Joan Wheeler, M.S.W. ‘74, D.S.W. ‘86: One Doctor’s Prescription for a Healthy Career in Social Work

Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.


In deciding between pursuing a career in law or social work, Joan Wheeler, M.S.W. ‘74, D.S.W. ‘86, made a pragmatic choice: earning a master’s in social work permitted flexible part-time study. Her selection of Adelphi came from a friend’s recommendation to have a look at the university.  As a result of those two decisions, Dr. Wheeler has a rewarding and successful psychotherapy career spanning 45 years and counting, two additional academic achievements from Adelphi (Post Master’s Certificate in Clinical Practice, ‘82, and Doctor of Social Welfare, ‘86) and absolutely no regrets.

Joan credits Adelphi for providing the foundation for her diverse and meaningful work in psychotherapy and administration. While a student, she enjoyed the collaborative projects and camaraderie among her fellow classmates, as well as the personal access to professors Abe Laurie, Bruce Brown and Rosemary Lukton, who pushed her to realize her full potential.

Dr. Wheeler says the most gratifying part of her career is witnessing the positive changes she helps her patients to make in their lives. Through supervision, she has also influenced the development of numerous social workers. As Assistant to the Commissioner at the Nassau County Department of Mental Health, Dr. Wheeler directed two key award-winning programs: the Psychotherapeutic Program for Cancer Patients and the Families and the the Preschool Special Education Program. From children and teenagers, to couples and families, she has assisted so many through her distinctive approach to mental health services.

While Dr. Wheeler remains dedicated to her field, she recognizes that burnout is a serious issue in the social work discipline. It was the topic of her doctoral dissertation, and she has advice for current students to avoid this fate. Dr. Wheeler recommends taking advantage of all that Adelphi has to offer, in order to be exposed to different opinions and ideas. Once in the workforce, continue to be aware of trends that are significant for our society, such as drug addiction, health issues and gun control. Keeping abreast of relevant issues in her profession enables Dr. Wheeler to remain challenged and engaged.

Mental health seems to be a family affair–Joan’s husband, Dr. James Wheeler, also has a private practice. Together they often collaborate professionally with clients. In their free time, the Wheelers enjoy spending time with their two children and their spouses, and their six grandchildren.

Published April 2019

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