Counseling Kids from Hard Places

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When kids grow up in families in crisis, they undoubtedly experience some kind of trauma. This can be in the form of separation, a death in the family, hunger, or abuse; sometimes it’s a combination of those things.

Boys and Girls Country Staff and Students 2017Often, children do not understand the instability going on around them, and parents do not have the time or emotional resources to explain situations to their children. This results in kids internalizing the crisis and blaming themselves for things beyond their control.  “It’s important to explain to children what’s going on, even if it’s something hard like, ‘Dad is sick and angry; he needs help. We can’t live with him right now until he gets better,’” explains Clinical Director B.J. Barksdale.

The goal of the BGC Community Counseling Center is to help support the organization’s mission of changing the lives of children from families in crisis by loving and nurturing them in a Christian home environment.  The center is flourishing under B.J.’s direction, thanks to generous funding from Houston Methodist. B.J. is the immediate past president of the Texas Counseling Association and has been a practicing Licensed Professional Counselor and National Certified Counselor for over 20 years.

At this time, half of the children living at the Roberts Road campus go to counseling about once a week. We have two LPCs and five interns serving our kids. Each intern is working on hours for their Master’s degree in Licensed Professional Counseling. B.J. is implementing clinical intake behavior assessments to screen kids and would like each new child to attend three therapy sessions. This would allow counselors to further assess our kids’ needs and help them get comfortable with the center.

Helping kids get over the stigma of going to counseling is one of the center’s main objectives. B.J. hopes that enforcing a confidentiality policy and proving trustworthy to the students will help them see counseling as a safe, nonjudgmental place. “The most exciting development is when kids make the transition from being afraid or uncomfortable with therapy to telling us, ‘I think this is really helping me.’ We want them to handle their anger and grief appropriately. I try to remind them, don’t let the past cut off your blessings!”

When Micah* first came to visit the counseling center, he repeatedly told B.J., “I’m not crazy. I don’t need therapy.” Like most of our kids, Micah has experienced trauma from witnessing abuse and being separated from his family. B.J. reassured him that in his counseling sessions he could talk about anything on his mind, and she wouldn’t share it with anyone. She pointed out to him the quote she keeps framed on her bookshelf: “Forgiveness does not excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart.” By the end of the session, Micah kept turning around to look at the quote. When asked what he was doing Micah said, “I’m trying to memorize it.”

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*Name changed to protect privacy.