Interview and article by Tina Hunt, MSW student.
Martine Geary-Souza, a student in the Salem State School of Social Work, exudes a warm and comforting energy, like talking to an old friend after an extended time away from each other. But get her talking about social work, and she reveals her passion for research and trauma-informed care.
“I’m heading up a research project with Boston Children’s Hospital to develop a standard for trauma-informed pelvic exams. The goal is to actually create a hands-on, discussion-based training program for medical professionals to implement trauma-informed care,” Martine tells Salem State.
“Most of [the existing literature] is based mostly in the behavioral health field, which is still important in terms of interacting with your clients. But I think for medical professionals, there needs to be another layer to that, where they understand the physiological impact of trauma so they can provide comprehensive care to their patients,” Martine says.
She continues: “From what I’ve seen, at least in the United States, there isn’t a go-to training program for medical professionals. They have to pull from trainings on the behavioral health and mental health side, which like I said is helpful, but there is a missing piece to that for medical professionals in health care. Without that understanding of the physiological impact of trauma, you miss out on understanding the risk for all of these health issues developing later in life. If some of my doctors had understood this when I was young, I might have found answers to some of my health issues a lot sooner.”
“It’s my passion project,” she says as she laughs. “Research is my passion…Salem State Professor Lamont Simmons is always beating this into our heads, ‘social work is researched-based. Everything you are doing should be based on research. Like peer-reviewed, solid research.’ I’ve always loved research. I am totally a nerd. A lot of my peers find it very tedious, but I just can’t get enough of it.”
Martine's passion for macro research came from her experiences with micro practice.
“My supervisor at my internship said that my passion for the micro influenced my passion for the macro. I worked in direct care before, so I worked with a lot of trauma cases,” she says. “But what really got me was seeing...[that] there are all these issues, like systemic issues that are impacting our clients. All these huge systems that are at play that they have to rely on, that time and time again they are failed by. I would get so frustrated…[thinking] I need to change this. I can’t just give my clients the tools to fight back against it. I need to do something about it.”
Like many who end up in the field of social work, Martine’s life was forever changed by the work of a social worker.
“I had a lot of childhood trauma, and I just didn’t admit that it was happening until much later. In high school, I fell apart. I went from being a straight-A student who loved being in school… and then I just stopped going to school, I had no interest anymore, I didn’t feel well and became very physically ill,” Martine says.
“The majority of the health issues that started for me in high school are things I will deal with for the rest of my life and are a direct result of the trauma I experienced as a young child,” she adds. “Then I got connected with this really excellent therapist, I still see her today. She is a LICSW (licensed independent clinical social worker) and she changed my life. She really got me through it. She gave me all the tools I needed; she was really great at explaining everything. She helped the world start making sense for probably the first time in my life. I really loved the way she looked at not just me, but she looked at the entire environment around me.”
Martine dreams of continuing her education and progressing her work on trauma-informed care through research and animal-assisted therapy. She is a big dreamer, like most of us in social work, and her passion will no doubt carry her through to a successful and fulfilling career.
“I always knew I wanted to go into psychology. So, for a long time that was sort of the track I was working towards. But working with [my therapist], and talking about it with her, and talking about the theories behind social work, and just how broad social work is…It just seemed like the perfect fit for me.”
Martine presented her research at the 13th Annual Research Symposium on February 19, 2022 at the Salem State University Ellison Campus Center, Veterans Hall.