About Me

Quick facts, philosophy & origins   

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Image by Stephen Walker


Rustic Beach Path


my life's work

Since 1977, I've worked in community mental health and private practice. In my 20's, I lost my parents, moved across the country, & was managing a divorce - All while raising three kids. A licensed clinical social worker helped me, and I decided that would be my future path.

master's degree

I began my undergraduate work at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. Transferring to CUA, I earned my BA in psychology with a minor in philosophy. I later received

my MSW. I'm still, and forever will be, a Michigan State football fan though.

Author & expert

I served as the first and only adopted person on the Model States Adoption Legislative Procedures & Advisory Panel. My professional experience includes a post-adoption clinical practice, clincial supervision, in-service training, & seminars, lectures, publications, and interviews with over a thousand adoptive family members.




 ...was originally based on a medical model of "disease". I believe this model has led, in some instances, to pathologizing and consequently even stigmatizing a variety of human behaviors -- as far an entire class or group of people. Adopted people, homeless people, or women that have been sexually assaulted are among the many hurt by the mindset of pathologizing mental health.

 I do not say this to suggest this is true for all mental health conditions, but rather the past and present tendency for mental health professionals to see almost all human behaviors as symptoms of a disease, possibly blinding them to accepting a different, more normal, less pathologizing perspective.




Sandy Beach

As a therapist & social worker

 I believe understanding an individual’s feelings, needs, and experiences, and how those things are related the society at large, is paramount to helping any client I work with. I believe our mental states are part of our surroundings, because society, like an ecosystem, impacts us in ways we are just beginning to understand and recognize. rather attributing all the blame to the individual first and foremost, as the medical model of "disease" often does, I use my knowledge to see beyond just a diagnosis and into causes of what my client's are facing. I provide solutions and understanding to my utmost abilities.

Pebble Stone Beach

 In my mind I can still hear the reassuring sound of the foghorn warning folks to take care, or action, or change course.

My roots lay in the mid-west. 

Winter meant snow, sledding, and ice-skating.

Summer meant frequent trips to the beach.

The “Big Red Lighthouse” you see on my website is close to Lake Michigan - the beaches and sand dunes I know & love.




In a strong and loving adoptive family. My brother Dick came first. I arrived almost four years later. What made us strong was that all of us accepted that our family was different - that adoption was different. And, that when talking about adoption, truth mattered. 

we understood

My parents needed us, & we needed them. This mutual awareness provided us a shared sense of equality. our understanding forged adoptive family love, trust, and strength. Unfortunately, my brother and I lost our parents Joe and Anne Wolf when we were still in our early twenties. 


Early on

I fantasized becoming a nurse, reading a series of books about young visiting nurses.

I later volunteered as a "Candy Striper" at local hospitals. Nevertheless, my interest eventually turned more philosophy, and social sciences, including sociology and psychology. 


by my 30's

Divorced, happily remarried, and with four children, I recalled having earlier sought professional help from a skilled social worker. a pediatrician I knew at the time referred me to her, which led me to study to clinical social work.

I began

undergraduate work at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. I later moved to the East coast,


And earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, with a psychology major and philosophy minor from the Catholic University of America (CUA), in Washington, D.C. I returned there to earn a Master of Social Work degree with a clinical casework major.

Now, I reside in Maryland, with my wonderful husband of 54 years, enjoying my children and grandchildren.

Joanne W. Small's Bethesda Maryland Home Office Location

7111 Fairfax Rd

Bethesda, MD 20814

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