Staff Focus: Amy Miller, School Social Worker, Homewood Center
March 7th, 2023
Amy Miller began her career in the mental health field in 1998, when she worked in Sheppard Pratt Hospital’s Trauma Disorder Unit. She later became a licensed clinical social worker and worked in a variety of in- and out-patient settings. She later served as manager of Howard County’s Mobile Crisis Team.
Today, Miller is one of four licensed school social workers at HCPSS’ Homewood Center, where she serves as a leader of the school’s Bridges Program. In that capacity, Miller provides therapy to students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) who struggle with social and emotional challenges ranging from anxiety and depression to autism, mood disorders, and psychiatric conditions that affect their well-being and academic performance.
“My role is to support students in developing the social and emotional skills they need to be able to focus on learning in school,” she explains. “In some cases, that involves helping students identify their emotional triggers; in other cases, it involves teaching students coping strategies and working with them to implement strategies in real time.”
At the core of Miller’s work is relationship building.
“I try to find out what motivates students and what they feel they are good at, so I can use that information to help build a plan to help them.”
Miller also works to build relationships with her students’ parents.
As she notes, “Building rapport with clients—in this case students and families—is essential in establishing a trusting therapeutic relationship so that students feel safe, comfortable and brave enough to face tough challenges and situations. It is the number one predictor of successful treatment!”
Miller regularly reaches out to parents to check in and discuss a student’s progress. By keeping those lines of communication open, Miller says she and the parents can ensure they are on the same page and are working together toward shared goals for the student.
In addition, Miller builds and maintains relationships with external service providers with whom her students work.
“Different providers have different roles to play in supporting our students. As a school social worker, my role is focused on helping students meet their social/objectives in a school setting. An external provider could have a very different focus. By keeping each other informed about the work we’re doing and the progress and/or challenges we are seeing, we can find ways to collaborate and better help the student achieve their goals.”
In addition to her therapy-based work, Miller works closely with her social work and psychologist colleagues to serve as a resource for Homewood staff, providing trainings and guidance on assorted mental health issues.
“We try to provide staff with the information and tools they need to better understand the social/emotional challenges our students face, as well as how to best support them,” she explains.
Miller and her colleagues also organize regular events for parents of Homewood students.
“Homewood doesn’t have a PTA like other schools, so our parents don’t have a built-in way to connect as they do at other schools. Instead, our clinical team holds evening events where our parents can come, talk, and learn together,” Miller says.
The events, which typically are held in the evening to accommodate parents’ work schedules, often feature presentations by a community group and the clinical team, as well as opportunities for parents to meet and support each other.
While her job is demanding, Miller says it is a great fit for her.
“There are certainly tough days. But being in a position where I can help students and families makes it all worthwhile.”