Interview with Tech Tran, ACSW – Lead Case Manager and Social Work Program Coordinator at the Rainbow Community Center

About Tech Tran, ACSW: Tech Tran is a Lead Case Manager and Social Work Program Supervisor at the Rainbow Community Center (RCC) in Concord, CA, where he works to reduce health disparities for people within LGBTQ communities, educate the community and care providers about cultural sensitivity to this population, and support LGBTQ individuals as they manage mental, emotional, and physical health challenges. As a Lead Case Manager, he performs psychosocial assessments, implements crisis interventions and treatment plans, and provides counseling and therapy, resource navigation services, and conflict resolution. Mr. Tran also supervises MSW students from local universities, and participates in the development of school-based interventions for LGBTQ identified youth.

Before his role at the RCC, Mr. Tran ran an employment program at the Vietnamese Youth Development Center with a focus on educating and employing urban teens and Transitional Aged Youth (TAY) in San Francisco. He also worked as a Career Development Specialist at the Putnam Clubhouse, where he primarily concentrated on helping people living with severe and chronic mental illness to regain the ability to return to work and/or school. In 2015, Mr. Tran was appointed by the National Association of Social Workers as their Region C Assistant Regional Director in California. Mr. Tran received his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 2006 from California State University, Fullerton, and his MSW in 2013 from California State University, East Bay. Tech Tran was compensated to participate in this interview.

[] To start, could you please give a brief overview of the Rainbow Community Center, and the role of social workers in this setting?

[Tech Tran, ACSW] The Rainbow Community Center (RCC) is the only organization in Contra Costa County that is solely focused on serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community; our current priorities are to build services for LGBT youth, seniors, and people living with HIV/AIDS, and to develop community building efforts that will diminish the sense of isolation and promote greater acceptance of all LGBTQ people.

RCC’s goal is to provide a safe, supportive and respectful environment for LGBTQ people of all ages, socio-economic statuses, races, cultures and religions living with a range of societal and health issues. We strive to create services and activities that will promote the mental, physical and spiritual well-being of our community by providing professional services, peer support, referral services, social opportunities and educational programs of interest to our community as well as to the community at large.

Social workers at Rainbow Community Center fill a unique need by providing a safe, clean and sober space for LGBTQ people to interact, network, and become active members of the community. The population that we serve are mainly challenged with depression, anxiety, internalized homophobia and shame. Social workers here offer their clients many programs and services that benefit the physical and mental health of the LGBTQ community, but the importance of social activities to the well-being of LBGTQ people cannot be understated. The social support of change agents reduces the sense of isolation and depression for LGBTQ people and promotes pride and self-esteem and creates a sense of community in a space free of homophobia.

[] Could you elaborate on the responsibilities you have as a field instructor and clinical supervisor?

[Tech Tran, ACSW] As a field instructor, clinical supervisor, and student teacher/mentor in the field placement site, I instruct, supervise, provide ongoing feedback, and assess student acquisition of knowledge, skills, and values. Prior to students beginning their internships in agencies, as their field instructor, I make sure to learn and understand specific school policies, CSWE competencies and practice behaviors, development of the learning agreement, and the university’s academic policies. I am prepared to carry out agency orientations, educational assessments, determine students’ learning styles to conduct effective supervision, evaluate the progress of learning, and complete student evaluations.

MSW interns are able to engage in all areas and departments of the RCC, dependent on major factors such as: personal interest, scope of practice, fitness for profession, and alignment with their learning objectives. As a strengths-based organization, we strive to meet our interns where they are at in terms of their knowledge, skills, abilities and most of all, their interests. We set the framework with intentional room to allow for growth and innovation. For example: If an MSW student is management and planning oriented, we would assess their capabilities and encourage them to work alongside our grants, contracts and outcomes department. In this capacity, they would assist in research, survey evaluations and tabulation of statistics utilizing data to steer struggling programs in the right direction. Some students in the past have preferred to run groups; in this case we would provide opportunities to co-facilitate current support groups or assist them in building a group from the ground up after conducting a community needs assessment to fill the gap. We often attract students that are concentrating in Children, Youth and Family (CYF); in this scenario, we would entertain the idea of having them support our schools-based work along with our youth program initiative to deliver QScOUTs, a social and emotional group aimed at our high school aged population. We might also encourage them to facilitate our Parent groups. If students are interested in HIV/AIDS and its prevention, we offer full training for interns to work alongside HIV testers/counselors and can offer co-facilitation experiences for our HIV support groups while attending case rounds with medical social workers, infectious disease doctors, and other various providers in the system of care.

The ideal dynamic between field instructor and their student is parallel to the client/provider relationship, which encompasses the foundation of alliance and mutual respect.

Measuring students’ progress during their field internship takes into account subjectivity, objective assessment of engagement/performance, and ongoing plans to consistently review learning goals by providing direct feedback where and when appropriate. The relationships that students create with staff, other interns and their clients, and the impact that they have in being an instrument of change are the indicators of progress and performance.

[] What are some of the main questions and concerns students have when preparing for and completing their field education? How do you help them address these concerns?

