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March is Social Worker Appreciation Month and a great time to say thanks to Special Tree's social workers for all they do to improve the lives and well-being of our clients and their families.  Social workers provide a wide range of important supports and services throughout the entire rehabilitaiton process including case management; individual, family, and group counseling; community support; discharge planning, and more.  We asked Special Tree Social Worker Nicole Mauer to shed some light on why social workers are critical to healing and recovery from a brain injury, spinal cord injury, or other trauma.    Nicole provides social work services at Special Tree's Midland Neuro Skills Center and Saginaw Outpatient Clinic including facilitating a monthly brain injury support group (pictured above at various community outtings).

How do Special Tree social workers support our clients?

We help support the clients and their families adjust to the changes that occur after a brain injury or spinal cord injury. We address the emotional, social, spiritual and physical changes in their lives and help clients to adjust, accept, and find their strengths and supports.   We help clients with goal adjustment or to assist them as needed with creating new life goals. We empower clients to find their voices and the courage they need to become survivors and overcome their obstacles.  We help client’s navigate the system for the resources that they may need for their unique situations. We connect clients to clients to help create peer support and social and leisure opportunities. We provide ongoing education to clients and their families on Brain Injury, Spinal cord Injury as well as multiple other educational components that can be secondary to TBI and Spinal Cord Injury pending on the individuals’ unique situation. We provide coordination of treatment with the other therapies that the clients may be receiving, such as Physical therapy, Occupational therapy, Speech Therapy, Massage Therapy, Recreational Therapy and Vocational therapy. We provide assessment and clinical treatment to address emotional, cognitive and behavioral challenges as well as connect clients with other referrals to help them reach their rehabilitation goals.

How did you get into social work?

The renowned author Shannon L. Alder once said, “Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.” In my adolescent years, I was placed in many different environments where I experienced humanity and inhumanity alike. From a young age, I learned that showing compassion and being fully present with someone can change and even save lives.

I was very blessed to have had two selfless Social workers early on who helped me navigate the system, jump through the hoops, who “listened” and who empowered me to find my voice. When I graduated from college, I received a note from one of them, that said, “Finally! it’s about time, now I can retire”- that touches me to this day to know how genuinely they cared.

I can’t say the path to getting into Social work was full of lollipops and rainbows, however it was the path that I needed to be on to discover that being a Social Worker and helping people is my life reward. 

What do you like best about your job?

The passion that I have for Social work always pushes me to continue with my personal and professional growth.  Special Tree has been very supportive in providing me with training and educational opportunities so I am able to continue to improve upon my skills to better serve my clients.

What is the most rewarding aspect about your job?

I feel privileged to be able to work closely with clients, to help them build on their strengths and to be part of a team (Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Recreational Therapy, Vocational Therapy, Psychology, Speech Therapy, and Case Management) that truly makes a contribution to an improvement in their lives.

What is the most important thing that you have learned from clients?

I have learned many things from my clients over the years.  Some that come to mind are:

-I have learned that sometimes you have to just let go and accept what is.

-I have learned that everyone’s story is unique and that we all have the choice to create our own story and edit and change it and live it as our truth, rather than just sitting stolid and waiting for life to happen.

-I have learned that a relationship based on genuine empathy and trust is what helps clients feel empowered to do the work that they need to do.