By KATIE BORKOWSKI
CARROLL – Forty years working for the same agency, at the same branch, has not become boring for Doreen Loeffelholz, LISW, ACSW.
“I did my undergrad practicum with Catholic Charities (in Sioux City) from January through May of 1977,” said the Mount Marty College graduate, who majored in social services. “When I was finishing my practicum, a social work position in Carroll was opening up. They let me know, if I was interested that I could apply.”
Loeffelholz was hired on July 18, 1977. She said many things have kept her with Catholic Charities for 40 years – the agency’s programs, the mission and philosophy of the agency and the people.
“It has been a good agency to work for,” said Loeffelholz. “My intention is to finish my career with the agency. I don’t have a specific plan, yet, as far as retirement.”
Early in her career, Loeffelholz worked in the family service program doing counseling as well as working in the birth parent and adoption programs.
“Once Bill (Kersting), my supervisor at the time, continued my training, I was the one who primarily worked with the birth parents,” she said. “It was a very large part of my caseload.”
As an example of her caseload, Loeffelholz pointed out in 1980, the whole Catholic Charities agency in the diocese placed 40 babies in one year.
“I truly enjoyed working with birth parents and adoptive families,” she said, and added, some adoptive families and birth mothers have kept in touch over the years.
Gradually over the years, the number of babies being placed by Catholic Charities decreased and Loeffelholz’s family service caseload increased. About two years ago, the adoption program was discontinued at the agency.
In January 1990, Loeffelholz went back to school at the University of Nebraska Omaha and received her master’s of social work in 1992.
“I was commuting, still working part-time and going to school,” she said. “That was probably one of the best things I could do – get my master’s. The agency was very supportive and encouraging of me to do that.”
After she graduated with her master’s degree, the agency made some changes and Loeffelholz was offered the clinical supervisor position in Carroll.
“In order to be a licensed independent social worker (LISW), I had to be supervised for a couple of years,” said Loeffelholz, who passed the licensure exam in March 1995. “I also have an ACSW credential. I am a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers.”
The clinical supervisor has experienced many joys, successes and also discouraging moments in her position through the years.
“The primary purpose of our work is to help people improve their life situation, whether it be mental health issues, dealing with relationship issues or grief and loss issues,” said Loeffelholz.
She said a discouraging part of her job is seeing when people “continue to make poor choices that then negatively impact their lives.”
Some challenges the country faced have also affected Catholic Charities, noted Loeffelholz.
“In 1983 with the farm crisis, it was a difficult time and it impacted on Catholic Charities,” she said. “Then after 9-11, the agency (and the economy) was affected. The agency had to let staff go.”
One of the areas Loeffelholz has developed expertise in is dealing with grief and loss issues. She has attended many conferences and trainings on the topic.
“When people are hurting, whatever the loss is, it filters out into their life – struggling to go to work, managing their relationships or sometimes making choices to drink excessively,” said Loeffelholz. “Grief is difficult, but it can be something that we can deal reasonably, effectively and successively with.”
Times have changed and the kinds of issues bringing people to Catholic Charities are more complicated than they were 40 years ago, noted the clinical director.
“A huge factor impacting people’s lives is technology,” she said. “People who text each other living in the same house or sitting next to each other lose the inflection, the face-to-face and the opportunity to determine from a person’s body language and tone of voice what they are saying to you.”
Another transition has been using the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM). In the past, clients were not clinically diagnosed with mental health issues, Loeffelholz explained.
“In order to access insurance, you have to have a diagnosis and that is where the diagnostic manual comes into play,” she said.
In the Carroll office, Loeffelholz works with Tina Zanders, LMSW, the other therapist and Jackie Werner, the office manager.
“I very much appreciate the work they do,” said the clinical director. “We really work well together.”
Through the years, Loeffelholz has worked with four agency directors – Jim Taylor, Bruno Finochario, Jerry Eaton and Amy Bloch.
One of the most influential people for her has been Audra Cole, who was the agency’s clinical director for many years, as well as Loeffelholz’s supervisor while she was becoming licensed.
“She has not just been a colleague,” said Loeffelholz. “She has been a mentor and she is what I would consider a really good friend. I really treasure her in a lot of ways.”