The following stories are just a few examples of the kind of work CHAC does to create happier, healthier community. Names have been changed to protect client privacy.
The following story illustrates how CHAC supports and stabilizes families, which relieves students of the stressors they face outside of school and frees them to focus on learning.
Jane is a devoted and protective mother who willingly makes sacrifices for her son. She came to CHAC because she was trying to decide whether to stay with her abusive husband, a man she does not love, for her son’s benefit.
When she first began coming to sessions, she appeared sad, a little timid, and fearful. She began to tell her history, one filled with various traumas. She routinely put others’ happiness before her own and expressed a desire to just “sleep in a room and cry.” She questioned why bad things happened to her, and was not aware of her own strength and courage.
At CHAC, Jane established a strong, trusting, and culturally competent rapport with her therapist. She began to question whether staying with an abusive partner was the best option for her son. She was motivated to call a social services agency she had been referred to, in order to explore her options. She began to smile in session and laugh; she also began to recognize her own strengths.
At the end of her sessions, Jane often thanks her CHAC therapist and tells him that she has told him things no one else knows, only a select few. She says that therapy is the one place she can feel safe with a male, be vulnerable, and express those things she has kept bottled up for so long.
The following story illustrates the positive outcomes of CHAC’s “wraparound” support for students and family members in which support for one challenge can evolve into identification of and support for other related issues.
This first-grade client came to CHAC’s attention when he participated in a social skills group and was mean to all the other participants. The need for individual counseling was evident and the child was placed with a CHAC therapist to work on the underlying issues of his aggressive behavior.
This child had a reputation on campus of hitting others, lying and telling outrageous stories. He was acting out on the playground and in the classroom; he was also struggling academically and upon observation in class, the CHAC therapist noticed he was presenting with symptoms of dysgraphia (inability to write coherently). This student was previously diagnosed with ADHD and Autism but was not receiving any Occupational Therapy (OT) services for writing support. In addition to acting out, this boy’s other coping mechanism for the academic struggles in the classroom was frequent bathroom visits.
Working with the family system through parent meetings showed that the parents had very different ideas about how to parent this child together. The CHAC therapist coached the parents about boundaries and consistency with consequences. In addition, couples counseling was recommended to help with their own disagreements at home. This child’s mother decided on additional support for herself by choosing to see an individual therapist to learn alternative ways to parent, as well as ways to reduce her own stress.
This young boy appreciated and flourished under individual therapy. When a good relationship with the CHAC therapist was established, and he felt like he wouldn’t get into trouble, he stopped lying and told the truth about what was happening in his world. He was able to express his creativity and intelligence through elaborate drawings and other interventions.
His academic performance improved, and he stopped leaving the classroom to go to the restroom multiple times a day. With more appropriate consequences and like-minded parenting techniques between his parents, his home environment improved, and his aggressive behavior on the playground and in the classroom diminished.
CHAC’s wraparound support system and relationship building in individual counseling provided this child and his family the tools to reverse his aggressive and attention seeking behaviors and become more focused and productive in the classroom while experiencing improved sense of self.
Maria is an 8-year old third grader, who was experiencing anxiety about beginning the new school year, being bullied at school, and managing some chronic pre-existing medical difficulties. Her anxiety was exhibited by somatic complaints (e.g. headaches, stomachaches), crying during the mornings and at school, and catastrophic thoughts. She also had difficulty controlling her anger at home.
Her CHAC therapist used cognitive-behavioral techniques to help her build a toolkit of coping skills including use of a weekly “feelings thermometer,” mindfulness breathing exercises, and restructuring negative thoughts. Over the course of 13 weeks, Maria’s significant improvement was demonstrated by her decrease in somatic complaints and catastrophic thinking, and (most importantly) her and her parents’ reports of positive affect and her enjoyment of coming to school every day.
For Mike, a high school senior, smoking marijuana had become a daily routine. Initially, he didn’t think he needed help. When his smoking escalated, he began seeing a CHAC counselor with expertise in teen substance abuse issues. With local teen drug use on the rise, his clinical supervisor notes, “Some teens are turning to drugs because of an emotional disconnect in the family, and using drugs to "grieve" for that loss of emotional support.”
Through a combination of therapy, education and mindfulness techniques, Mike was able to develop a "meta" awareness of his addiction and the triggers associated with his smoking. According to Mike, his CHAC counselor “just wanted me to be constantly aware of when I'm smoking, why I'm smoking, who I'm smoking with — the whole situation. I realized that I can be sober and still have fun, and the only way that happened is because I was the one who got there."
Now 18 years old and graduated from high school, Mike is sober and has stopped smoking marijuana.
MORE SCHOOL-AGED STUDENTS
CHAC helps many students across the 30+ schools where we operate. One intern in the Mountain View district shared these stories.
A student I counsel has extreme anxiety which actually surprised me quite a bit in the very beginning. I soon found some ways to make her smile, and she has been smiling so much more after a few sessions. The teacher said, "Oh yeah, she's been smiling more, and I even saw her LAUGHING the other day!" This made me tear up!
A person at the front office told me about a boy who was extremely sad. After hearing his mother's concerns as well, I immediately sensed the need for immediate action and felt that I had to start seeing him as soon as possible. I got the teacher's permission for counseling. He's been making real progress and smiling more. The same office worker told me the other day that he now sees that the student is smiling more; he said, "Whatever you guys are doing is working. Keep it up." This was very encouraging.
A parent shared the following comment in an email: “I'm so glad you guys enjoyed your time together, I knew you would! He told me all about it and how he wishes to see you more than once a week lol.... He also told me that because of your time together he had such a great day afterwards; he even got a compliment on his hard work in class from the principal." I see how much children need a safe place and a "safe person". I look forward to building more positive relationships with my clients.
A teacher asked me (CHAC counselor) how her student was doing, and I said, "He's doing very well." She felt maybe he didn't need counseling anymore. The teacher then asked the student if he felt ready to stop seeing me; he responded: "NO. I like counseling," so, the teacher gave up on that idea!