Child abuse counseling is a specialized field of counseling that focuses on treating children who may have been injured or traumatized by a trusted loved one. The children that Amy Southerland, Liz Goldy and Karen Chapman, clinical social workers for Family & Children’s Place, see may be victims of abuse themselves, or they may have witnessed someone they care about being abused – a parent or sibling.
Following is the fifth in a series of published conversations with Southerland, Goldy and Chapman about their work, the process, the challenges, the impact and the rewards. First in the series. Second in the series. Third in the series. Fourth in the series.
QUESTION: HOW DOES THE WORK IMPACT YOU PERSONALLY?
Karen Chapman – First and foremost, we have to be real, to be honest. These are kids who are super good at reading people – they have to be. They read your face, your mood and react to that. They do the same thing with their parents and others. If they see their parents in pain, they aren’t going to say anything. They aren’t going to add to their pain. And if they see hurt on our faces, or that we’re tired, they won’t talk – they don’t want to make a bad day worse. You can’t BS these children. They see right through it.
Liz Goldy – You have to set good boundaries. You have to leave work at work, though I still do it – we all do. We see the darkest side of humanity and it has an impact. I try, as I drive home, for example, to think about other things, but there are times I still think about a child, about a case … you can’t help but do that.
Amy Southerland – There are days you come unhinged, that you feel the weight and you have to be OK with that, you have to allow it to happen and to work through it.
Karen Chapman – It’s important to know you have support – the office team here is so important. I lean on them, we lean one each other.
Amy Southerland – We have to be able to share, to talk about our feelings. It’s hard to talk about what we do with family and friends. It’s hard to understand.
Liz Goldy – Truth is, we don’t want to tell our family and friends. We don’t want to traumatize them, so we need one another.
Amy Southerland – A sense of humor helps, too. When you really think about, sometimes what we have to do, what we go through borders on the absurd – why would anyone invite that kind of pain, so it helps to laugh, to be able to joke, to play with others.
Liz Goldy – I try to look for the positives and celebrate the wins, no matter how small. Progress come in baby steps, not leaps and bounds, so you have to learn to appreciate and celebrate the progress, any progress.