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Betsy Horton


Posted March 7th, 2016

The name Betsy Horton is synonymous in Minnesota and nationally with the best in clinical social work. When Betsy, a dedicated AAPCSW-MN steering committee member, told us last month that the radiation to her liver cancer she'd hoped could allow her to live another year was ineffective and she was moving to hospice care, we wanted to celebrate with her — while she was still with us--her tireless professional and personal contributions. We therefore invited AAPCSW members to join us in sharing memories of Betsy. As I read these heartfelt messages from national and local colleagues to Betsy, she was deeply grateful. Her daughters also asked me to thank AAPCSW members for their warm messages that meant so much to their mother. Betsy also enjoyed many visits with colleagues and friends who expressed their appreciation to her in person as they said goodbye to her. She died peacefully with her daughters by her bedside. Though Betsy can no longer be with us, she will always be in our hearts and minds.

Raised in Summit, New Jersey, in 1955 Betsy graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Mt. Holyoke College in English and continued contributing her elegant writing and communication skills to enhance countless efforts promoting our profession. In 1962, she received her MSW degree from Simmons College, practiced in Boston and Philadelphia, and in the mid-70's, moved to Minneapolis with her 2 daughters, Laura and Amy, and her physician-psychoanalyst husband, Keith.

As an enthusiastic member of the Minnesota Society for Clinical Social Work for nearly 4 decades, Betsy chaired numerous committees and served as president in 1984-86. She graciously agreed to be drafted again to serve as co-president in 1995-97 in order to help fill a leadership gap and rebuild a core group of future organizational leaders. The leadership recruitment efforts Betsy helped to develop successfully attracted a strong group of new Society leaders. The leadership momentum she helped to build then continues today to help ensure the future of Minnesota's clinical social work society.

Her grace, optimistic spirit, diplomacy, and passion for reducing interpersonal competition within the psychoanalytic community helped our Minnesota psychoanalytic community move forward even as she worked tirelessly to help found and strengthen the Minnesota Society for Clinical Work (MSCSW). She advocated for the formation of a MN Coalition of Social Workers that could present a united front to the legislature regarding the critical need for social work licensure. She contributed significantly to developing Minnesota's clinical social work licensure statute. She supported numerous young professionals seeking LICSW licensure by writing and recently revising the clinical social work licensure review course and co-teaching it for many years. She graciously mentored and inspired countless colleagues.

On a national level, Betsy was also highly respected. She served as President of the Federation for Societies of Clinical Social Work (now the Clinical Social Work Association); board member of the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABE); and she was honored as a Distinguished Practitioner by the National Academy of Practice.

Over the past year—even after losing her husband and beginning to contend with her own health problems—Betsy's keen mind and generosity continued inspiring us. I loved serving with Betsy on the Minnesota Department of Health's workgroup on electronic records privacy and security. Her comments were always insightful and useful to state leaders in helping them to understand this complex issue. I was also moved in a AAPCSW-MN chapter seminar on transference in supervision to hear Betsy share a humble but eloquent story from her own clinical practice— about what she'd learned from a patient during what she ultimately discovered was an enactment of transference and counter transference. It was one of the most thoughtful illustrations I have heard yet of these difficult dynamic concepts—depicting how such enactment unexpectedly emerges, feels chaotic and potentially dangerous, yet when recognized, can be addressed collaboratively with the patient and ultimately used to deepen the therapeutic alliance.

As our AAPCSW-MN co-chair, Kathleen Fargione, put it so well, “Betsy's wisdom, leadership, compassion and common sense will be missed by all.

~ Ellen T. Luepker, MSW, LP, LICSW, (Minneapolis, MN), March 7, 2016

Betsy is an elegant human being who, by way of her diplomacy, kindness, wisdom and humanness helped me feel welcomed into the profession and leadership. She set a powerful example for me.  I told her that her initials are all over my career and, therefore, my life.

~ Clayton Sankey, MSW, LICSW, BCD, (St. Paul, MN), March 7, 2016

As I post this MSCSW Ethics Seminar, I'm reminded of our dear colleague, Betsy Horton. Betsy fiercely stands for strong ethics in everything she touches as a Clinical Social Worker. My thoughts are with Betsy and her family.

~ Beverly Caruso, LICSW, (Minneapolis, MN), February 9, 2016

When we last spoke, Betsy said she was most proud of her licensing course manual. She was a leader in creating social work licensing, and then guided a generation of social workers through this process to becoming LICSWs.

