Peoria Profile

Ellen Erlichman: Licensed Clinical Social Worker
If you have a problem, Ellen Erlichman can probably help you find a solution. Erlichman, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice, describes her job as "helping others help themselves to lead a happy, fulfilled life."

Erlichman herself was exposed to the occupation in her youth, which she said helped forge her interest in counseling. "The social worker I saw as a child inspired me to go into the field. It was amazing how someone I at first despised turned into a true confidante. Next, my high school psychology teacher inspired me because she was able to share her story and show true empathy as well."

She earned a psychology degree from Bradley University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Illinois-Champaign. During her master’s internship at the Children’s Home Association of Illinois, Erlichman worked as a clinician in the residential-adolescent girls unit, girl’s group home, and foster care programs. Here, she encountered another inspirational person. "I met Dr. Christine Bowers, a psychiatrist, and she became my partner in private practice. Her tireless energy spent helping others and the time taken for professional consultation is awesome."
After seven years of social work, Erlichman moved into private practice in 1997. Though she counsels all ages, she said she mostly sees children, adolescents, and families in her practice. "In working with young children, parents are included in the sessions to teach skills and role model behaviors. Educating and empowering parents is essential in helping the child. I remind parents on a daily basis that raising a child is the hardest job there is. I find parents need support and encouragement throughout the journey, especially in dealing with a teenager."

She also sees many children adjusting to a divorce in the family. "I encourage both parents to participate in counseling sessions at some point. Due to anger or resentment between parents, one may be resistant to face a session, even if it’s to benefit the child. I find this particularly disturbing for children because this is a time when they may be feeling stress. I believe the underlying message to a child when parents attend a session is that they care. This message is key for the healthy emotional development of children."

Her own children prompted Erlichman’s decision to go into private practice. "I chose this so I could work part-time hours and have the job flexibility that would enable me to spend more time with my children. My typical day involves going into the office at 1 or 2 p.m., seeing clients, returning telephone calls, and writing case notes. I also make it a point to attend any school meetings a client or family is involved with, and, upon a client’s consent, I attempt to network with any family members involved in the case."
Erlichman said it was crucial to have years of counseling experience under her belt before attempting private practice. "There’s strong independence at times, and yet when you first get started, you may feel somewhat alone."

Many of her clients come to her via physicians. "I get referrals from pediatricians and health care providers who know my experience in working with children and families. I admire physicians who care about their patients but, not having the time to conduct a thorough assessment, refer them to a person like me, who can spend time to make well-thought-out referrals and/or diagnoses."

Her work with children and families takes place outside her practice, as well, including Saturday Strollers, a program designed to bring together women who experience postpartum depression. "I first became involved in Saturday Strollers when asked to chair the education and awareness campaign sponsored by the Mental Health Association of Illinois Valley. In looking at the current statistics, as many as 80 percent of first-time mothers experience postpartum depression blues. Typically, this is resolved within two to three weeks after birth. However, 10 to 15 percent of women develop postpartum anxiety disorders. It’s vital that social workers participate in promoting education and offering support. The Mental Health Association continues to promote this good cause, strolling at Northwoods Mall each month," she said.

Erlichman said the best and most rewarding part of her job is the success an individual experiences, whether it’s for a brief moment in a session or at the end of the counseling experience. "I take my job seriously. I’ll go that extra mile to drive to a school meeting, and I’ll stay after hours when my services are needed. Each life is precious and can’t be taken lightly."

She explained working with certain types of parents can be the most challenging aspect of her career. "Often, parents drop off their child, indirectly wanting me to ’fix’ the child. I encourage parental involvement and, at times, am met with opposition. Parents need to take some responsibility and be an active part of the growing process."

Erlichman said in the coming years, she foresees the need for counseling services growing. "Modern times, technology, upcoming drugs, and diseases will promote the need for counseling and affect outcomes. I believe counseling can help anyone who wants to change or look at their behavior in the context of relationships. The divorce rate has stabilized somewhat; however, increases in single-parent households overall, teen suicide, and drug abuse are critical factors. Therefore, help for parents or adolescents will be needed."

Another change that may influence social work is managed care and increased insurer responsibility to assist the mentally ill, she said. "Insurance providers need to help with problems related to stressors in an individual’s life. Stress affects mental and physical health-whether at the workplace or at home-and certainly over the long term." TPW