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Social Work Month-Interview with a Social Worker

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.”

Our New Treatment Facility

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We have some exciting news to share with you! UMCH Family Services has officially moved into our new location on East Broad Street in downtown Columbus. Here, our Outpatient Mental Health, Psychiatric, Treatment Foster Care and Adoption programs have come under one roof and into one cutting-edge facility. We designed this facility to be conducive to the treatment needs of children who have experienced significant trauma. Often these children do not respond, or do not respond as well to traditional treatment methods because trauma changes the brain in a way that makes it important to respect the sensory impact of the environment. That’s why multiple spaces throughout our building offer activities for gross motor skills, therapeutic art and sensory calming. These spaces help to regulate the arousal system and calm the heightened state of fear many traumatized children experience.

Therapy rooms:

Our therapy rooms are painted in soft, soothing colors, are clutter free and have large home-like chairs and sofas creating a comfortable environment for both parents and children. Each room gives our clients a sense of safety, confidentiality, creativity, and opportunity and is outfitted with many therapeutic tools such as games, art supplies, puppets, toys and books.

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Play Therapy rooms:

Children dealing with trauma or who have other special needs may have trouble processing or filtering many sensations at once or may not process sensory messages quickly or efficiently. Often, a traditional office environment is overwhelming for a child and they may not be able to participate in traditional talk therapy. We don’t want anything to get in the way of helping the children we treat; therefore, the design of our therapy rooms has kept these factors in mind. We have specific rooms designated for sensory items such as sand and water tables where children can work along with their therapist on regulation and sensory skills. Sand and water tables may also assist children in verbalizing their emotional states, particularly in the face of trauma, neglect, or abuse.

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Gross Motor Room:

Children affected by trauma may be affected in multiple ways; cognitively, socially, emotionally and even physically. We offer a large gross-motor room full of tools to assist children in working through their challenges along with their therapist. This room helps children to make a connection between their mind and their body and houses items such a sensory swing which provides the sensory input kids need to calm and organize allowing them to better process and focus on their treatment. It also encourages movement and exercise. As kids climb in, stretch out and move around inside the swing, they learn body awareness, balance, motor planning and spatial skills. This room is also full of soft mats, inflatables, balls and more inviting children to touch and play in a socially appropriate manner.

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Training Room:

The advances our industry has made over the past decade in treating children who have experienced trauma are astounding. Our staff continually seeks to stay abreast and to pass along valuable training to our foster parents. We’ve developed a large training facility located on our lower level that can host trainings for up to 50 individuals. This spacious learning environment with large television screens, a top of the line sound system and comfortable seating provides an area to host our ongoing foster parent and staff trainings covering topics such as trauma, abuse and neglect and the Neurosequential Model of Therapy.

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Staff Rooms:

Working with traumatized children can be demanding and we want to do it to the best of our ability. Therefore, UMCH made certain to create a healthy and inviting atmosphere for staff to work in. We know that healthy adults create healthy kids. Clinicians have “touch down” locations where they can complete documentation comfortably after serving out in the community. There are also several meeting rooms located throughout the office where staff can gather to complete work and meet with one another. Kitchenette areas are located on the third floor and lower level where staff can prepare meals and eat with one another during a busy work day.

UMCH also included a bicycle and treadmill desk available for staff to work from and get some exercise at the same time. Not only can staff burn some calories, but treadmill and bicycle desks have been proven to reduce stress, increase creativity, increase productivity, lower blood pressure and help maintain strong bones.

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