Faculty Profile: Christiana Bratiotis
This July, our School welcomed a new faculty member, Christiana Bratiotis (Assistant Professor). We are excited to have her on board! We sat down to have a quick chat with Christiana to learn more about her and her areas of research and practice.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I have my MSW from the University of Nevada, Reno and earned my doctorate from Boston University, in an interdisciplinary program in social work and sociology. I completed a three-year postdoctoral research fellowship in social work at Boston University after earning my doctoral degree.
I’ve had two faculty positions since my postdoc. I was at the University of Nebraska, Omaha for three years, then I was at Portland State University for two years.
What drew you to practice and study social work?
I’m actually eligible to be a faculty both in social work and sociology – and I mention that only because I choose social work, even though I have this interdisciplinary degree. I couldn’t be more proud of being a social worker.
I think I choose social work for two main reasons. One is the strong commitment to social justice and anti-oppressive practices. As a profession, we’re deeply committed to seeing the person and all their intersectional identities.
The second reason is our person-environment perspective. Social work is oriented to see not just the person we’re working with, but recognizing that when working with an individual, it’s not just that person. By extension you’re also intervening with their family, their larger community context, and the larger world context in which that person lives and exists. Taking that broader perspective on the world is natural for me.
You know, it’s interesting: my dad is a Greek Orthodox priest, and my mom worked in homeless rights. So my early coming to social work really has to do with the modelling and example of my parent’s lives. When I decided to get my MSW, it just felt like a natural extension of my growing up. And once I found social work, all of these pieces were so consistent with what I valued in the world.
What are you working on right now?
Since my doctoral work, my research, clinical work, consultation and training have been in the area of hoarding. My current work is really advancing my program of research around community interventions for hoarding.
Specifically, I have a project going on right now about hoarding in housing. I’m excited about this project because it’s focused on outcomes.
I’m also always writing papers. Currently I’m working on a paper on case management for hoarding, which is a nice blending of case management as a foundational social work skill set, plus my interest area of hoarding.
Is hoarding a significant problem?
Epidemiological studies that have been done in the developed parts of the world [North America, much of Europe and some of Asia] show that hoarding is prevalent in 2%-6% of the population. There hasn’t been prevalence study done just in Canada. 2% is probably on the low end, and 6% may or may not be adequate as the high end. That’s a lot of folks!
Can you elaborate a bit more on what hoarding in housing means?
With hoarding in housing we’re thinking about how hoarding influences a person’s tenancy preservation. Is the person able to stay housed? Does hoarding threaten housing stability? In housing with shared walls and floors, like apartments and strata, we’re looking at how hoarding in one unit may impact neighbours and the rest of the building, from a health and safety perspective. These are some of the big community questions.
From a mental health perspective, hoarding is typically thought of as a private mental health problem. Differently, hoarding has these very physical manifestations and so creates real risk for others. So there’s always this question of, where does hoarding cross that somewhat arbitrary line from an individual problem to a community-level problem? When does society begin to wrap its arms around the hoarding problem, allocate resources, and start looking at interventions?
What kind of impact do you hope your research will have?
I consider myself an applied researcher, so to me that means making sure people who are delivering services have access to my research. I’m happiest as a scholar when I’m able to train practice professionals based on my knowledge, and help them gain skills that will let them go back to work tomorrow to do their jobs differently, more easily.
And of course, as a result, I hope that the person with lived experience of hoarding will receive the best, evidence-based, compassionate interventions possible. I would like the people struggling with hoarding to get good quality interventions that keep them at the centre of the process.
What kind of professionals would do interventions like this in the community?
Many human service providers have the potential to interface with the problem of hoarding: social workers, people who work in housing, firefighters, people working in animal welfare, nurses, people who work with older adults, people who do child welfare work….
Of course, a child welfare worker is doing something very different from a firefighter, and so part of the challenge is understanding how these interdisciplinary professionals can work together. When I go into a home as a social worker, I see the home very differently from what my housing inspector colleague would see. And we’ll both bring very different resources and expertise to the table, and our perspective on a good outcome is also different.
Multidisciplinary work is hard! There’s so much benefit and it makes sense but you have to really come with an openness and willingness to work together.
What’s the next step? What are you looking forward to doing at UBC?
A real goal for me in Vancouver is just to get to know the city from a human service, social work perspective. I have to figure out how my work fits here, and understand where the need is in the community. I see this as a time to build partnerships.
I’m also very happily planning my classes! I’m excited to be in the classroom here teaching and leading seminars.