Graduate Profile: Savyon Lang, Wurzweiler School of Social Work
A common spirit runs throughout Yeshiva University: the mandate to matter.
Students of all ages and backgrounds come here to pursue a range of professional and personal dreams, from scientific research and medicine to law, Jewish education or public policy. Our students seek to harness their unique talents and YU education to make a lasting impact on the world around them. This spring, when they graduate from YU, these new alumni will hit the ground running.
In the weeks leading up to Commencement, YU News will feature one remarkable graduate from each school, reflecting, in their own words, on their time here, their passions and their dreams for the future.
Meet the Class of 2013.
Name: Savyon Lang
Hometown: Somers, NY
School: Wurzweiler School of Social Work
Passion: Supporting deaf and hard of hearing populations
How did you decide to go into social work?
My sister and I are hard of hearing. All my life, people have been fighting to ensure that our needs are met—speech therapists, speech pathologists, audiologists, special education teachers, my mom and dad. Even my hearing brother learned Cued Speech, a phonemically-based hand supplement to language, to better communicate with my sister and me. I have been touched by the love, acceptance, help and care I have been shown and really felt that I needed to give back as well.
My mother is a psychologist who worked from home and growing up I always talked to her patients in the driveway. They’d tell me, “You have this great aura—I feel like I can talk to you about anything.” That surprised me. In high school, I took a psychology course and was fascinated by the social learning theory that children mimic or imitate adults. The idea intrigued me so much that I continued my study of psychology in college before deciding to pursue social work in graduate school.
I chose to attend Wurzweiler because it offered an in-depth understanding of what social work is and how to effectively apply social work practices in field placements. The program here really focuses on mentoring you so you can do real social work with the benefit of an adviser and supervisor.
Currently, I’m working as an intern at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in their Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program in White Plains, New York. In the future, I’d like to improve my sign language and earn my Licensed Clinical Social Worker certificate so I can open up my own practice to provide services to the deaf and hard of hearing populations and beyond. I don’t believe in limiting myself to one specific group because I like to learn new things and challenge myself every day.
What challenges do the hard of hearing or deaf communities face and how has your background uniquely equipped you to work with this population?
I was flattered to learn I was the first hard of hearing or deaf professional to be working in my internship program, but I also felt bad. A lot of my clients tell me, “I’m so happy you’re my therapist because I don’t want to work with hearing professionals.” They feel I understand them more based on our similar experiences. I find the deaf and hard of hearing community challenging because it’s very unstudied and misunderstood.
I would like to advocate for this community and empower them to reach out to ensure their needs are met. For example, insurance should be covering certain things, like therapy sessions, which Medicare or Medicaid limit. It’s hard for my clients to pay out of pocket if they’re not working, and it can be hard for them to find work without treatment.
One of my clients, an eight-year-old, has been struggling to accept her identity as someone with hearing loss. She’s ashamed and doesn’t want to wear her hearing aids. I needed to help her realize that the hearing aids are helping her. She goes to a mainstream school where she has a teacher who’s hard of hearing, so I said, “Maybe it will help you to speak to her, because even though she struggled she still made it.”
I also told her that I struggled when I was a kid, but I learned that my cochlear implants helped me hear. And I’d come up with a name for them. I’d tell her, “Your hearing aids are like a butterfly—they’re helping you fly, they’re giving you wings.” She changed the metaphor and said, “No, they’re helping me feel like a superwoman.” Then she named my cochlear implants, too. That really touched me. I saw that she was improving and learning how to identify herself as a person with hearing loss, and hopefully by working with me she has a positive model as well.
What courses or professors at Wurzweiler have made an impact on you?
Many of my professors at Wurzweiler have been supportive, inspirational and great teachers. Most recently, I’ve really learned a lot from “Clinical Practice: Individual and Family” with Dr. Nancy Beckerman, who is also my mentor and adviser. She’s amazing because she really provides you with intervention techniques you can use right away in your internship or social work, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
I use CBT a lot. I like it because we always have something in our cognition that we think is either positive or negative; I think the problem is that society is very focused on negative things, and people like my clients absorb that. They think, “Oh, I can’t do this,” or “That person hates me.” CBT focuses on changing those negative thoughts based on the behaviors and emotions that my clients are demonstrating and feeling. Once you can work with the client on changing that, their emotions and behaviors also change in a good way. I find CBT especially successful with the deaf and hard of hearing, because they often aren’t treated well by hearing people and develop a bias because of that.
Wurzweiler gave me an opportunity to teach people about deaf and hard of hearing populations and put me in a program where I can work with that community. For example, a few weeks ago I gave a presentation on my internship to my class. I was talking about how I co-lead a group for this population, and my colleagues were all fascinated—they had no idea how to work with the deaf or hard of hearing. Dr. Beckerman told me afterward, “You should teach everyone how they can work with this group.” That was very flattering to me. I had taught them that it’s not just about me working with deaf or hard of hearing populations—everyone can bring their own backgrounds to social work to help people like them overcome the same obstacles they’ve faced.