Alexa Owen, M.S.W. '24: Mindful Reflections on Practicum

A current SSW student shares their perspective from the year between second and third summer.

In 2023, Alexa Owen, M.S.W. '24 shared her dreams for an interdisciplinary future in social work and gave some advice to new M.S.W. students. "I came to clinical social work through studies in meditation and yoga therapy,” said Owen. “Drawing on these holistic frameworks deeply informs my work with clients—especially the wisdom they have to offer in mind-body practices."

"My dream for the future is a life that weaves together my interests: contemplative studies, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, creativity, movement, adventure,” said Owen. “Honoring one’s passions and cultivating pathways for them to express themselves is important for health and well-being and, by extension, the health and well-being of communities.”

How best to accomplish that at Smith? Prioritize rest and foster relationships, which are “such an exquisite part of social work,” said Owen who prioritizes relationships so they can “be a source of nourishment and support, as well as spaces to share your gifts with the world."

“In my second summer at Smith I prioritized connecting more with students inside and outside the classroom…. I joined the Smith SSW Psychedelic Society, integrated contemplative work like teaching on compassion and resilience into my CBARE project, and planned fun outings with friends (Barbie movie!) to deepen those connections.”

Alexa Owens, M.S.W. '24 and Linna Shih, M.S.W. '24 who is one of Alexa's best friends at Smith and a fellow intern at Whole Connection.
Alexa Owens, M.S.W. '24 and Linna Shih, M.S.W. '24 who is one of Alexa's best friends at Smith and a fellow intern at Whole Connection.

Identifying love, compassion and liberation as the core of social work, Owen shares the support her community provided this past year when she was feeling overwhelmed by balancing her internship, work, assignments and making time for herself and community care.“My seminar class members responded so compassionately to an honest share about how challenging things felt.”

This year Owen also feels more confident with her clients. “There is truly no substitute for direct contact hours with people in training for this work, and I'm grateful to have had such an immersive experience in my first year placement.” She said it prepared her for managing a caseload more independently in her second placement, and conquering the many tasks that come with that, including scheduling, insurance notes and supervision.

Owen credits contemplative frameworks of self-compassion for her practice this year. “As a therapist I am rooting my work in acceptance, understanding, and compassion,” she says, and has been inspired by approaches like acceptance and commitment therapy and internal family systems therapy.

Unsure (but optimistic) about what she might specialize in, Owen is excited to start building a private practice soon after she earns her degree. She said she wants to start out at an agency-based setting to keep learning from colleagues, while seeing a few private practice clients with supervision from a licensed clinician.

Like most students coming out of their second practicum, “I'm looking forward to graduating!” she says, without forgetting her own advice about fostering relationships. “The past two years have stretched me in many ways. I'm also looking forward to one final summer with people I have grown to love, and taking elective courses that will nurture my interests and build more skills.”