Licensed Clinical Social Worker Certified Oncology Social Worker
Area of Focus:
Relationships and family systems: individuals, couples, families; adults, teens, and kids
Psycho-oncology—supporting the social, emotional, and mental health of people who have cancer, as well their loved ones
Chronic illness, from both the patient and caregiver perspective
Grief in its many forms, including ambiguous losses and transitions throughout life
Serving LGBTQ+ communities, with a focus on identify development and family dynamics
MSW, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2007 BSW, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 2006
Carissa Hodgson earned her Master of Social Work degree from UW Madison in 2007. Her graduate research and internship focused on transgender identities and family dynamics, which has been carried through her work and professional interests. She began her career working at a day-treatment program for adolescents who were experiencing co-occurring mental health and alcohol/drug use challenges. For two years she absorbed the techniques used by her mentors, pulling from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Psychodynamic Theory, Neuro-linguistic Programming, Bioenergetic Therapy, Internal Family Systems Theory, and Choice Theory. Working with adolescents one-on-one, facilitating support groups, creating recreational therapy groups, and conducting family therapy sessions gave her the opportunity to practice many different interventions and therapy modalities.
Carissa’s work with cancer survivors and their families began in 2008 when she started facilitating groups for teens who had loved ones with cancer. She was drawn to the work since her father died of lung cancer when she was seven. In 2009 she became Program Manager at Gilda’s Club Madison where her passion for psycho-oncology took root. Psychoeducation, mindfulness, and Solution-Focused Techniques were added to her therapeutic toolbox. In a position that combined clinical work and administrative responsibilities, she became interested in research, education, outreach, and advocacy. She became affiliated with the Association of Oncology Social Workers (AOSW) in 2013 when she was accepted to the Excellence in Cancer Education and Leadership (ExCEL) Research Program where she conducted research on the effectiveness of a kid support program for children who had a parent or loved one with cancer. Her competencies in supporting children and teens affected by cancer strengthened over the years and she was invited to become a co-chair of the AOSW Youth, Families, and Cancer Special Interest Group in 2018.
Carissa’s expertise in cancer, caregiving, grief, and loss has led to many invitations to speak at local, regional and national conferences. She has spoken at conferences with the Cancer Support Community, Association of Oncology Social Workers, and Triage Cancer, where she sits on the Speakers Bureau. Her presentations have spanned from agency in-services to professional continuing education workshops to community outreach.
Carissa has written articles for national cancer organizations and periodicals. Her newest project is co-authoring a chapter for the first edition of the Oncology and Palliative Social Work: Psychosocial Care for People Coping with Cancer textbook published by Oxford University Press. She has been sought out by various media outlets for her clinical opinions and expertise.
Carissa is an instructor at the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin Madison where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on generalist practice with individuals, families, and groups, and grief and loss. She supervises graduate student interns in social work, counseling, and art therapy and continues to act as a mentor to professionals in the field.
Carissa has been providing psychotherapy to individuals, couples, and families since 2011 when she and her wife opened their part-time private practice. In response to the growing need of people to access mental health services remotely, she started offering teletherapy in 2020.
Association of Oncology Social Workers (AOSW)
Youth, Families and Cancer Special Interest Group, Co-Chair
“The ‘Outsiders’—How to Support Siblings of Children Who Have Cancer,” OncoLink, September 2019
“Fitting Cancer Into the School Year,” Coping Magazine, July/August 2019
“How Do I Tell My Kids I Have Cancer?” Coping Magazine, March/April 2019