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Staff Stories - March 29, 2023
By Kathie Miller
Every year, the month of March fills with Social Work Month celebrations. If you’re a frequent reader of The Good Life, you might remember that we’ve explored the history of social work (and the people who made that history possible); we’ve shared tips for staying healthy and engaged during difficult times; and we’ve explained how social work is essential to what we do at Goodwin Living.
For 2023, the National Association of Social Workers decided on a theme of “Social Work Breaks Barriers.” So we asked some of our social work colleagues to share with us how they break barriers through their work as a social worker. Here’s how they answered.
Michele A. Zimmer-Forster LCSW, CSW-G, CCTP-TRE, CDP, PAC Consultant
Director of Social Work at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads
I break barriers in many ways. I use face-to-face interactions, when possible, especially to better establish rapport and assess. I admit that I do not always know better; I empathize, seek commonality and educate myself. I appreciate individuality by being respectfully curious about perceived or experienced barriers. I encourage collaboration. And I eliminate imagined hierarchies.
Monica H. Thomas, LCSW
Director of Social Work at Goodwin House Alexandria
One of the ways our work has broken barriers is by providing education to residents and families. When residents start to notice changes in their own cognition or their friends’ memories, there is anxiety and a need for information. During conversations with residents and families, we try to equip them with information, give practical approaches and offer supportive resources. We hope this helps them demystify what they are witnessing in themselves or in their loved ones. Participating in a support group can offer new perspectives, tools for intervening and a sense they are not walking alone in this journey. It is our hope that in a small way our daily work helps improve the lives of those living with dementia, supports their caregivers and breaks the barrier of stigma.
Barbara Bolin, MSSW, LCSW
Social Worker at Goodwin House Alexandria
Social workers try to see both the forest AND the trees as they work with their client. Social workers also use the past and present to help the client create their future. Social workers tend to never give up hope for the client and remain their advocate. Social workers also work on many levels, from the youngest to the oldest, from ground level to the community, and from that to society as a whole, by challenging barriers to fairness, justice, equality, self-determination and information. Social workers are persistent, resourceful, dedicated. A social worker is like a Swiss Army knife—many tools in one place, handy and can be a life-saver.
Shasta Douglas, MSW
Member Services Facilitator for Goodwin Living At Home
As a social worker, I help break barriers in our medical system by providing personal support to my clients through the continuum of care, ensuring their needs are met every step of the way.
Aaron Zajdel, LCSW
Care Connections Manager for Goodwin Hospice
For me, breaking barriers means helping people navigate their own situations and larger systems to live the life they want to live. It is so rewarding to support people through their journeys with housing, employment, mental and physical challenges by utilizing their own strengths and accessing supports that can best uplift them as well.
Greta Christ, MA, MA, NCC, CDP
Health Care Center Social Services Coordinator / Resident in Counseling at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads
I see social workers and other mental health providers breaking barriers through education, advocacy, research, updating policy and their presence.
As a bonus, some of our social work colleagues answered another question for us: What drew you to a career in social work? Here are their answers:
Michele A. Zimmer-Forster
My faith in God and the desire to let faith transform my life.
Aaron Zajdel, LCSW
When I was in high school, my paternal grandmother moved in with my family when she began having cognitive challenges but wasn’t quite ready for an assisted living community. Living through the progression of a loved one with dementia made me realize how important the support, resources and caregiving are, and I wanted to be a part of that for other families.
I wanted a career focused on helping others, especially during the harder seasons of their lives.
Growing up in an area where mental health needs were not prioritized, I have seen the stigma and barriers that people face to treatment. I knew early on that I wanted to be a part of the solution. I love being able to live out my interest in human behavior and cognition and help others in the process. I consider it an honor to be allowed into others’ lives, to hear their stories and to provide a space to help lighten the load of what is carried.
At Goodwin Living, we celebrate and appreciate all social workers for their commitment and dedication to helping others by breaking barriers. We invite you, dear reader, to celebrate the social workers in your life this month, too.
As Corporate Director of Marketing & Communications, Kathie Miller provides strategic guidance and tactical support for all areas of Goodwin Living. She writes, edits and manages The Good Life blog and newsletter. Kathie joined GHI in 2014 after nearly 15 years at NPR, where she honed her skills in brand and reputation management, content marketing and internal communications. Originally from Pennsylvania, Kathie has slowly come to realize she’s lived in Arlington for more than half her life and should call herself a Virginian. She enjoys the outdoors and brings her rescue dog, Remi, to work every day.