Q&A with Prerna Menon, MSW ’18

Prerna Menon headshotAfter Prerna Menon graduated from NYU Silver in May 2018, she went to work as a Behavioral Health Clinician for New York City’s Mental Health Services Corps at the Lower East Side Service Center’s outpatient methadone maintenance program. In January 2020, she began a new position as a Collaborative Care Social Worker in the adult medicine clinic at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, where she provides evidence based interventions to adults suffering from varying behavioral health and substance use related issues. In July 2020, she began private practice as well at Manhattan-based Repose Therapy & Wellness.

What do you like best about each of your positions?

Lincoln allows me to enjoy agency front-line work. The population I work with is in dire need of more access to mental health care, and I am passionate about bridging that gap. Lincoln allows me to challenge my clinical skills, whilst also working on my case-management, resource pooling, and care coordination skills.

Regarding Repose Therapy & Wellness, I was drawn to this practice because of their devout passion for holistic integrative wellness and healing. This practice’s mission prioritizes providing representation and diversity for its clients, and it gives me the freedom and autonomy to use my own experience and culture to guide my work.

For now I am continuing in both positions. I am lucky to have a supervisor at Repose that values my mental health and self-care and is allowing me to slowly transition into a full-time role at the practice when the time is right.

What are you most proud of having done in your career to date?

I have great pride in my growth and change in clinical orientation. I started off by being closed off and meticulous in how I approached my sessions. I have now learned that the client-therapist relationship is paramount to positive clinical outcomes and can only be built on authenticity, vulnerability, and flexibility. I have moved to become a relational-trauma therapist, and value so much the stories of my clients that have shaped me to become the therapist I am today. I am also proud of the different modalities and settings I have worked in. I worked, and I worked hard, through Mobile Assertive Community Treatment work (during my second year field placement), to working at an outpatient methadone clinic, to working in a hospital setting. This exposure to a variety of social work settings has enhanced my understanding of trauma recovery and healing.

What drives you to do this work?

I grew up in countries at a time where social justice was not valued, where equality was a loosely held value, and discrimination was abundant. I struggled to find my own identity and revolted against the systems I existed in. As a result, I grew a deep interest in understanding the human mind and environmental factors that shaped and dictated an individual’s lens on life. I wanted to understand why the people I rebelled against were the way they were. From studying psychology to then stumbling upon social work, I finally found my calling. Social work encompasses my entire orientation towards life - a continuous fight for equality and social justice, whilst understanding one’s inner world and how that dictates behaviors.

How did your NYU Silver education prepare you for your positions? Was there a particular class or faculty member that was especially influential?

I greatly benefited from Silver. My two favorite professors were Mariam Habib (Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse) and Steven Dawson (Practice I, II, IV). Mariam helped me understand the value of a trauma-informed approach to therapy, and Steve always reminded me about what the core of social work is, which is a continuous fight for social justice. I also greatly benefited from the Master’s Level Social Work Job Fair that NYU co-sponsored, which is where I found my job with MHSC, something that I really struggled to find being an international student.

What motivated you to pursue your MSW?

I earned my bachelor’s degree in child and adolescent development, which included courses in psychology, kinesiology, sociology, and other disciplines. I chose social work for my master’s because of its flexibility. Whereas psychology is focused only on the mind, social work allows you to look at an individual in their environment, and understand how systems impact them. I felt I would have a lot more opportunities in social work and the experience would be a lot more holistic. There are so many different things you can do as a social worker!

Do you have any advice for incoming MSW students?

This field is challenging, and sometimes makes you question your commitment to it, but NYU Silver will make sure you are prepared to take on these challenges.

A few things: ASK QUESTIONS, even if you think they're “silly.” Pick your professor’s brains. Question and challenge your peers. Respect and empathize with others’ opinions. Utilize professors’ office hours. If you aren’t getting what you need from your site, SPEAK UP. Always advocate for yourself. Find your people. I left NYU with friends, family, mentors, colleagues, and even found my wife there.

These years will be some of the best of your life, soak it all in.