Social Work Spotlight: A Diverse Career

Elva has practiced various forms of psychotherapy for almost 25 years. After returning to college as a 40th birthday gift to herself, she found that psychology was a natural fit. With experience in social work and counseling psychology, Elva has used her career to help others work through their issues so they are better able to handle the challenges that may come.

“At this point in my work, I’m most enthusiastic when I can function as a Coach,” Elva said. “Many of my clients are ready for change and appreciate the opportunity to share their thoughts and explore the possibilities.” She enjoys seeing clients work through issues and independently coming up with solutions on their own. She also appreciates the opportunity to partner with interns as they develop their skills as therapists.

She has some good advice for her clients and the rest of us as well: understanding that we cannot control everything in our lives and that we can help lift each other up. “Things happen and we all need help at some point or another. We need to cultivate our ability to offer empathy as we work with people,” she explains. “Sometimes, just a smile, a ‘good morning’ will change the outcome of somebody’s day.”

Elva shared a story with us about a client she met in her corrections work. When she started out working with him, he was a very angry young man and was not open to what she had to say. During her time with him, they built a connection through their sessions. He was released from prison after about two years. “On his way out, he gave me a picture he drew of himself with chains representing his history of incarceration and a halo representing a change in his emotions and thinking resulting from our sessions,” Elva says. “He wrote ‘Thank you Elva for Listening.’ Whenever I’m tired, at the end of the day, I look at this picture.”

Not only does Elva have a valuable and rewarding career as a therapist, but she also had an entirely different career before that. At five years old, Elva was singing anywhere she could. She was performing in church, school, on the bus, and her local Penney’s department store. By nine years old, she was singing and recording with a gospel group called The Heavenly Tones and was considered the “nine-year-old gospel wonder” at a gospel concert at the Oakland Auditorium.

By 14, The Heavenly Tones recorded a 45 and an album, writing all the lyrics and music themselves. The female group included five talented singers ages 13 to 16 years old. The group included: Tramaine Davis, who went on to become Grammy-Award winning Gospel Artist Tramaine Hawkins, Mary Rand, who later recorded and performed as Mary Russell with her husband, Leon Russell, and Vaetta Steward, Sly Stone’s younger sister.

During this time, Elva also joined Vaetta and Mary singing background vocals for Sly’s recordings. Later, the three of them officially became “Little Sister” produced by Sly Stone, recording “You’re the One” and “Somebody’s Watching You.” They continued to tour and sing with Sly and the Family Stone for many years.

It’s amazing to hear about everything that Elva has accomplished and we’re happy to have her as part of the Supplemental Health Care family. Elva has touched many lives through her work as both a therapist and a singer. In honor of Social Work Month, help us thank Elva and all the other amazing professionals that impact so many others’ lives!