“Empowering People to Reach Their Greatest Potential”
When I think of our mission statement, it brings to mind a particular Community Focused Treatment (CFT) client. On her first day at CFT she stated she did not like people and did not have any friends. She said the only reason she had agreed to come to CFT was because her doctor told her it would be good for her. She then began to tell me her story, one of horrific physical, sexual and emotional abuse throughout her childhood. She was very matter of fact, as though she were speaking about someone else. She reported depression, anxiety, difficulty connecting with people, including her children and was very isolated from others. As I listened to her story, I realized one thing very quickly, she was without hope and she felt nothing would ever be different or better. This was her life and she felt powerless to change it. Although I knew CFT would be great for her, I also realized she would need individual therapy services to address her past trauma and abuse. When I attempted to discuss this with her, she immediately refused but stated she would try CFT.
This client attended CFT every day and though she participated in some group activities, she rarely participated in group discussions or shared any of her history or issues with the group. She had difficulty with social interaction and was often critical of the other clients but the staff and other group members were very patient with her. They encouraged her and attempted to engage her in group discussions and social activities. Many of the other group members understood how she felt and why she behaved the way she did because they had once been in that dark place too. They sensed she needed a safe and supportive environment where she could feel included, not different.
After about six months the staff reported that she had started asking questions and initiating conversations about the group topics as they transported her home from CFT. Slowly she began sharing and participating with the group and also began to develop a friendship with another client, the first real friend in her life. As she began to share her story with others, little by little she was able to better understand her illness and how her symptoms had impacted her life and relationships. This was the first crack in the defensive wall she had spent her life building. This time when I spoke with her about seeking therapy services she agreed and has made steady progress, she reports consistent decreased symptoms and now goes out into the community with her new friend and interacts more with her family and peers.
“Empowerment” is different for each client and “achieving their greatest potential” will be different for each as well. For this client, it means helping her to understand her illness and symptoms and how to cope with each day’s challenges. It means helping her build skills for developing and maintaining relationships with others and breaking through the barriers of past trauma, it means helping her find hope. – Vicky Burrows, Southern Region MH Admin. Dir.