Rachael works as a clinical social worker at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs


Current location: East Brunswick, NJ

Year graduated: 2009

Student Organization Involvement: Sigma Delta Tau, Ozone House (Crisis Line Counselor), Child and Family Life Art Therapy Intern at Mott's Children's Hospital, Prison Creative Arts Project

Other jobs held or graduate programs attended since graduation: Master’s in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania, Hampton Hospital (Psychiatric Social Work Intern), Catholic Charities (Clinician II)


Rachael Miller works for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a clinical social worker in mental health clinical research. Her work focuses on testing the effectiveness of psychotherapy interventions on different populations to see if they’re effective and if they could potentially be dispensed throughout all of the VAs in the country. She is currently part of two specific research projects:


1.    Testing the effectiveness of an intervention called Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Suicide (MBCT-S). They are working specifically with veterans who have had a suicide attempt within the last year, examining if MBCT-S can effectively reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviors with this population.

2.    Treating veterans who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and depression using telehealth Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Due to mobility issues with Parkinson’s, it can be difficult to travel to a treatment facility. This study aims to address these barriers and the unique needs of this population.


KC: What made you want to work with veterans specifically?


RM: There’s something about the population that resonates with me. I specialized in trauma work during graduate school and many of the veterans I come in contact with have experienced a traumatic event in their lives. Veterans have sacrificed for our country, and this is my way of giving back and doing something to help them.  


KC: What other professional experiences have you had since you graduated from Michigan?


RM: I received my Master’s in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania. For my first job out of graduate school, I worked in a residential treatment center for adolescent girls. Like my current job, my work there also focused on mental health issues; I provided individual, group, and family therapy.


KC: How do you feel your education and extracurricular activities at Michigan have influenced your career path?


RM: I received my Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in the School of Art & Design but minored in psychology through LSA. During my time as an undergrad, I took many outreach artwork classes and was a contributor to the Prison Creative Arts project. It was wonderful and eye-opening to go into prisons and schools in Detroit. I also volunteered at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in their Child and Family Life program, as well as at Ozone House, working specifically on the hotlines for homeless youth. I would highly recommend that students interested in community service get involved here – Ozone House is a really wonderful organization!


All of those volunteer experiences, combined with my academic experiences, led me in the direction of wanting to help others in my career. At Michigan, when I was trying to figure out where to go with my art degree, I really wanted to be an art therapist. However, with the changing economy when I graduated, I switched to social work in order to broaden my options and goals. The outreach opportunities that were provided to me at Michigan really helped to expand my professional experiences and make my background more applicable to various populations that I’ve ended up working with since then.


KC: What are some other career options for people who have obtained a Master’s in Social Work?


RM: There are so many options! It’s an incredibly versatile degree. With a MSW, you can get involved in policy, direct practice, clinical, or macro-level work. Under the branch of clinical work, there are options to work in schools, nonprofits, hospitals, private practices to name a few. There is also a lot of room to switch populations.


KC: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of your job?


RM: My favorite aspect of the job is helping others. It’s very rewarding work.  I go home at the end of the day knowing I’m making an impact and directly helping others.


My least favorite… my job requires a lot of self-care. Hearing about a lot of trauma day in and day out can be emotionally taxing at times, so self-care is crucial. I would encourage anyone going into this field to make sure you establish a work-life balance.


KC: What advice would you give to current students hoping to follow in a similar career path?


RM: Michigan offers so many opportunities for volunteer work and outreach. I would really encourage anyone interested in pursuing a similar field to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities. Also, I would encourage students to make an effort to meet more people and network!