Interview with Marsha Stein, LCSW-C on Corporate Social Work

About Marsha Stein, LCSW-C: Marsha Stein has over 30 years of experience as a corporate communications specialist and licensed clinical social worker in private practice. She has developed and implemented numerous corporate trainings for Fortune 500 companies in such areas as workplace stress, conflict management, and work/life balance. Her corporate communications trainings are characterized by a dynamic and interactive style, and focus on optimizing group dynamics, implementing communication strategies, managing stress, sharing knowledge, resolving conflict efficiently, improving presentation skills, and promoting and managing diversity in the workplace. She uses practical exercises to take training concepts off the page to address real time situations.

Ms. Stein earned her MSW from the National Catholic School of Social Services in 1979, and is licensed in Maryland and the District of Columbia as a Clinical Social Worker. She is also a Certified Psychodrama Trainer and a Certified Critical Incident Response Specialist. She has published in The American Journal of Group Psychotherapy. Her work has also been featured on National Public Radio and in The Washington Post covering her training of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Dept. Marsha Stein was compensated to participate in this interview.

[] Can you please give an overview of the corporate clients you help as a Corporate Communications Trainer? What kinds of challenges do they face, and how do you help them manage these challenges?

[Marsha Stein, LCSW-C] I do many different types of trainings. I do leadership development training, and trainings on challenges such as dealing with generational diversity in the workplace. Right now I’m working on a training that I’m going to be delivering called Social Intelligence for Leaders. I work with a lot of scientific people who then become managers and are unfamiliar with the managerial role, and would like to develop more soft skills such as people skills.

My trainings use psychodrama, which is a particular methodology that involves action simulations. Instead of just doing lecture, I make these trainings interactive so that people enact and implement what they wish to learn. Psychodrama is an action psychotherapy that uses guided dramatic activities to explore and address issues that an individual or a group faces in a professional or personal setting. One of the techniques in this modality is role-playing, but it’s much more than that. For example, when I trained the police department, I did a jail diversion program with them where I trained them in deescalating situations with psychotic people. So instead of just giving them a lecture I brought in trained psychodramatists who would play the role of psychotic individuals, and the police would have to intervene with them in real time. During these dramatized interventions I would then freeze the action, discuss what strategies were helpful, which weren’t, and where to go from there, because adult learning is really about doing versus just listening to a lecture. This combination or role playing and “in-the-moment” coaching as participants’ try out different strategies produces concrete solutions to workplace dilemmas.

Training is only effective insofar as it produces tangible results and meets the specific and unique challenges of each workplace. I implement interactive simulations that reflect workplace issues and incorporate trained professional role players to help participants take their learnings “off the page” and into scenarios relevant to their daily work.

[] How did you first get involved in career and executive coaching, and what steps did you take to become an expert in this field?

[Marsha Stein, LCSW-C] As soon as I got my BA in college, I went to a two year internship in psychodrama, as that was my professional interest. In order to be a psychodramatist I needed a minimum of a graduate degree in a field such as Social Work, Clinical Psychology, Mental Health Counseling, Pastoral Counseling, Drama Therapy, or other related field. I also needed 780 hours of training. That is the reason I got my MSW, and as soon as I got my MSW I went back to the psychodrama section at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Washington D.C., which is a large psychiatric hospital. I was hired there for ten years as a staff trainer in psychodrama and group psychotherapy. When you are certified as a psychodramatist you’re also certified in group psychotherapy and something called sociometry, which is the mapping of relationships and groups. So that was the start of being able to work with groups and do training and team building. As a psychodramatist at St. Elizabeth Hospital I provided psychodrama therapy groups to psychiatric patients, and also did a lot of training. I trained interns and residents in psychodrama and group psychotherapy.

I earned my MSW in order to become certified as a psychodramatist–it was a prerequisite for what I wanted to do. From there I built two careers–one as a social worker, and one as a corporate communications trainer. They are pretty distinct–for example, in my corporate communications trainings I don’t talk about psychological or emotional issues, while in my social work private practice that is the center of my therapy.

Since the larger corporate trainings that I do didn’t connect directly to my academic and professional social work background, I’ve had to get a lot of separate trainings like Myers Briggs Certification and two levels of psychodrama certification, and I just attended a three day workshop about immunity to change. My clinical social work background did not prepare me to create and deliver large scale corporate trainings, but it did allow me to earn my certification as a psychodramatist, and I use psychodrama in my trainings.

[] Since your corporate training is, as you mentioned, distinct from your clinical social work, how would you say your career as a clinical social worker connects to corporate and professional settings?

