Vecova Professional Supports is a team of psychologists, a social worker and practicum students. The team offers one on one support to clients, group programs as well as staff training. To learn more about our professional supports, visit us here.
Natalie Kershaw is a new practicum student on Vecova’s Professional Supports team and she shared a few of her views on social work and how practicum placements benefit the clients Vecova serves.
N: I am a practicum student doing my Master’s in social work. I am learning from Tom Zaniecki to co-facilitate groups, such as the Relationships group – an interpersonal skills group – and the Journeys group – a healthy lifestyles group. I am also apprenticing Tom in one-on-one counselling.
V: What interested you in working with persons with disabilities?
N: Years ago, I followed the blog of a mother who had a child with a serious birth injury. Two things stuck with me from reading her blog. 1. A brain injury can happen to anyone at any time for a multitude of reasons. 2. Families caring for someone with a disability sometimes have negative experiences with social workers and other professionals. Knowing that any one of us or our children can become disabled tomorrow was very humbling, and instilled in me a calling to provide compassionate and competent care for folks with disabilities.
V: What do you hope to bring to Vecova?
N: I hope to make meaningful and supportive connections with clients, where we can laugh and cry as need be. I hope to make their day just a little bit better. In this field, we must walk a delicate line between asking our clients what they would like their lives to look like, and gently coaching them towards living their best life. I hope I bring a nuanced understanding of the imperative to foster autonomy, but also knowing when the situation calls for guidance. For times, when clients do need guidance, I hope I can give them clear-cut and realistic guidelines.
V: Why is it important to provide one on one and group support situations for persons with disabilities?
N: They each serve important but different roles. Group time is a time for building community, for laughing together and partaking in each other’s joys and successes. Group support also provides an opportunity to reflect on and practice interpersonal skills. During one-on-one sessions clients may talk about their struggles, such as grieving the loss of a loved one. We then support clients by listening to them, empathizing with them, and engaging them in ways which take into consideration their abilities. If clients are dealing with anger for example, we might help them find strategies to manage their anger, which are tailored to them specifically. Both group support and individual counselling help clients feel that there are people who care, who have faith that things will get better, and who are thinking of ways to help things get better.
V: What has been your favourite Vecova moment so far?
N: There have been many. In group, seeing the bonds clients have with each other, and how they help one another has been very touching. For example, when a client speaks and not everyone understands, other clients help out and explain what the client said for the rest of the group. I have also been touched when clients remembered a detail about my life that I had mentioned in passing, and asked me about it a while later. Finally, working with Tom, who is funny, caring and skilled, both as a clinician and a supervisor, has given me many memorable moments.