Social Work Expands at CVT’s St. Paul Healing Center | The Center for Victims of Torture

Social Work Expands at CVT’s St. Paul Healing Center

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Step inside CVT’s St. Paul Healing Center, the bright yellow Victorian home where we help survivors of torture in Minnesota reclaim their lives, and you’ll notice a long, wooden table just a few feet from the reception desk.

Depending on the season, you may see it stacked with fresh vegetables, or loaded with toys, or piled high with winter clothing items. Social workers at the St. Paul Healing Center – or what staff refer to as “the clinic” – secure connections in the community to provide these essentials for CVT clients. Thanks to their persistence, the table remains fully stocked throughout the year.

Past the wooden table through two French doors is the dining room, where the clinic holds small group counseling sessions. “Group treatment can be a highly beneficial form of treatment for individuals who struggle with social isolation,” says the clinic’s manager, Brynn Smith, MSW, LICSW, “or for those who feel like no one can identify with what they have gone through or how they feel.”

That’s why the clinic decided to expand its group treatment options, with plans to hire a new social worker – one of three open social work positions at CVT right now – for providing social work and mental health case management services to new group clients on an individual basis. The expansion will strengthen the sustainability of CVT’s group treatment model as an effective therapeutic intervention.

Social Worker Miriam Hauser, MSW, LGSW, sits in a second-floor office above the small-group therapy room. She applied for her position while completing a Fulbright in Amman, Jordan. There, she spent most of her 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,” she said. “I left the office feeling energized and inspired.”

While Miriam acknowledges that Minnesota has more resources and policies in place for non-U.S. citizens than other states, it remains a challenge for her to support survivors of torture, particularly asylum seekers, in a country and political context that often dehumanizes immigrants and refugees.

It’s crucial, then, that the St. Paul Healing Center provides a warm, welcoming, non-institutional environment for clients. The homelike atmosphere reinforces the fact that the clinic’s a safe space. And while many clients consider the clinic to be a surrogate home, it isn’t a residential facility. Clients often don’t have a warm, secure place like the Healing House to call their own.

Says Miriam, “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.”

The organization therefore takes a multi-disciplinary approach to care, and relies on social workers like Miriam to address the complex needs of clients—needs that don’t simply vanish when a client leaves the House for the day.

By Sabrina Crews, marketing and communications specialist

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