How Counseling Provided a Safe Environment – Diane’s story

Diane* and her mother received counseling through Catholic Charities’ School Counseling program where they found a safe environment to work through traumatic experiences. [Photo is an illustration and not a depiction of the actual client.]

Diane*, a 14 year old girl, was referred to Catholic Charities Counseling Services by her teacher. The teacher indicated that Diane often looked sad, worried, and distracted, and was not turning in her homework or engaging in classroom activities. During her first counseling session, Diane made a sexual abuse claim against a distant family member. The counselor immediately made a report to the Department of Family Protective Services and contacted Diane’s mother, who denied being aware of the abuse.

While completing intake assessments, Diane and her mother reported an extensive history of traumatic experiences within the family, including: sexual abuse; the incarceration of a family member; extreme financial hardship; and inadequate living arrangements. Due to the mother’s migratory status, the family was reluctant to reach out for help for fear of consequences such as deportation.

Throughout the counseling process, Diane and her mother received support and guidance on how to work through the effects of these traumatic experiences. The mother received psycho-education on the importance of supporting her daughter, contributing to the investigation of the abuse claim, and accessing community resources regardless of her migratory status. The family was also provided with referrals to: the Children Assessment Center for additional specialized sexual abuse services; Catholic Charities’ Housing program; and to additional counseling services for other family members.

In 2015, 19,537 individuals were victims of sexual assault in Texas. The age group with the highest number of victims was the 10 ­to­ 14 year ­old bracket.

Source: Texas Department of Public Safety

Over the course of this process, Diane reported that her relationship with her mother has strengthened and she feels the support of her immediate family. Diane’s mother also indicated that she has been able to overcome some of her fears regarding reaching out for support. The mother also reported that she has been in contact with the authorities and has tried to advocate for her daughter and her family. She is currently in the process of engaging in services to get assistance with housing.

Additionally, Diane’s teacher indicates that she seems more focus in the classroom, does not seem as worried as she was a few months ago, and is turning in homework in a timely manner. The teacher has received guidance on strategies to support Diane in the classroom setting.

Diane and her mother continue to work with her school counselor on a weekly basis. They have a long way to go in order to address their multiple needs and traumatic experiences. However, having the ability to talk about their experiences in a safe environment such as the school, has opened new possibilities for Diane and her family. The School Counseling program was the only resource available to them when Diane was first referred to Catholic Charities, but now the program has paved the way toward many other services that will strengthen this family and help them achieve self-sufficiency.

Learn more about Catholic Charities Counseling Services, and how you can help others like Diane.

*Name changed to protect privacy.