[Marsha Stein, LCSW-C] I do Employee Assistance Program (EAP) work as a licensed clinical social worker. With my EAP work I am referred to people who are struggling with problems that may or may not be impacting the workplace.

I’m a Critical Incident Response Specialist, which means that I respond when health insurance companies call me about a critical incident, such as a shooting or a death of an employee or a bank robbery or a hostage taking or other kind of critical incident. They call me and send me out in order to administer psychological first aid to survivors of the crisis.

I’m also called upon as a social worker to go out and give trainings on emotional health topics. For example, Aetna might call me and say, “Can you give a training to XYZ workplace on stress management?” Topics I cover during these trainings include work life balance, dealing with aging parents, emotional intelligence, and teamwork. These trainings are generally less interactive than the corporate trainings that I do that use psychodrama. These workplace trainings generally involve a Powerpoint presentation during which I define a particular issue, discuss people’s experiences with this issue, and introduce strategies to manage and combat the issue.

In addition, I do Continuing Education Units (CEU) courses and trainings for organizations such as the NASW, Chesapeake Health Education Program, and the University of Maryland. Topics I’ve covered include non-verbal communication, concept management, stress management, and Myers Briggs.

[] How did you prepare for such a diverse range of group trainings? How did you prepare your curricula?

[Marsha Stein, LCSW-C] In general, when I am approached by an organization who would like me to train their staff or students in a certain area, I will draw from my professional experiences and previous training, but then I also go out and get any other necessary trainings I might need, and heavily research the topic so that I know a great deal about it. There are some areas I can’t teach, of course. If you ask me to teach something on physics I wouldn’t be able to do that, but knowing adult learning principles and how to implement action simulations in a learning environment has made my trainings very effective, and is why I get called back. I typically put many weeks into designing a training, and then I memorize all its aspects before implementing it.

[] What kinds of clients do you see in your private practice, and what challenges do they face? How do you help them manage these challenges?

[Marsha Stein, LCSW-C] I do individual, couples, and group therapy. Since I am fluent in American Sign Language, I also see clients who are deaf. Some people come to see me because I’m a psychodramatist. I have clients who can get lost in their words and need alternative modalities. I tend to see high functioning people who suffer from anxiety, depression, and other emotional or psychological challenges. To help my clients, I use psychodrama, and some cognitive behavioral therapy.

[] What advice do you have for social workers who would like to get involved in corporate counseling and training?

[Marsha Stein, LCSW-C] I would recommend that students interested in this area take group dynamics classes, psychodrama, and organizational development classes. I would also encourage them to seek out and earn any relevant certifications on top of their MSW degree to show their qualifications in training in a corporate environment and their understanding of corporate concepts.

[] What have been some of the challenges and some of the highlights of running your own private practice?

[Marsha Stein, LCSW-C] After earning my MSW I went and worked for an agency because that way I could get my supervision hours and plus you have to get your licensing hours, so that’s a good way to do it. When I was first setting up my private practice, I used the Psychology Today directory, and that gives you some referrals. And being on the EAP list also brought clients whom I’d see for five or so sessions, and who could later decide to see me in my private practice if they wished. I used to be listed as an in-network provider for health insurance companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna, and that can also bring in referrals, but I got off of their panels because working with some insurance companies can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience. Word of mouth has been the best for me.

I’ve also written for several publications, which is helpful in getting the word out about your private practice. For example, I’ve written articles for The American Journal of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama and The Washington Parent.

I love being in private practice. When I first started graduate school I wanted to become a psychodramatist. I was offered a full-time job as a psychodramatist and I also worked in an agency part time, so in the beginning I just put in a lot of hours because I wanted to. Eventually I knew that I wanted to go into private practice, so I wanted to get those social work hours in a private agency setting. So that’s what I did.

It’s wonderful being in private practice. You’re your own boss. You don’t waste time with bureaucratic stuff, so you just do clinical work.

In terms of managing the challenges of being in private practice, I would recommend that social workers engage in their own peer supervision groups. Networking with other therapists is crucial. You need to make sure to connect with other therapists and social workers, both in supervision groups and out. Manage your own marketing and make sure that you are not isolating yourself. Know the strengths that you bring to the table as a clinician, and understand the types of clients you would be able to best help. Aside from the logistical challenges of being in private practice, I’ve found it to be wonderful, especially if you’re a person who is self-motivated and self-directed.

Thank you Ms. Stein for your time and insights into corporate social work.

Last updated: April 2020