Clinical Specialists use evidence-based treatment practices to provide mental and behavioral services to children and families. In this story, a KVC Clinical Specialist describes how she was able to improve a family’s communication by focusing on their strengths. If you’re interested in a career that enriches and enhances Kentucky families, click here to visit our careers page.
By Ashlee Rowe, KVC Kentuky Clinical Specialist
Some professions have the ability to help others, facilitate change and teach valuable lessons. When I was pursuing my degree in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling, I was seeking a profession where I could connect with others and hopefully guide them to the best versions of themselves.
Before I began my professional journey with KVC, I had little to no experience interacting with others on a clinical level. I completed my undergraduate degree and immediately transitioned into graduate school. Prior, I completed hours in a private practice where my mentor assessed children for ADHD, tested their IQ and completed other mental health practices, such as play therapy. This is when I truly began to understand the importance that mental health practitioners play in our communities.
I used to think that there were two types of people in the world: those who needed help and those who didn’t. I quickly learned that this was not the case. Everyone has their own issues, struggles and weaknesses. And for some, due to many barriers such as lack of social support, trouble identifying appropriate coping skills, or struggling with their own self-improvement, help from caring professionals is needed.
Overcoming Nerves to Serve One of My First Families
I remember entering Focus Training unsure of what information I would learn, what future clients I may utilize this with and how it would help me grow as a clinician. Focus Training is a resiliency-building program for families who are facing adversity and traumatic stress across a variety of situations. It helps support family communication, understanding and create a basis for learning and practicing skills such as emotion regulation, management of trauma and much more. The overall goal is to achieve family resiliency, enhance family cohesion and increase social support. After being trained, KVC presented me with a family who were potential candidates for Focus, which I eagerly accepted.
Due to my lack of experience as an on-going clinician, I was anxious to say the least. While I did not doubt my clinical skills, I did feel nervous about this family transitioning from a previous therapist to me, and I was skeptical about how this could impact our therapeutic relationship. Still, I entered my first session with guidelines in hand and confidence in my own education.
Using Focus Training to Address Their Needs
In the first session we continued where their last therapist had left off. The mother and father struggled with their communication and their ability to problem solve effectively. The father was a religious and quiet man. The mother was bold, truthful and seemly open-minded. I often would have to redirect back to the father and ask his thoughts on what was being said or how he felt about the communication they were having in session. Through all, though, the couples’ respect for one another was there: they shared many fond memories and overall made a great team.
Previously, the mother had struggled with substance use which led to multiple arrests and made her unable to be unsupervised around her own children upon her release. Through this her husband stood by and held the family together. He was not angry and used his faith to overcome many of the tough situations they endured.
The mother identified wanting to engage in Focus to connect more with her children and better understand what they went through during her struggles with substance use and the time she spent out of the home, disconnected from her family. The mother also reported that she was unsure if her children understood her struggles and how they impacted her life as well. All individuals within the family had endured traumas and with their resiliency they were now still a strong family unit – even if at that moment they were unaware of their strengths. For these reasons, Focus was truly ideal for this family.
As our therapeutic sessions continued throughout the weeks I worked with the daughter and the son on traumas they experienced. These children identified many good and bad times – many of the bad times being associated with their mother’s struggles with substance abuse and being placed in prison where they were unable to speak with her. Many of the good events centered on their accomplishments in sports and the support they received from their parents when they were able to be together.
The daughter was similar to her father: shy, soft spoken, and appeared to have a wall built around her feelings. Throughout the sessions we worked on her anxiety around discussing major events in her life. She struggled but did open up in one session on how she valued self-acceptance. That is when I was truly able to connect with her. We discussed why she valued this trait and how she implemented it into her life and situations. She disclosed using self-acceptance to be a better person and trust in herself. We discussed how she could use this valued trait with her family while complementing their own self-acceptance no matter the past. I praised her on this ability to love herself and connect with others by also voicing the importance of other’s self-acceptance.
The son was outgoing and more willing to express his emotions. We targeted many events on his timeline. He identified a good event of his mother entering rehabilitation and him having faith in her ability to recover, and he identified moments where his father demonstrated resiliency during this time. His ability to recognize his own thoughts and feelings around this is a major reason why he connected good feelings with his mother engaging in substance abuse treatment. He realized that his mother was active in recovery and expressed a feeling of being “proud.” His ability to do this facilitated resilience in his family and encouragement for his mother in her time of active recovery.
The Building of Familial Communication Skills Leads The Family to Thrive
I could go on and on about this family’s strengths. They loved one another, had a great bond, expressed family loyalty and encouraged one another daily. What this family lacked was their ability to express their thoughts or feelings on certain situations to one another. They lacked understanding of one another’s thoughts and experiences in stressful situations. They expressed forgiveness and that there was no anger towards one another. Their overall goal was to have more confidence in being able to open up and talk about their feelings with one another as a family. They stated that they were confident as a family to conquer any other hard times which may come their way and “bounce back” from any situation.
This mother has clearly gained the forgiveness of her children and husband and, with the facilitation and growth that Focus utilized, has learned to forgive herself. Personally, I believe self-forgiveness is what we as humans are truly always seeking: self-forgiveness for the negative choices we may have made, bad situations or seemingly unforgivable actions we have committed.
After only 8 short months as a clinician with KVC, I have grown an astronomical amount. This work and my clients have had a direct result in how I live my life. I find myself saying things in my own brain that I have heard from Focus such as, “Take what you have been given and go from there.” Their ability to forgive is, in my opinion, one of the most important skills to living a resilient life.
At KVC, you’ll enjoy an inspiring work culture of innovation and excellence. We offer great health benefits, a flexible work schedule, generous PTO, company-matched retirement and much more!Would you or someone you know like to help children and families in need? We’re hiring throughout Kentucky! Visit our Careers Page to learn about our current open positions!