Danielle Buchanan ('12, MSSW) | Mental Health Specialist

danielle buchanan

Yamhill County Adult Mental Health, McMinnville, Oregon

Not only did Danielle Buchanan learn how to practice social work while at ACU, she also was equipped with a community of support and research opportunities that paved the way for a competitive residency at the Mayo Clinic. Danielle was one of only two applicants nationwide selected for the summer 2012 program at the Mayo Clinic, which is known as a worldwide leader in medical care, research and education.

A day in the life at Mayo Clinic

Because of her special interest in working with children, Danielle was placed in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit during her residency. Here she worked with children ages 5 to 18 needing temporary inpatient psychiatric hospitalization for mental health stabilization.

She describes her daily experience: "Every morning I met with the doctors and nurses who made up the treatment team. We visited patients and discussed their cases with them and any present family members. In the afternoons, I spent time completing psychosocial histories of new admissions, brief individual and family therapy with clients, and discharge planning and coordination to help arrange community services for children preparing to leave."

One of the greatest challenges of the [Mayo Clinic] residency was hearing of the heartbreak that often brought people to our door. I truly believe that my faith as a follower of Christ is what allows me to work with people feeling deep hurt.

Thanks to an internship she had completed at Hendrick Medical Center for her ACU graduate program, Danielle entered the residency with knowledge of hospital systems and medical terminology. However, knowledge does not always prepare for reality. Danielle says some of her hardest cases at the Mayo Clinic came from working with youth going through their first psychotic break.  

"It was hard watching families mourn the loss of some of the futures that they imagined for their children," she recalls. "But it was also amazing to watch their love for one another as they began to create new dreams and a new vision for how to support one another."

Along with challenges, come rewards. The most rewarding part of Danielle's residency was working with these children and families. "I loved watching them reconnect and learn to communicate in new ways," she says. "Our unit was an opportunity for families on the run to stop and listen to each other a little better."

Benefits of a Christian foundation

Buchanan, who now works as a mental health specialist for the Yamhill County Adult Mental Health in Oregon, found ACU's social work program "a safe place to bring difficult cases and brainstorm out-of-the-box ways to help our clients," says Danielle. "It was fun to be a part of a cohort of passionate people working in different areas of our field. I learned so much from the experiences of my classmates and professors."  

ACU also prepared Danielle for her career by providing her with a Christ-centered education. "Christian higher education gave me a place to process and explore how my faith informs my practice as a social worker," she says.

Because of this foundation, Danielle easily incorporates her faith with her daily encounters with people in stressful situations.

"One of the greatest challenges of the [Mayo Clinic] residency was hearing of the heartbreak that often brought people to our door," says Danielle. "I truly believe that my faith as a follower of Christ is what allows me to work with people feeling deep hurt."

Social work: the helping hand

Danielle chose to pursue social work, she says, because "I loved the idea of a career where I could spend every day reaching out to others who are looking for a helping hand."

I loved the idea of a career where I could spend every day reaching out to others who are looking for a helping hand.

She continues to serve others in her role as a mental health specialist for Yamhill County Adult Mental Health, McMinnville, Ore. She is a therapist and case manager for 60 individuals in her county with mental health challenges.

During the last five years, Danielle has worked in a variety of roles including local non-profit resource management, school counseling, child welfare, hospital social work and psychiatric inpatient social work. She offers advice to those interested in pursuing social work: "All of my past experiences have been vastly different and served me well. Social work is a broad field; don't be afraid to explore it and try a variety of placements in internship settings." 

Social work provides Danielle an opportunity to shine the light of Christ both to others and through the person God made in her.

"The values of social work line up with my heart and the person that I have been created to be," says Danielle. "I am proud to defend those values: service, social justice, dignity and worth of all people, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence."

Find out more about the ACU School of Social Work

Learn more about ACU's Master of Science in Social Work degree

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MSSW students are able to use their strengths and interests in their experiences at ACU to pursue the best career path.
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The faculty in the Social Work department connect with students on an individual basis and help to prepare them to make an impact in their career fields.
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MSSW students pursue a variety of different areas of the field through internships.
Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes