Social Work in the Public Eye (February 2012)

Dan GrinsteadAt an age when many people are considering retirement, Capt. Dan Grinstead was instead leaving for his first deployment to Afghanistan, according to an article on, a website for Denver’s local NBC affiliate.

Grinstead, an Iowa native in his 60s and a social worker for 35 years, felt that his services would be best put to use helping soldiers cope with the multitude of stresses they face during combat.

“I just couldn’t imagine myself sitting down talking with soldiers in anything other than a uniform,” he told Leaving his family and being deployed with a team of 2,800 others, Grinstead helped his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan deal with issues like sleep disturbances, relationship problems, financial concerns and witnessing death.

Grinstead recalled the admiration he felt for the quiet strength the soldiers displayed under tremendous physical, emotional and mental stress as they risked their own lives to serve their country.

Lt. Col. Steven Kremer, the commander of Grinstead’s battalion, said Grinstead’s social work expertise was invaluable.

“Being able to deal with your emotions, your issues, your frustrations makes you a better soldier,” Kremer said in the article. “You know, Dan’s providing a form of body armor.”

Now that Grinstead is back in the U.S., he is adjusting to life again after deployment and coping with the change by sharing his experiences, the article says. His new mission is getting soldiers to adjust to life outside of combat as they return to their own homes and families.

As he said to,”You hope you can explain to families what’s going on: Why am I scanning a room? Why am I driving the way I am? You have to have those skills to survive in a hostile environment, and the trick is to turn them off when you get home.”

Karol WardA gut reaction can be one of the strongest intuitive signals a human being possesses, but it’s becoming harder to follow these reactions as our instinctive natures — originally programmed to protect us — have been confused in a busy digital age where danger can mean anything from stepping in front of a bus while chatting on a cell phone to emailing the wrong thing to the wrong person.

An article on, “When Your Gut Sends Mixed Signals,” brings to light the conflicting feelings that can occur when it’s hard to decipher whether a gut reaction is true intuition or a mix of false fear and anxiety. Psychotherapist and author Karol Ward says in the article that paying attention to the physical reactions that accompany “trying on” a decision can help in determining the right one to make.

Because intuitive premonitions are linked to nerves in the midsection, a lot of physical reactions to the decisions one has to make can be felt as butterflies, cold hollowness or even stomachaches. “Giddiness, fluttery little waves, like a bobbing ship, might be a good thing,” Ward said, adding that although decisions may have a bit of nervousness attached to them, it doesn’t mean the choice is a bad one.

But “stomach flipping, throat clenching, tension in the back of the neck or chest,” she said, “means that it might be the wrong choice to make.”

The article says the basic thing to look for is whether the decision causes an immediate reaction of “contractive anxiety” or “expansive nervousness.” In other words, does the choice have you feeling physically choked up, tense and dreading the outcome, or nervous but still excited at the possibilities?

If it’s the latter, the decision is probably a safe one to make, it says.

Sherry SaturnoIn an “Open to Hope” radio interview, hosts Gloria and Heidi Horsley introduced the NASW New York chapter’s social worker of the year Sherry Saturno to listening audiences as they spoke to her about her position as Westchester Medical Center’s clinical director.

A graduate of Columbia University’s school of social work, Saturno discussed her work with a team of therapists that helps patients in the New York center cope with loss — especially during more difficult times of year like holidays.

“A lot of people have had loss in their life,” Saturno said in the segment. “Besides the loss of losing a loved one, there can also be a loss of health, livelihood, sobriety.”

Saturno said the goal of her team’s work is to restore as much stability and healing as possible into the lives of patients grieving a loss.

“It’s important to draw strength from a support system, and we work with helping clients create a new normal,” she said, adding that for holidays it can help to modify rituals by doing even one thing differently. “The impact of the day will then be better a lot of the time.”

The segment also highlighted Saturno’s upcoming film project “She Fi8hters,” a documentary aimed at helping women overcome issues like body image, eating disorders and being involved in abusive relationships.

According to Saturno, the project will assemble a team of social workers from across the U.S. and women interested in sharing their stories as their treatment process is documented.

The project is scheduled to begin this year, with the majority of filming taking place in New York.

“The goal of the film is to provide a support system for women,” Saturno said.

Gabe ZimmermanThe Tucson, Ariz., shooting that injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords claimed the life of NASW member and congressional aide Gabe Zimmerman.

Zimmerman served as Giffords’ community outreach director, and was only 30 years old at the time of his death.

According to an article in the Washington Post, a bill has been passed to dedicate a room in the House of Representatives to Zimmerman.

It was initially introduced by Giffords’ close friend and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz.

The Post says the room honoring Zimmerman will be located on the basement level of the House and will serve as a conference room to host gatherings of chiefs of staff, aides and press secretaries, as well as the weekly Democratic caucus meetings.

According to Wasserman Schultz, the regular meetings of House staffers that will take place in the room are of special importance to Zimmerman’s family.

“The reason that the Zimmermans thought it was so important to name this room after their son was to send a message to the entire congressional family of staffers that their work is incredibly meaningful, and they really thought it was important that a room that is used by staffers as often as this one is be named for Gabe,” she said to the Post.