When The Cycle of Pain is Not Broken

I recognized her face on the news report and my emotions began to spin. I scrambled to find her name and sure enough it was her. I felt sick to my stomach.

That is how I learned this week some difficult news about a foster care youth I had the privilege to meet about 9 years ago. She was a very troubled young lady. She is apparently a mother now and, tragically, according to the news, her baby has experienced trauma and abandonment and will likely enter the nightmare of the foster care system.

While many of the young people who find support in the foster care system find some inner peace and belonging in this world, it is most true that the cycle of trauma continues and that is my definition of failure.

I hope the young lady and her child get very good care so that the child gets a chance to get the tools of security and love to stop the cycle some day.

Please note that many children experience abuse and/or neglect and never make it into the foster care system. They are still the same children. It is still the same cycle. It leads to trust issues, insecurities, self-injurious/high risk behavior, as well as a lack of healthy boundaries and support systems.

A fascinating read is "Parenting from the Inside Out" by Daniel Siegel. If you are a foster care youth, check out a program called A Home Within that provides free counseling for as long as you need it.

While my goal is always to help my clients heal, it is driven by the desire to break the cycles and give more hope to the next generation.

For all of you out there trying to break your own cycles of pain, keep up the fight. For those of you helping others, keep your eyes on the prize.

What Qualifies Me As A Therapist - My Professional Journey

I completed my undergraduate degree in Sociology and began working with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) providing administrative support to help children who had been abused and/or neglected. There I learned to keep focus on what matters - people - and then protocols and theories. And to get the job done with no excuses.

In 1997, I began direct care work as a youth counselor with adolescents living in a group home (Baptist Home).  It was by far the hardest of all my jobs but the one where I learned the most.  Those children taught me more about trauma and strength than any text book ever could.  When on rare occasion I hear back from those kids (who are now in their 30's) there is no greater reward.

I was then recruited to work with an after-school program (Safe Passages) geared toward adolescents with a criminal background.  The aim was to provide them tangible support and resources to stay out of jail.  There I learned that it's all the same human experience.  Those "criminals" were no different than any other child I had worked with previously.  Some of us hurt ourselves and some of us hurt others when we are hurting. And some of us do both.  But the behavior is just the expression not the real problem.  Once safety is established, you start the real work of facing the underlying issues.

After 6 years in the trenches of my clients' violence, addictions, self-injurious behavior, tears and laughter, I went back to school so that I could have more influence in changing the reality for the people I aimed to empower. This time returning to work with Hearts and Homes for Youth as a Psychotherapist connecting to several programs and getting experience with latency age children and adolescents.

In 2004, I moved to CA and learned about the business world.  I went into the unknown and came out of it with broaden horizons.  I connected to a great company (MorseGPS) and as their Director of Operations worked to triple profits in one year solely based on customer care. There I learned that applying skills - dedicated effort, true respect for people, and a curiosity to grow - can apply to worlds that you don't even know you'll encounter.

When I returned to MD, I took a short-term position working with the Jewish Social Service Agency providing services to seniors who lived in their own homes to get the resources they needed to stay there. I learned about life from the people who were reaching the end of theirs and struggling with a different layer to the same human issues - depression, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, etc - and the greatest perspective on how much we all need to be surrounded by meaningful relationships as well as meaningful activities.  

All of my professional years of business and social service experience cumulated in my role as Executive Director of Transition Living Services, Inc.  We provided housing and concrete life skills to youth ages 16-21 with the aim of getting them self-sufficient, educated, focused, and with a vision for their future success as well as practice to build competence in coping with anything this world could throw their way.  I was able to hire the best staff, recruit the best young adults and develop protocols that addressed the systemic (and not just the individual's) barriers to success. When I was invited to present at the CASA trainings, you can understand the full circle experience.

In 2008, I moved and began work in NYC.  I worked with Novadea to provide event management and sponsorship management to hi-tech professional groups.  

In 2011, I got my NJ Social Work license and joined the Institute for Personal Growth as a Psychotherapist. The Institute is nationally renowned for it's LGBTQ community work and sex therapy work since the 1980's.  It was an honor to return to social service with this team.

Today, I run my own practice.  Combining my passion for the growth of people and the understanding of the many challenges that can stifle that growth, I am ready to listen to you and empower you.