The Many Roles of Social Workers | The Center for Victims of Torture

The Many Roles of Social Workers

Monday, March 28, 2016

In recognition of Social Work Month, we’re highlighting the work of our social workers.

Brynn Smith, MSW, LICSW, is the clinic manager of CVT’s St. Paul Healing Center

As a social worker, one of the things I am proud of is the capacity of social workers to fill many roles. While having the same educational background, social workers may use their experience to be direct service providers, managers, law and policy experts, community builders or case managers. When I came to CVT as a new manager, I was impressed to see many of these roles within our organization already filled by social workers.

At CVT, some social workers work with torture survivors to ensure they have access to all their basic needs. Sometimes clients are homeless, so we’ll work with them to find a safe and stable place to live. We can also connect them with food shelves and clothing closets as needed. Social workers also support clients in finding community cultural connections, such as a place of worship. They’ll help survivors learn to navigate systems such as public transportation, college applications and government forms. Finally, they’ll help clients set personal goals such as learning English or pursuing a hobby.

We also have clinical social workers who work as psychotherapists, providing mental health treatment to survivors. They help survivors process their torture experiences and learn to manage the symptoms of PTSD, depression or anxiety. Other clinical social workers serve as mental health case managers for survivors whose symptoms are impeding their progress in rebuilding a new life.

Social workers have also played key roles in overseeing our community-based capacity building work. Their backgrounds in community work were instrumental for both the Healing Hearts project, which works within local hospitals to ensure that Karen refugees have access to mental health care, and the past New Neighbors, Hidden Scars project that worked with the Liberian refugee community.

We’ve also had social workers who are trainers, educating service providers on working with torture survivors, as well as training human rights activists as part of New Tactics in Human Rights. And while I’m now the clinic manager for our St. Paul Healing Center, I started my career as a psychotherapist, providing mental health treatment for children and families who had experienced trauma.  

As a newer member of the CVT team I am honored to work with such dedicated social workers throughout the organization, and as part of Social Work Month, I am glad to recognize their passion and hard work on behalf of our clients.


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