~ Anne Gearity, PhD, LICSW, (Minneapolis, MN), March 10, 2016

As I read with great sadness the email of Betsy's passing, I glanced up on my office wall to see my License from the Minnesota Board of Social Work. While over the years efforts had been made to achieve Social Work licensure in Minnesota, none had ever come close to succeeding. In the ′80's another more concerted effort was made, that, while a very joint movement, was led in every way by Betsy Horton. She was an early chair of the Coalition of social work organizations that allowed a single voice from the field, and ultimately she led a successful legislative effort. Without her sound judgment, political savvy and leadership, it is doubtful we could have succeeded.

Betsy encouraged me to join the Society in the first year of its existence. She was President when she encouraged me to become Membership Chair and later President. She was then, having been on the Board of the National Federation of Societies for Clinical Social Work as Minnesota President, the President of that organization. It was during her period of involvement and influence in that national body that almost every state with a functioning Clinical Society achieved Social Work licensure and in many cases insurance parity with the other disciplines.

She taught license test preparation courses to countless numbers of aspiring licensure test takers for most of the history of the license prep course, a joint effort of the Clinical Society and NASW.

There is really no way to accurately convey the profound influence her leadership and wisdom had on the field of Clinical Social Work, both in Minnesota and in the Nation.

~ Chad Breckenridge, PhD, LICSW, (Minneapolis, MN), March 10, 2016

Every generation of every profession has its movers and shakers, its heroes. In the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's, the work of Betsy's generation of social workers was to become recognized as a true profession and to show that recognition through licensure.  Every state that eventually got licensure had people who led the charge. Occasionally, those state leaders became national leaders and brought our profession along with them.  Betsy was one of those heroes, state and national. Although her presidency of the then National Federation of Societies for Clinical Social Work, the forerunner of the CSWF and CSWA, preceded my joining the board, Betsy was still on the board as past-president. Her grace and presence were evident to anyone new to the board. More importantly, Betsy lent her time and energy to advance the profession. She is and continues to be a model for everyone who knows her, past and present.

This is sad news, but also a celebration of what we've become as a profession: Licensed in all states, recognized as a profession with integrity, valued as essential health care professionals. This happened because of Betsy and people like her. Let this be a call to arms to the next generation to not let all we've accomplished slide. Involvement and service continues to be vital in this new and uncertain healthcare world. Who will step up and be the leaders?  Hopefully it's someone like Betsy, a true model for what social work should be. Thank you for all you've done.

~ Keith Myers. (Seattle, WA), February 8, 2016

I have known Betsy personally for an awful lot of years, and am quite moved by the news that she is entering into hospice care. I especially liked her ability to move seamlessly (probably it was harder for her than it looked) from old-style conceptual frameworks to contemporary thinking. She often was found within arenas of fractious discourse but it was not Betsy who took sides or added fuel to the fire.  She was a bridger of gaps and an optimistic purveyor of the value of integration of points of view. She had that “meta” approach down pat. Cheers to Betsy Horton! A hero to our profession!

~ Howard Snooks, PhD, (Boulder, CO), February 8, 2016

So many times you have answered my questions and steered me in the right direction. Thank you so much.

~ Denny McGihon, PhD. LCSW. (Denver, CO), February 8, 2016

Dear Betsy, It hurts my heart to hear that your health is declining. You have been a true beacon to me of the kind of clinical social work advocate that I have tried to be since we first met all those years ago in 1993 at an NMCOP, now AAPCSW, conference. Your intelligence, authenticity, and warmth were, and are, an amazing combination.

When I started my work as an advocate in 1995, the first - and best - document that I read was your elegant annotated bibliography written for the National Federation of Societies of Clinical Social Work (later to become the Clinical Social Work Federation in 1998 and the Clinical Social Work Association in 2006). Defending Mental Health Treatment: Hard Facts for Clinicians which you edited summarized all the existing literature on coverage of mental health treatment provided by clinical social workers at a time when there were still 20 states that did not have licensure and many insurance plans that refused to cover LCSWs independently. Your categorization of the financial issues driving restricted mental health care; restriction of reimbursement for clinical social workers as providers; and health care coverage by employers; are in many ways reflected in the issues that we are facing today. While all these issues may seem self-evident today, they were far from well thought-out when you put them together. Fortunately, we have made progress in most of the areas you described, but the template you laid out was a wonderful road map to the changes that needed, and still need, to be made.

