“Many of our kids come from communities that don’t talk about trauma.”

When our clients experience a distressing event, there is often trauma that needs to be addressed, processed, and healed. For 25 years, the Youth and Family Therapeutic Services program at Catholic Charities has provided trauma-informed and strength-based counseling services to children and families through individual, family, and group sessions.

Safety and trust are paramount when working with the children, said Margaret Monahan, Director of Youth Family and Therapeutic Services. 

“Many of the kids come from communities that don’t talk about trauma, but we help them understand how it’s affecting them,” she said. “Once we’ve given them a safe space and build that sense of trust, then we go in with our therapeutic tools. We help them understand how trauma may be manifesting in their bodies and behaviors.”

Each child has an individual way of processing his or her emotions, and the Youth and Family Therapeutic Services team aims to offer a variety of methods. For some, talk is helpful, for others, they need more expressive forms such as art, dance, writing, poetry, or music. Sometimes it’s a combination of several.

“We try to find the language that suits them best and meet them where they are,” Margaret said. 
A recent success story is that of David* who struggles with ADHD and is possibly on the autism spectrum. David has experienced economic stress in his environment, and his mother has a history of post-partum depression and anxiety.

“Her relationship with her son has been strained and she didn’t have access to resources to help her through that,” Margaret explained. 

David began to experience aggression at home and school, and wasn’t communicative with his peers. 

“He began working with our dance movement therapist, and just recently, he started to ask questions in the classroom again,” Margaret said, smiling. “He’s identifying more of a range of feelings and his impulsivity is reduced.”

David is also now making eye contact with those around him, something he wouldn’t do before. 
“The change is slow and incremental but by the end you can see significant changes, and that’s why we do this work,” Margaret said. “I just feel really privileged to be able to sit in a room with a child and be invited into their little world, to help them make sense of it, and instill some hope into it,” Margaret said.

*Name changed to protect client rights.

Margaret Monahan passed away on March 20. She was a dedicated employee of Catholic Charities for 28 years and will be deeply missed.