Ask a Social Worker: CVT’s Miriam Hauser on Working with Clients | The Center for Victims of Torture

Ask a Social Worker: CVT’s Miriam Hauser on Working with Clients

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What does it mean to take an integrated approach to healing? At CVT, it means we recognize that the needs of torture survivors are complex, and therefore require a complex treatment plan. Clients at CVT’s St. Paul Healing Center (SPHC) receive more than one aspect of care. They work with a psychotherapist to receive ongoing counseling sessions – which often include an interpreter – as well as a social worker to better ensure their basic needs are met.

Below, CVT Social Worker Miriam Hauser, MSW, LGSW, offers a glimpse into the challenges and benefits of social services at SPHC.

When it comes to CVT’s work, why is an interdisciplinary approach important?

Few of us only have needs, goals or desires in one area of our life, and that’s true for CVT clients as well. A client is not going to be able to focus on addressing the psychological impact of their torture in therapy if they don’t have food, if their housing is at risk or unsafe, and they don’t know where they’re going to get warm enough clothes for a Minnesota winter.

Meanwhile, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms may impede their ability to work with a social worker to get those needs met and to achieve their personal goals. An interdisciplinary approach addresses an individual’s needs holistically and encourages collaboration between providers across disciplines. It also allows us as providers to learn from each other, giving us the opportunity to develop a richer understanding of our clients and our work.

What do you look forward to most in your day-to-day?

Meeting with my clients! When I tell people outside the field what I do, they often jump to the assumption that my client work is depressing and emotionally draining, and to be honest, sometimes it is. But my clients are also incredible pictures of strength and resilience, even when they aren’t able to see themselves as such. They are people who have stood up again and again in the face of injustice, at tremendous personal cost. It’s humbling to play a role in their lives.

What are the more challenging aspects of your work?

The larger context in which we do our work. Minnesota has more resources and supports in place than many states, but it remains a challenge to work to support torture survivors and asylum seekers in a country and political context that often dehumanize immigrants.

Many of our clients wait years while going through the asylum process, during which time they remain separated from their families and are not eligible for many benefits and resources. Sometimes I worry I’m not doing enough because I’m not out there changing policies. But every one of my clients is a reminder to me that working on an individual level matters because individuals matter. 

The other hardest part of my job is being part of the screening process for new clients. I value this part of my job deeply. CVT providers are incredibly conscientious about whom we accept into services and whom we refer elsewhere. We confront every week the reality of resource limitations that mean that we cannot provide services to everyone who needs them.

What motivated you to apply for a job at CVT, and are there any unique opportunities here that a social work candidate might not find with other job postings?

I had some indirect connections to people already working at CVT, which is how I knew about the work CVT does and the impact the organization is having. I applied for the job while completing a Fulbright in Amman, Jordan, where I spent most of my time interning at a community center for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. While I was there, I had the chance to visit CVT’s Jordan office and learn more about the work the organization does internationally. I left the office feeling energized and inspired.

A job at CVT allows you to be connected with an organization that does work locally, nationally, and internationally and to learn about and learn from those different contexts.

Click here for more information on employment opportunities for social workers at CVT’s St. Paul Healing Center.


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