Sara VanTongeren

Antioch College


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00:00:00 - Introduction / Early Life as a Social Worker

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Partial Transcript: This is Hannah Kenny. Today is July 22, 2019 and we are here in Holland, Michigan working on "Self-Care: The Social Worker's Story."

Segment Synopsis: VanTongeren shares her early experiences in the field, which included case management work in the foster care setting, school social work, medical social work, and interpersonal and domestic violence crisis work. She shares a memory from her first client as a case manager and a story from her school social work experience. VanTongeren notes that early in her career, she was worried about doing and saying the right thing. Now she has more confidence to be present with clients and build relationships.

Keywords: advocacy; broad; case management; connection; domestic violence; experience; foster care; growth; interpersonal violence; joy; meaning; medical social work; present; school social work; skills; social work; specific

Subjects: early years; social work

00:07:54 - Using a Win Journal as Self-Care

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Partial Transcript: When I was looking over your questions, when I think about self-care, so actually I keep a little journal of all the wins.

Segment Synopsis: VanTongeren unpacks her method of using a win journal as a way to chronicle her small successes in her social work career. She shares a story about a young client who was in a difficult situation involving CPS and how she relentlessly advocated for him until his needs were met. She notes that this was a huge win for her and persistence was necessary, as it took a month of advocacy for change to occur.

Keywords: chronic; chronicled; foster care; journal; medical; self-care; small; society; vulnerable; wins

Subjects: journal; win

00:15:04 - Current Role as a Social Worker

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Partial Transcript: So, what does that look like in your job now? What kinds of presenting problems do your clients bring in in your clinical setting?

Segment Synopsis: VanTongeren says that there is a large need for mental health professionals in the Holland area. She used to be more specialized, but in order to meet the needs of this area she now works with a large age range of clients in a more general way. She discloses that her clients' presenting problems range anywhere from self-care to crisis.

Keywords: crisis; general; hopsital; ideation; mental health; presenting problems; self-care; specific; stabilized; suicide; underserved

Subjects: mental health; presenting problems

00:20:35 - The Role of Secondary Trauma in Social Work

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Partial Transcript: I'm wondering if secondary trauma has ever played a role in your social work experience?

Segment Synopsis: VanTongeren explains the role that secondary trauma has played in her social work career by sharing a story about her time in graduate school working to help a failing elementary school. VanTongeren recalls that she worked with students with behavioral problems in a support group and that both herself and her supervisor experienced secondary trauma. Her supervisor encouraged VanTongeren to intentionally feel and use the trauma as a therapeutic tool.

Keywords: accreditation; community mental health; community service board; elementary school; government; grad school; group therapy; intentional; open; public housing; real; scary; school; secondary trauma; therapeutic; tool; transformative; trauma; violent

Subjects: secondary trauma

00:28:04 - The Need for Self-Care / Methods of Self-Care

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Partial Transcript: And knowing that self-care to me, self-care and a part of self-care in my opinion, is self-awareness.

Segment Synopsis: VanTongeren comments that self-awareness is a critical component to self-care. She shares that some of her self-care practices include journaling tangible successes and taking breaks. She says that when she notices that she is feeling less compassionate, she intentionally takes time off. She wants this to become a practice in her life preventatively rather than a reaction to feeling burnout. She notes that attending personal therapy and having good supervision are also important for self-awareness.

Keywords: breaks; burnout; compassionate; healthy; journaling; model; open; secondary trauma; self-care; therapy; vulnerable

Subjects: self-awareness; self-care

00:34:24 - Advice to Emerging Social Workers

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Partial Transcript: So, you kind of already got into this, but I'm wondering, just, like as you're reflecting on your own story and your own experiences that you've had, what kind of advice would you want emerging social workers to hear about self-care?

Segment Synopsis: VanTongeren wants emerging social workers to know how critically important self-care methods are for longevity in the field. She says that it is good to know what works best for each individual and not be afraid to change those methods as we become more self-aware. She gives the example that she used to use art as self-care and now she uses exercise. She also notes that preventive rather than reactive self-care methods are necessary.

Keywords: advice; art therapy; change; ebb and flow; emerging; exercising; exhausted; gratitude; heavy; intentional; listen; methods; pain; paint; positivity; secondary trauma; self-care; social work; stuck

Subjects: advice; grow