Emily* was a new client; she completed her intake paperwork on her own, as she was older than 14 and legally permitted to consent to counseling services without permission from a parent or guardian. She opted for virtual sessions. Outreach Teen & Family Services was happy to offer her accessible care and connection using its HIPAA-compliant client portal system that offers secure virtual sessions.
At her first session, Emily told the counselor that she felt nervous; she’d never pursued counseling and was unsure of what to expect. Her counselor started the session by taking time to explain the process, norms, confidentiality and its limits. Emily was surprised that her counselor was so warm, confident, and interested in getting to know her. She began to feel more understood when her counselor actively listened as she talked about her family relationships, expressed challenges that were leading her to feel depressed, and her fears that she might become cut off by people she really cared about.
Emily started to look forward to her weekly virtual sessions. She found herself laughing at times, while other sessions had her feeling pretty emotional. Her emotions ran high when discussing the death of a family member she loved, a serious loss she’d never shared with anyone outside of her family.
Emily’s experience with her Outreach counselor left her feeling validated for the first time in a long time, allowing her to begin healing. She was able to process her role within her family dynamic and she now sees her family conflict from a different perspective. Emily continues to feel hopeful that she can restore her relationship with her siblings and father.
Emily’s counselor also encouraged her to apply for a job, even though Emily was hesitant and nervous because she is not a big “people person.” She now works at a restaurant and takes some pride in earning an income; she feels more content and satisfied with herself. Emily realized throughout her counseling sessions that she has a voice and that her voice matters.
These are some big changes in Emily’s everyday life! Although it didn’t happen overnight, (or even over a month’s time span), she feels happier, more confident, and more self-aware than she has ever before. Emily took responsibility for some mistakes that have hurt her relationship with her parents, learning to use her voice to apologize. She has accepted that her family members also have made mistakes and together they are working on ways to improve their communication to better understand one another’s needs. Scheduling time to do fun things together like playing board games and watching a new Netflix series are healing old wounds.
By having a safe place to feel heard by her counselor, Emily has learned to use her voice and has increased her own self-esteem, propelling her to go after her goals in life and restoring her relationship with her family members.
*Name has been changed to protect confidentiality
Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer programs to youth ages 5 to 21, parents and families, in a welcoming, supportive environment. www.outreachteen.org. 412-561-5405. This column is partially underwritten by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.