean is still here, with a handy mobile app. I updated the attached image and recorded the first StephenCast in a decade.

Why bother? For me, this is probably the easiest way to see how I can improve the official podcast I’m working on over at I hope to learn how to make something sound good using existing, everyday technology. I could see adapting a project like this into a class, for example.

For now, enjoy…or completely skip…this side project.

(WordPress has a handy plug-in, but it requires an upgrade. Maybe someday.)

Podcast Thoughts: On “Missing Richard Simmons” and Ending Relationships

I’m finally starting this new blogging project, where I occasionally comment on popular podcasts, with a social work POV. This first one is…not exactly timely. “Missing Richard Simmons”, finished its short run months ago. I drafted this in April and I promised myself I’d get this out sometime in the summer. So, here it is. 

Richard Simmons wasn’t a therapist, but part of his persona included reaching into peoples’ lives, rather than just simply reaching out. The hit podcast may seem invasive, but I appreciate the reasons for making it, and from a practice perspective, its creator has a point.

I listened to all of the Missing Richard Simmons podcast a couple of weeks ago. I confess I added the podcast to my queue out of morbid curiosity. The premise had less-than-defensible overtones: Simmons, a well-known health guru and public figure (at least to people in their 40s and older), a person who appeared to thrive on public attention, decided to retire from view. Abruptly. Or (this is where the speculation starts) maybe he didn’t make that decision on his own. The media concern for his well-being suggested a story with a low factual threshold: that Simmons was taken out of the public eye by force and exploited for his wealth…or, maybe, something along those lines. It’s a mystery! Simmons eventually made a public statement last year, assuring us he’s fine.

The six-episode podcast series was created, written and hosted by Dan Taberski, who worked for the Daily Show and was a member of Simmons workout studio in Los Angeles. He created the show because he saw Simmons as a positive force, and his retirement seemed too abrupt, just simply too unlike the Richard Simmons he came to know, to be understandable without at least some explanation.

A little personal disclosure: I’m old enough to remember the home exercise craze of the late 1970s and 1980s. Our early-adopter family had a VCR in 1981, and I recall my mother recording The Richard Simmons Show. I was only 10 years old when this show was on the air, but even then, it was clear to me that Simmons was more than a host: this man was clearly motivated by his mission. His motivation to help people improve their lives seemed authentic. For Simmons, this meant weight loss. In the show’s opening credits of his talk show, you see Simmons’ personalized license plate, and as a mission statement, it’s all you need to know: YRUFATT.

Until 2013, Simmons stuck with this mission. Depending on where you start the clock, that’s about four decades. That early show is long gone, but the books, the home videos, the guest appearances, and the workout studio lived on. He’s been there for his fans, particularly people who truly need him to be the force in their lives. Missing Richard Simmons includes an amazing example of how real this relationship with the public manifested: Simmons encountered a woman in Iowa, working at the factory that produced the cookies Simmons was branding. She expressed her need to lose weight. Simmons didn’t just have a single, life-changing conversation with her. He maintained a relationship over time, by phone, for years.

Consider the expectations for a formal helping relationship, and Taberski doesn’t seem the one actively crossing boundaries; in the parallel context of social work practice, he fits the role of client. When Simmons all but disappeared, after failing to showing up to his workout studio one day for a scheduled class, Taberski (and, by extension, anyone who saw Simmons as a leader or a mentor) was concerned, confused, and, understandably, hurt.

Now, of course, let me observe the big caveat with this analogy: Simmons is not a licensed therapist. He’s a public figure, and while he has sought to help people, he was never in a legal contract, nor was he professionally obligated by any Code of Ethics to end relationships in a way that provides people with a sense of closure and understanding of what to expect in the future. That said, throughout his public presence, Simmons built a brand on emotional human connection. The example in Iowa is one case. For Simmons, his professional brand included not just his guest appearances on late night television talk shows, but his willingness to really connect with people over time. When you are calling someone on the phone to extend support to that person, expectations are going to develop.

The NASW Code of Ethics does have language regarding the termination of services (1.16, b): Social workers should take reasonable steps to avoid abandoning clients who are still in need of services. This section of the code states that, should termination be deemed necessary, social workers should be aware of all the possible factors to minimize negative impact on clients, including assisting in making appropriate arrangements.

Again, this is not something Simmons was bound to do. And, quite frankly, we don’t know what led to his decision to withdraw. That speculation is what led Taberski to create the podcast.

What Missing Richard Simmons does demonstrate is the impact ending a helping relationship precipitously has on those being helped. For those of us in social work, it’s worth noting how much power we have when we extend a hand to those who need it, and how we set expectations for when, inevitably, we need take that hand back.


Code of Ethics related to this post:

1.01 Commitment to Clients

1.04 Competence

1.16 Termination of Services


Missing Richard Simmons home page:

NASW Code of Ethics:



Day 1: SWDE’s third year is a different experience.

I recall attending the first SWDE conference in 2015. It was a small conference, but the information was overwhelming. I’d come to get a handle on best practices for online programming. That topic was well-covered, as well as just about any topic you could imagine. I came away feeling well-informed, and a bit wrung out.

In 2017, the focus of the program is Elevating Social Justice (hey, it’s right there in the title of the conference), and the focus provides a different feel. While the focus on useful applications and course design is present, the angle on social justice adds to the social work focus.

For example, I attended a presentation on social justice teaching through distance education technology yesterday, a presentation that I don’t think would have happened six years ago. Maybe that’s not accurate, but I just don’t recall educators embracing the notion using web-based technology in this way in the not-to-distant past.

The venue has changed; after two years in Indianapolis, social work educators are gathering in San Antonio, adding to the sense of a focus shift. The train has left the station; In three years, distance education doesn’t have to defend its existence; it’s a part of the landscape of social work education.

UPDATE: Sean Errenger (@stuckonSW) created a #Storify of #SWDE2017 Day 1 – Check it out here.

Last note: Personally, I’ve never been here before, so at least for me the whole impression is “new”. (Random blog fact: one of my seven-year-old son’s favorite movies is a ’80s film shot in San Antonio. He’ll be pleased to know I was here for this reason.)

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We’re not in Indianapolis this year.