Donna Rhodes Emerson MSW, LCSW, Poet

Donna Emerson

Title: Social Worker, Counseling Instructor, (Retired)
Location: Petaluma, California, United States

Donna Emerson, LCSW, and Poet, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Health Care Professionals for dedication, achievements, and leadership in social work, education and poetry.

Ms. Emerson has had the good fortune of exploring a number of her interests through her work. For many years, she provided her services in schools, nursing homes, and various organizations as a licensed social worker. While growing up, her parents placed an emphasis on the golden rule; to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. With this guidance and a natural desire to help others, Ms. Emerson earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and psychology with honors in 1966 and earned an MSW in 1968. Both degrees were acquired from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1968, she was credentialed in pupil personnel services and received a California Registered Social Work certificate. Ms. Emerson then became licensed in clinical social work in California in 1973. Furthermore, she was board certified in clinical social work in 1987.

From 1968 to 1979, Ms. Emerson was among the faculty at the San Francisco Unified School District as a school social worker in the Special Education Diagnostic Center. She performed psycho-social evaluations for 85 visually handicapped children, 43 aphasic children and 125 home teaching children, as well as provided school placements and follow up visits. In each of her programs, Ms. Emerson developed parent support groups. In 1973, Ms. Emerson began working as a psychotherapist, LCSW in private practice. She remained at this practice until 2015 and in that time aided clients in individual and groups with diverse sexual, socioeconomic, ethnic and disability issues. In 1979, she accepted the role of Supervisor of Social Services at the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind where she oversaw a staff of eight, handled client caseloads and provided short and long term counseling, crisis intervention, hiring, and team and agency coordination. While working with the blind was her specialty, Ms. Emerson also was a psychotherapist (LCSW) with many other individuals and couples, children, elderly, and adolescents.

Between 1981 to 1996, Ms. Emerson worked as a medical social worker at Novato Community Hospital, and Petaluma Valley Hospital, utilizing her skills and expertise to aid in acute inpatient care, home care, hospice services and facilitation of a cancer support group. In 1994 and until 1998, she worked as a full-time social worker and Team Building Specialist at the Clarke Home Nursing Service. In addition to these positions, Ms. Emerson endeavored to help future generations of social workers as an educator. From 1984 to 1990, she worked as an adjunct instructor in the Psychology and Counseling Departments at Mendocino College. From 1988 to 2006, she served in a similar role in the Counseling Department at Santa Rosa Junior College. From 2006 to 2015, Ms. Emerson taught in the Human Services Program at the institution.

One achievement of particular note in her career was escorting a group of visually impaired teenagers to meet with San Francisco Supervisor Dianne Feinstein. The aim was to elicit support on public transportation and integration in schools. The teenagers were successful in that meeting and made a positive impact to improve conditions for the visually impaired on public transportation and in schools. In 1980 Eleanor Faye, MD of the New York Lighthouse asked Ms. Emerson to write a chapter, “Low Vision: Adjusting to Vision Loss” for her national textbook for ophthalmologists, “Clinical Low Vision.”

Ms. Emerson has been writing throughout her entire career, and since her retirement from education and social work, she has used that time to continue expanding her craft. She is the author of 2019’s “Beside the Well” from Cherry Grove Collections and the recently published “The Place of Our Meeting” from Finishing Line Press. “The Place of Our Meeting” was nominated for a California Book Award in 2018. Ms. Emerson received an Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award and the Editor’s Choice Award for her 2015 and 2017 poems, respectively, “First Day of Kindergarten and Eleven Years Later,” and “Shining Brown Hair.” Furthermore, she has published “This Water,” “Wild Mercy,” “Body Rhymes, “Following Hay,” and a variety of other works which have garnered accolades and praise. Her book covers are photographs she has taken as a freelance photographer. She maintains affiliation with the Marin Poetry Center, the Healdsburg Literary Guild and the Occidental Center for the Arts. More about her poetry and books can be found on her website:

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