Interview with Laura Pfledderer, BCD, EPICC Mentor
- Please tell us about where you grew up, and where you live now.
I was born and raised in San Diego, surrounded by the most beautiful beaches! I completed my undergrad degree at University of California at San Diego and my Social Work Master’s degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I fell in love with the state and am now a huge Tar Heel fan. In 2014, I joined the Air Force and am currently serving in Germany.
- Are/were any of your family members involved in the field of clinical social work?
I am a first generation Mexican-American and the first in my family to become a clinical social worker.
- How did you know that you wanted to become a clinical social worker?
I wanted to be in the field of helping people. When I started my college years I learned about the variety of jobs that can be held with an MSW. The opportunities seemed endless and the diversity between macro and micro were super appealing to me. Being a clinical social worker really matched my personality and was at the heart of what I wanted to do. After 2 years in graduate school I could start conducting therapy!
- During your MSW schooling, were any field placements, clinical supervisors, or professors more meaningful than others? Why?
Several professors really helped me decide which direction I wanted to take my career. They also served as mentors, took the time to listen to me, cared about my concerns, and offered guidance regarding what would be rewarding. Conversation wasn’t about money or what I thought I was supposed to be doing, but more about, “Do what you love and never work a day in your life!” I really took that to heart.
My first internship consisted of case management for Head Start and my second year internship consisted of clinical work at a Vet Center. At this point, I knew that my calling was clinical therapy and working for the military population. As a Navy spouse, I found a strong connection to the population I was then treating.
- What was your first job as a social worker?
After graduation, I worked on a crisis management team at a hospital Emergency Department. My primary job was to assess/evaluate patients being admitted for suicide ideation or an attempt, current homicidal ideation, drug overdose, alcohol detox, or psychosis. I loved this job and I continued to serve the military population through this avenue.
- Tell us about your current position as a clinical social worker.
I am currently a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for the United States Air Force. I provide assessment and treatment for children and adults with diagnoses ranging from adjustment disorder to depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts, alcohol and drug addictions, sexual trauma, and anything affecting their resilience. I also consult with the Department of Defense Schools in Germany for pediatric mental health needs as well as any academic concerns.
- What are the best and hardest parts about being a clinical social worker?
The best part is how diverse and challenging this field is. I love advocating for patients as much as I love seeing their improvements in therapy. Knowing that I helped make a difference in someone’s life, schooling, marriage, etc., is amazingly rewarding.
The hardest part is dealing with the difficult life experiences of my clients. Ensuring self-care to protect yourself from vicarious trauma is something that needs to be practiced regularly.
- Why did you decide to become a Board Certified Diplomate? How has the BCD status helped your professional career?
The BCD was the next step to growing my career. Having this credential helps distinguish me as an expert in my field of training.
- Why do you want to be an EPICC Mentor to grad students? What do you think makes a great mentor?
I was deeply honored when I was asked to be an EPICC Mentor. I view this as an opportunity to assist the social work community and the larger mental health community. I remember being new to this field and the pressure I felt. I like being able to pay it forward and assist others to make the transition. I think my experiences as civilian clinician as well as in the military make me a good advisor. In addition to my professional and military responsibilities, I am also a mother. Balancing these roles can be difficult.
- What is your advice for current students?
Self-care! Take care of yourself now, before, and after, reach out for guidance as you need and don’t do it alone. School work can be time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be isolating.
- What is your advice for entry-level practitioners?
Consult! Trust yourself but also reach out don’t be afraid to ask for consultation or mentorship! We are a community of clinicians for a reason. We aren’t meant to be isolated in this field. Our patients will benefit from the consultation and mentorship.
- Professionally, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’ll be applying my social work skills to leading the military medical care for an entire unit of service members and their families, assuring holistic, family-focused prevention and treatment interventions.