When Ann* first came to UCAN in 2011, her therapist April Kopp noticed that she rarely made eye contact or smiled. When asked about strengths, talents, and future aspirations, Ann could not come up with an answer. It all made sense, once April learned of Ann’s history from her case worker. Ann had suffered from years of physical and emotional abuse. “She had been through so much already,” April said, “it was as if she couldn’t really feel much of anything anymore.”
The one safe adult caregiver in Ann’s life had passed away when Ann was only 10 years old. By the time Ann was referred to counseling at age 13, she had been in trouble for fighting, missed half of the school year, and regularly failed classes. April worked to build Ann’s trust by allowing Ann to be in charge of her sessions and advocating for her safety. After Ann learned about trauma and its impact on teens, she was able to make the connection between her own numerous traumas and their detrimental effects, such as depression, insomnia, stuttering, and school failure. Ann and her therapist also identified resiliencies, including Ann’s athletic skills and compassion, as she never wanted to hurt others the way she had been hurt.
Ann and April worked together for three years, during which Ann struggled to come to terms with her past trauma, entered foster care, and lived at a shelter for months while waiting on placements. Despite more downs than ups, Ann came to smile and laugh more often, significantly reduced her speech impediment, and finally started to express hopes for her future. April advocated for Ann to receive a special education plan to address years of unmet educational needs. When Ann was subjected to abuse and neglect at one of her foster homes, April made sure that the child welfare agency knew what was happening so that Ann could be moved to a safe place.
Ann recently completed counseling, after achieving her goals of reducing depression and engaging in activities that promote her development of a positive, cohesive, future self. She received her best report card this fall and plans to join the school softball team. With extended family members stepping up to take care of her, Ann’s future now looks bright. She plans to become a nurse or physical therapist. “It has been such an honor to work with Ann and see how she has grown over the years,” said April. Ann agrees, acknowledging that with the help of UCAN, she has come farther than she ever could have imagined.
*Name is changed to protect the identity of client