I don't know how I will do the work I have shared with you these past decades without all the posts from you about new articles, alerts about what other associations are doing, and just great common sense about what we should be considering.

I am so grateful to Ellen for suggesting we let you know how much you have meant to us. Being able to thank you publicly means a lot to me.  I hope those who have not been as immersed in the advocacy world, as well as the clinical world, understand a little about what a debt of gratitude all clinical social workers owe you.  You are a gem. Warmest regards.

~ Laura Groshong, MSW, (Seattle, WA), February 9, 2016

I first met Betsy when I served on the Federation of Clinical Social Work board as a representative from WA state (1989-1991). I was a fairly new social worker and was welcomed so graciously by Betsy. We had quite a few conversations and email correspondence in years past. Many others have spoken eloquently about her extensive leadership in our profession; I echo these accolades. My brief communication is simply to say how kind, gracious, and welcoming Betsy was to me and supportive of my development as a clinical social worker.

~ Bill Etnyre, PhD, LICSW, (Seattle, WA), February 9, 2016

Thank you for sharing so much about Betsy Horton, both her life and work, with all of us on the AAPCSW list serv. Your comment, Keith, reflecting on Betsy's commitment to our field propels us to continue our involvement in promoting psychoanalytic social work for all as the best way of honoring Betsy.

All best to our Minnesota colleagues, those who know and care for Betsy, and of course to you, Betsy.

~ Judith Aronson, PhD, LICSW, (Evanston, IL), February 9, 2016

Betsy, No words could ever express the gratitude that the clinical social work profession owes you. Your commitment, determination, wisdom and grace have been an inspiration to me and anyone who has seen you in action, especially during the licensure struggles of the Clinical Social Work Federation years. You have always steered the ship in the direction of what's best for our profession. Keith summed it up so eloquently. All of us who worked to advance the clinical social work profession have nothing but respect and love for you. I'd hate to think where we would be without the Betsy Horton's of the world. Thank you,

~ John Chiaramonte, LCSW, BCD, (Summit, NJ, February 9, 2016

Hats off to Betsy Horton! My years with Betsy, along with many others, go way back to Federation days. What I remember most are Betsy's dedication and her unfailing work ethic. Since knowing her, I have always associated Betsy, Minnesota, and hard work as going hand-in-hand. In fact, it would come as a shock to me if I were to ever discover a Minnesotan who was not a hard worker!

Social work clinicians, newer to the field, have no concept of what it was like when, in order to see a patient privately, one had to be in the employ of a physician or psychologist. (Not that many years back, folks…) We really need to remind ourselves of the professional debt we owe to pioneers like Betsy who gave so much of themselves  in order for clinical social workers to get the respect, and parity with other mental health clinicians, of which they had been so deserving.

Through the years since then, Betsy has added so generously to this list-serv, so often with a kind word or show of support for others. What a role model for us all. Betsy, we salute you for being the extraordinary role-model for each and every one of us.

~ Warmly, William S. Meyer, MSW, BCD, (Durham, NC), February 10, 2016

While I did not have the social work connection with Betsy, all I can say is that they don't come any finer and I remember her graciousness and positive outlook under most adverse situations concerning the politics of the analytic community. Whenever I met her I always felt embraced and welcomed.

If you should have a chance to speak with her please tell her how much positive energy she brought to the world and how kind and honest she is. I remember this well. She is a gem and I am devastated to hear that she is so ill.

~ Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin, PhD, (Tel Aviv, Israel), February 10, 2016

I am so touched by all the messages to Betsy of concern, of love, and of heart-felt appreciation of her myriad contributions to our profession. The words used to describe her personally and professionally resonated with me. What stands out in all the emails is how others saw her as a person whose actions reflected personal and professional integrity in addition to grace, tact, and kindness. Her moral ethical compass was ever present and it guided her responses and reactions to situations.

It was with great sadness that I read about her health challenges. The grace and the courage that she demonstrated, when she let us know about the loss of her husband and her illness, was so Betsy. We all can honor her by our striving to maintain the high professional values and ethics she espoused and practiced.

Betsy, I shall continue to hold you in my thoughts.

~ Barbara Holzman, LCSW, BCD, (Phoenix, AZ), February 11, 2016