Faces of Rosecrance: Sandra Knezevic

March 29, 2017

“I have a passion for people for whom I feel like society has turned the other way. I want to help the underdogs. I love being able to fight the stigma associated with substance abuse and mental health that keeps so many people from seeking help.”

Sandra Knezevic has been with Rosecrance since December 2015. Before working at Rosecrance, she was an intern with TASC at the Cook County jail, providing case management services.

“I run a specialty empowerment group that helps our girls work on their self-esteem. I’m very proud of that group. They’re learning how to challenge some of their negative core beliefs and how to replace those with some more positive ones. I think most of our girls struggle with low self-esteem, which is why it’s such an important group for our clients. You’ll have kids who won’t even make eye contact in group because they fear judgment, and then by the end of their stay here they’ll be leading the group.

“I think a lot of our kids don’t have an adult in their lives who is a positive role model. I have the opportunity here to really influence someone and help them see their own worth. When they come to a realization that they are worth something… that’s huge.

“I always use the metaphor of going to Home Depot and buying all these tools… then you have to go and build a house. When you’re in treatment, you’re getting the tools, these coping skills, to fill your tool belt… but it’s not until you leave that you get the chance to apply those skills to build your recovery and sobriety. The hard work comes after they leave,” Sandra said.

“Even though it’s still pretty early in my career, I feel that I do a pretty good job of having a strict line between my personal life and my work life. What makes it easier is that I have coworkers with whom I can process my own feelings. They are there to support me and they are willing to have those difficult conversations. Self-care is a big thing.

“One of the most impressive things to me as a new staff person was how welcoming everybody was. The culture in this building… there was a lot of welcoming, a lot of ‘How can I help?’ There’s a little bit of a sense of family on C-Wing, where I work.

“I have a client who’s currently in our recovery home at Marlowe. She was one of my first clients when I came to work here; she was 10 to 11 months sober and had a little relapse. She reached out, and we got her into the Marlowe Recovery House. She just graduated high school. This is a client who doesn’t have any family support. Her mom and dad suffer from mental illness, she has six siblings who all abuse drugs. She’s come very close to dying several times – car accidents, overdoses, and hospitalizations. It’s incredible to see her still want recovery, despite not having anything to lean back on. Even someone with such a sad, sad story can still make it.

“Currently I have a client who has finally gotten the courage to confront her mom and dad on past trauma; she felt that her parents didn’t protect her. I encourage clients to find their voice, and to feel safe enough with me to be able to have these difficult conversations that they’ve avoided for years. I think sometimes people minimize what these clients have gone through. Their feelings and stories matter, and what happened to them was a big deal.”