Meet Kathy: the social worker helping clients and families thrive
Ask Kathy to describe herself and she’ll immediately tell you about her work as a social worker and family therapist at Holland Bloorview, supporting clients and families on Holland Bloorview’s Brain Injury Rehabilitation Team (BIRT).
When she’s not at work, Kathy enjoys going for walks around her neighbourhood, socializing with her friends and reading. But she’s always thinking of new ways to help her clients thrive.
Here’s what Kathy has to say about her 22-year-long commitment to kids and youth with disabilities and their families.
You have been a part of the Holland Bloorview community for a long time. What made you want to work at the hospital?
Kathy: For 10 years before I came to Holland Bloorview, I worked with people who have an intellectual disability. Because I had trouble getting psychotherapy for my clients, I decided I'd learn to do that myself and went and got my Master's in Social Work. After seven more years of training, I also became a marriage and family therapist. Holland Bloorview was where I had my second clinical placement as a social worker, so I was a student here before I was hired.
And how has your role changed since you first started working at Holland Bloorview?
K: I’ve worked at Holland Bloorview for 22 years, providing strength-based support to children, youth and families at BIRT. Last year, my role changed, and so now I provide inpatient family services to BIRT clients, parents and caregivers, and I still offer social work services to outpatients supported by BIRT.
Now, a typical day for me would include seeing clients and families—often parents—on the inpatient unit for psychotherapy. Psychotherapy helps people adjust to grief, loss, trauma and anxiety, and other challenges that they may have. I would also see some outpatients for social work services.
While you have been involved in so many different projects at Holland Bloorview, what's one of them?
K: Back in 2018, the hospital developed the SibKit, a resource that helps kids understand and cope with a sibling’s traumatic brain injury. Recently, the SibKit 2.0 was created to meet the needs of a wide range of children who have siblings with disabilities. This new SibKit was co-designed with the Holland Bloorview Sibling Support Program, and I will always remember one of the kids who helped make the SibKit saying: “Wow, this is something for me.” So, I think this fills a gap in the supports available to siblings of kids with disabilities.
When people picture social work, they might not immediately picture tools like the SibKit. With that in mind, what do you wish more people knew about social work?
K: I think it's important for people to recognize that good health is more than just good physical health. It also encompasses mental, emotional and social well-being, and social work responds to that really well. I wish more people understood the wide array of strength-based services that we offer across the continuum of care here at Holland Bloorview.
And what does strength-based mean?
K: The strength-based approach is about building on clients' and families' resources and strengths—and we all have strengths. So, it's providing therapy from that positive perspective.
What are some of the strengths of the social work program here at Holland Bloorview?
K: I recently heard from a mother of a client that I started supporting 16 years ago, and so I hadn't heard from her for a number of years. But she took the time to share these incredible updates about her and her daughter's personal growth and development that were so inspiring. It's always a joy to hear about the incredible progress that former clients and families make in their life journeys. Those kinds of moments are very poignant for me.