[Tech Tran, ACSW] The main questions and concerns students have when preparing for and completing their field education most often are in regards to learning identity development models, sexual orientation, gender identity expression and grasping the humanistic approach to serving people identified in the LGTBQ community. Whether in a clinical case management approach or direct psychotherapy, social work students typically yearn to learn resources that are in the community to better serve their clients and counseling approaches to edify their interventions as they meet with clients one-on-one or in group settings. As a field instructor and clinical supervisor, I help students to take a look at the bigger picture, which may inform their conceptualization of Social Work, then work with them to identify the context in which they are framing their concerns.

Working with a niche (marginalized) population, we often scale our attention back and help students look at themes in their work with LGTBQ identified clients. Do they see gender identity as the primary issue? If they do, what specific interventions and strategies can they implement to help focus attention to this area? How are shame, stigma, and rejection involved in this client’s current presentation? What techniques and approaches are best aimed at understanding the interplay between these causes, and may be most conducive to effective outcomes in terms of helping the client to resolve this issue for themselves? These kinds of questions and analytical thinking are applicable to multiple client situations and clinical social work environments. Also, often assessing students’ counter-transference and observing need fulfillment are ways students can begin to understand what they are “bringing to the table.”

Rejection, for example, is a huge area of focus for our LGTBQ population. Although not all LGTBQ identified individuals suffer from rejection, a large percentage often does. We help clients explore their level of rejection, name how they feel about it, identify the sources and help develop a plan to overcome the feelings that are attached to being rejected. This intervention to lessen the suffering of rejection must be accompanied by increased amounts of acceptance. We work with families to learn how to become more accepting by educating partners, parents and siblings. Helping clients manage and overcome the emotional repercussions of rejection is a skill that translates across almost all areas of clinical social work.

By guiding students through the process of seeing the connections between their internship work and their current and future career interests, we can help them define and delineate the appropriate macro, mezzo and micro perspectives to effectively handle their concerns and questions.

[] Could you elaborate how you help students define and apply macro, mezzo, and macro perspectives to their internship work and experiences?

[Tech Tran, ACSW] The Rainbow Community Center utilizes a 3-Tier method or approach in working with our participants and clients. It is recommended that students take an in-depth look into this perspective because it is required that they engage in all three aspects of this model.

Tier 1 is the macro level approach, which is developing and implementing outreach and events in the community to bring attention and awareness to the community, and to offer services and facilitate events that promote safe space recognition. Examples include PRIDESF, PRIDE on the Plaza, tabling at community fairs, and collaborating with other CBO’s (community based-organizations) and allies. Tier 2 is a mezzo level approach, which includes offering social and support groups, HIV testing, leading workshops and community engagement activities with a focus on bringing LGTBQ identified individuals/groups/families together with allies to interact with one another in a smaller setting, typically at our agency or affiliated partner organizations. Tier 3 is the micro level approach, which includes counseling, case management, and intensive therapeutic based groups that involve in-depth assessments with treatment plans and follow-up services.

[] What do you enjoy the most about mentoring MSW students?

[Tech Tran, ACSW] I enjoy giving to a community of people that have dedicated their livelihoods to helping the world become a place where resilience is revered and where dreams turn into goals. Mentoring MSW students from a social work generalist perspective while focusing on humility and the person-centered strengths-based approach is what I enjoy most. Helping to illustrate my experiences, challenges and successes to an eager change-agent brings a smile to my heart. Working with a mentee and instilling a deeper sense of empathy and compassion, then to watch them display their own framework is also what I enjoy.

[] Field education is a major component of MSW programs and requires a significant time commitment from students. How do you recommend the students you mentor balance field education with other responsibilities?

[Tech Tran, ACSW] As field education is a major component of MSW programs and requires a significant time commitment from students, I recommend that students I mentor take a real look at their plate and attempt to balance field education with other responsibilities by creating a map or pie chart of what/where/how/why and when things are a priority and when, where, how and why other things could be left outside of their current priorities. Taking a real and calculated look is more than just simply holding around a planner but planning around a 2-3 year forecast of what is to come and what needs to be done in order to achieve goals, (keeping in the plan) times for vacations, self-care and real life situations that may or may not lend themselves to deferred gratification and most of all your time.

[] Can you describe the importance of self-care in social work? How do you recommend the students you mentor manage their own self-care, both during their MSW program and beyond?

[Tech Tran, ACSW] Self-care is understanding yourself. I recommend that MSW students begin to truly develop having a deep connection with who they are as people. Knowing their limits is essential; everyone has limitations, even Superman, (in this case, Super Social Workers). When one goes past their limits, things internally and/or externally will shift and may cause ruptures that will affect desired outcomes. Having and holding boundaries within their comfort zone is self-care. Recognizing and implementing activities that make them smile is self-care. Taking time to rest and nurture their sense of grounding to the world outside of school and social work and to re-connect with friends and family to restore and rejuvenate themselves as a whole is self-care. The importance of self-care is absolutely crucial in overcoming compassion fatigue, and is instrumental in determining their impact as change-agents–as resources to their communities and as professional social workers.

Thank you Tech Tran for your time and insights!

Last updated: April 2020