Children’s Mental Health
New MSW grad Lila Teitelbaum Rhodes finds new career supporting preschoolers’ mental health
Lila Teitelbaum Rhodes, MSW ’21, was working on Wall Street on 9/11. That tragic event spurred her on to a new career as a teacher.
“I loved teaching and working with families and had every intention of staying in education. Then I had my first child and spent a decade raising the kiddos,” Rhodes recalls. “Somewhere in there I had an epiphany. I was still interested in families, children and systems that affect them, but I didn’t want to go back into teaching.”
She had two children by the time she applied to the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) to pursue a Denver Campus Master of Social Work with a concentration in health and wellness.
“I actually applied in secret. I didn’t tell anyone,” she says.
She arranged to take her first quarter classes all in one day per week, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. During her first clinical class at 3 p.m., she was distracted — that was when she typically picked her kids up from school. For the first time, they would go to bed without seeing her. The clinical class provided therapeutic training by having one student volunteer to be the patient while the rest of the class functioned as a therapist. Rhodes volunteered, sharing her concern about her children, aware that she was roughly the age of her classmates’ parents.
“The empathy, compassion and understanding that came from that room was one of the most amazing experiences I ever had,” she said. “I didn’t expect to find such connection with people who are so much younger.”
Since August 2020, Rhodes has interned with MotherWise Colorado. Led by founder and Executive Director Galena Rhoades, a University of Denver psychology research professor, MotherWise provides support and resources for new moms and pregnant women. As an MSW student intern, Lila Rhodes facilitated healthy relationship classes and managed a caseload of parents.
“She has helped the parents understand their struggles for their children with special needs and how to advocate on their behalf with schools and doctors,” says Collette Pella, family support coordinator for MotherWise Colorado. “She is compassionate and caring, always able to lend a listening ear to a parent who is concerned about their children.”
Clinical Professor Michael Talamantes says he has enjoyed Rhodes’ maturity and her perspective on life.
“When we discuss social work concepts in class, Lila consistently relates the knowledge with her real-life experiences, such as her internship work with young mothers at MotherWise, her relationship with her parents or how she is raising her children. Lila always offers a balanced practicality on life as she navigates being part of the sandwich generation [those caring for both their children and their aging parents],” Talamantes says.
Rhodes will soon embark on a full-time job as a mental health consultant with Ability Connection Colorado, a nonprofit that provides early childhood education, pathways to employment and parent-driven family support services for people with special needs. During her first year in the GSSW program, she interned with the organization, coordinating mental health support for Head Start preschoolers.
“Having an academic framework was what prepared me the most for this work. I had never before considered the theories behind family environment, family systems or therapeutic practices,” says Rhodes, who received a 1931 Legacy Scholarship and a Tallman Scholar Award. Attending GSSW was, she says, “one a-ha moment after the next.”