Ally* was in a dark place. In October 2018, the 14-year-old was referred to HopeSprings Counseling Services by her school after a teacher saw a concerning note she sent to a peer. Ally was experiencing suicidal thoughts and depression and was reaching out for help.
As HopeSprings staff conducted the intake process, which helps obtain a clearer picture of past and present concerns and helps the therapist determined the direction for therapy and counseling, they discovered Ally had been exposed to multiple traumatic events.
During the process of treatment, Jennifer, her HopeSprings therapist, began using Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). A common type of talk therapy, CBT helps individuals become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so they can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.
"We started sessions by learning about trauma and what it meant to her," Jennifer explained. "Then we created a timeline and processed each event in her life. The use of a genogram, a pictorial display of a person's family relationships, was her favorite, because she learned more about her family’s personal experiences and complex trauma history. I helped her connect this to unhealthy behaviors like shutting down, getting angry and walking out of class, yelling, arguing, crying daily and writing suicide notes."
As part of her healing process, Ally chose to include her family in sessions, and they became a big part of her progress due to their support. During one session, Ally reconnected with her father, who was not consistently in her life, and shared her needs.
"Ally’s dad began increasing his communication with her, which helped her accept his way of staying connected and not just the way she expected him to," Jennifer said. "This gave her the final boost to communicate in healthier ways."
Jennifer found that writing was a strength for Ally so creating a journal was one new way she learned to cope. Other mechanisms included developing a self-care routine, spending time with friends and partnering with her teachers for support and help with the stress of school, which increased once COVID-19 hit in March of 2020.
Like many young people, Ally’s school routine was disrupted by COVID-19, but amid the transition to remote learning, she also experienced tragedy. Two family members and a peer were lost to gun violence and she, herself, witnessed domestic violence. All this happed while Ally was still in treatment, thankfully.
"She began to digress," Jennifer said. "In a moment of complete vulnerability, I continued to have weekly sessions with her via Zoom during the pandemic. We played games and while I listened without prejudice, I reminded her of the work she had put into her recovery. I helped her take her mind off the disconnect she was feeling not being able to spend time out of the home with friends."
Ally was able to utilize the coping skills she developed in her therapeutic sessions and apply them to her difficult life circumstances. She learned to positively cope with feelings of anxiety and depression, while improving her ability to process trauma. Having met all her goals, Ally successfully transitioned out of services in November of 2020.
"Ally worked very hard and became one of the most resilient teens I have ever worked with." Jennifer said.
*name has been changed to protect the privacy of our youth