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January 24, 2001
Introducing Nancy Duncan, M.S.W.

s an investigative social worker, I meet innumerable individuals and families coping with hardships such as mental illness, HIV, the trauma of child abuse, divorce, poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, stress, ADHD, and unwanted pregnancy. And that's just the short list of difficulties that would rattle even the hardiest of people and their families.

State of Mind


By Nancy Duncan, M.S.W.

Much of my time is spent in the community, visiting people in a variety of complex situations: children in foster homes; teens in halfway houses; well-dressed battered wives in quiet, nice neighborhoods; and drug-addicted parents in jail. Some days I wonder what I'm doing in their lives.

During a recent home visit, I realized once again why I chose the field of social work. A tiny young girl in a blue dress appeared at my side while I scanned her home and made mental notes for my report. She looked at me from what seemed to be the widest, most faraway brown eyes. Silently, she slid her small sticky hand into mine and leaned into the curve of my leg. While chatting with her young mother, who had a history of methamphetamine abuse and was now in recovery, I gave the little girl a hug and then watched as she crawled, smiling, into her mother's lap.

The inevitable fallout from social work is both the part I love -- helping people -- and the personal judgments I must make that inevitably change the lives of those people. Things were going well for the mother at the moment, but her drug history meant I might be reporting her to authorities again and moving her child to a foster home.


As for products spiked with herbal additives -- which may have drug-like properties -- it's anyone's guess how much you can safely consume or if they could interact with your medications.


These kinds of dilemmas can stress even a seasoned social worker, but I'm fascinated by people, and given my curious nature, this work seemed an ideal career option. The same holds true with this new column, in which I'll be discussing many of the complex issues that regular folks deal with every day: tag-team parenting, teen angst and rage, negative relationships, and the wear of stress on your life.

Over the years I've published a variety of articles examining the behavioral elements that impact our lives. Exploring common experiences and writing about solutions is also my goal with you here.

Let's face it, there are a multitude of behavioral and relationship issues that shape our identities and our lives. I will try to help you understand why we feel the way we do, what we should do when facing certain complex situations, and what happens when we, or someone we love, is not coping so well. I'll draw from my professional experience and my personal challenges to examine our greatest need of all: acceptance. My hope is that the exploration of our relationships, complex feelings, and family interactions will bring us closer to meeting that need.

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