March is National Social Work Month. According to the National Association of Social Workers, this month, “is an opportunity for social workers across the country and their allies to turn the spotlight on the profession and highlight the important contributions they make to society.” For this reason we thought it would be the prefect time to spotlight one of the amazing social workers we have on staff here at UMCH Family Services. Lauren Kaminski, MSW, LSW is a Licensed Social Worker in our Outpatient Mental Heath Program. Read below to hear why she chose social work as a profession and how she works to make a positive change in the lives of her clients everyday.
What made you want to pursue a degree in social work?
Since I was young, I always was interested in learning about others and wanting to provide help and hope. I remember as a kid, there was one kid in my 3rd grade class who would frequently have outbursts. Instead of responding negatively, I wanted to know more about him. To this day that still stands out to me that this profession was always where I was meant to end up.
How long did it take to earn your social work degree and license?
It took me a total of six years (four years for undergraduate studies and two years for graduate school). After graduating from graduate school, I obtained my licensure within 3 months.
What is your current positon at UMCH Family Services and what does this job entail?
I am an outpatient mental health therapist. I provide therapeutic services in schools, homes, and the community setting.
Social work is such a broad field, how did you narrow your path down to working with children and families?
To be honest, when I first started graduate school I wanted to work on policies and more legal/macro practice. After interviewing for an internship with a macro focus, I knew in my heart that providing more direct services was a better fit for me. I completed an internship with more focus on kids and families and knew that was the place for me.
What types of clinical interventions and therapeutic methods do you use with your clients?
I utilize a variety of different therapeutic interventions and methods depending on the needs of my clients. One common therapeutic method I utilize with all my kids and families is mindfulness. I also provide trauma-focused interventions, self-regulation, anger management, narrative therapy methods, art therapy methods, play therapy interventions and whatever my clients needs are.
How do you maintain enthusiasm for a career that doesn’t always offer a happy ending? How do you avoid burnout?
I knew going into this profession there was traditionally higher burn-out rates, so I have always made it a focus to be aware of where I am with things and take the time needed for self-care. I do that through mindfulness, exercising, spending time with family and friends, drawing and playing with my dogs. I try to have a type of “self check-in” regularly and know my own personal signs of burn-out. When I do start to feel like I am not as enthusiastic, one thing that is helpful for me is to continue to think of what a wonderful opportunity I have been given to provide hope for kids and families and that typically rejuvenates me.
What has been one of your biggest successes?
I would say when I have had a client I have been working with reach all of their goals for services. It is so rewarding to see them succeed and tap into their strengths. I would also say the rapport I have built with the clients I work with and the schools they are in. I love when I can celebrate their accomplishments and help them see the potential they have within themselves to be successful.
What challenges have you faced in the social work field?
There is a substantial lack of resources and barriers in linking with resources which can be frustrating at times.
What advice or suggestions would you offer to people who are considering a similar career path?
I would challenge anyone going into this field to have an optimistic, but realistic approach regardless of the population you work with or your focus in the field. Things take time, like anything else, but if you stick with it (and take care of yourself in the process) then it is SO rewarding.
What do you hope to accomplish as a social worker?
I hope to provide continued support and hope for the kids and families I work with. I hope that one day, they will look back and say, “I am successful today because of the support I had from my social worker when I needed it the most.”