Powell therapist named Wyoming’s 2019 Social Worker of the Year
Posted November 19, 2019 - Powell Tribune
By CJ Baker
Through her work as a therapist, Lauren Graham hopes she’s helping to make the world a better place.
While the Powell-based professional works with individuals of all ages to address a variety of issues, she specializes in treating trauma among children.
Graham said she loves working with kids. They’re creative and resilient, she said, but often are unheard, mistreated or misunderstood.
“Childhood is where mental health begins,” Graham said. “If I can help any children to feel safe, accepted, capable, lovable, and able to process their experiences in a meaningful way, then the chances are they will positively influence their own children some day, and others around them.”
While Graham’s work with kids may take years to fully bear fruit, she’s already made an impression on her colleagues.
At their annual conference in September, members of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Wyoming Chapter named Graham as the 2019 Social Worker of the Year.
Lorraine Steppe of Cody, a fellow LCSW who nominated Graham for the honor, called her one of the area’s “most respected, prominent and protective mental health therapists.”
“Even though she has a family with children, [she] works long hours meeting the needs of families in Powell and from around the Big Horn Basin,” Steppe wrote in her nomination. “She also has been a tireless supporter of NASW for all of her career and we are very honored to have her still offering her knowledge and skills to our chapter.”
A longtime member and current vice president of the chapter’s board, Graham said Wyoming has many hard-working and knowledgeable social workers; she noted they provide a variety of services in settings ranging from schools to mental health centers to elder care facilities.
“It is an incredibly humbling honor to be recognized as Social Worker of the Year, when I know there are many others out there doing excellent work,” she said.
In an email, Steppe praised Graham’s “excellent” work of her own, specifically with children.
Graham opened her private practice in Powell in 2014, coming to Wyoming by way of Montana and Alaska.
She grew up in Billings and did her undergraduate work at the University of Montana. Graham worked at a shelter care facility for troubled teens while still in college, then began working in case management after graduation; that job involved providing advocacy, coordinating treatment and referral services to children with “emotional disturbance,” she said.
Graham later became the director of a mental health center in Billings, but she found she preferred direct service work. After obtaining a master of social work at Walla Walla University in Washington, she became a mental health therapist and took a job in Alaska. She mostly served Alaska Natives, flying into remote villages in small, “puddlejumper” airplanes.
“I gained tons of experience working in Alaska,” Graham said, “and had a few adventures along the way.”
After a couple years at home with her children, she started her practice in Powell.
Graham said therapeutic work can be emotionally stressful. Supportive family members and colleagues, good self-care, flexibility and a sense of humor have all proven critical in helping to manage that stress, she said.