Success story: restoring peace between mother and daughter
Clara and her mom had a volatile relationship. During their first therapy session, Clara, 15, physically attacked her 34-year-old mother. But the therapist didn’t give up. She continued to engage them in Functional Family Therapy despite their fights, and kept showing them her commitment to make things better.
Gradually, both Clara and her mother opened up. They talked about the underlying issues and traumas that were fueling their conflict. Even though they both thought the other was causing the pain, they listened when the therapist pointed out where their pain overlapped. Clara and mom agreed to try to fix their relationship.
They worked with the therapist on communication skills such as negotiating with each other and validating each other’s feelings. They began to feel they were heard and understood by one another. The therapist also introduced them to emotional regulation and coping skills to cool down their arguments. In time, physical altercations during therapy ceased.
But there was other work to do. Clara was a heavy user of drugs and alcohol, and ran away from home for weeks at a time. She seldom attended school. Our educational advocate helped Clara enroll in a credit recovery school, where she completed the coursework for 8th grade and was able to begin high school.
Thanks to treatment, Clara no longer runs away and has stopped using drugs and alcohol. Clara shared that she finally feels she can be open with her mother; her mother said she was able to express her concerns to Clara and continue to support her daughter. There are still some fights at home, but mostly they use their communication skills to keep the peace.
Success story: helping twins work through trauma
Life with their mother wasn’t good for twin sisters Jessica and Sheyane, 12. They witnessed repeated domestic violence in their home; one twin was sexually abused by her mother’s friend, who was still in the mother’s life. Mom had substance use disorders, and their father lived in another state. The conditions of parole restricted him from caring for his children.
The twins were placed in kinship foster care with their maternal grandmother. They found it hard to control their emotions, and defied their grandmother’s house rules, sometimes aggressively.
So, their foster care case worker connected them and their grandmother to our Bronx Family Mental Health Clinic. The entire family engaged in therapy and skills building. The girls participated in individual therapy designed specifically to address trauma. Their grandmother and other siblings received therapy on an as-needed basis.
The clinic conducted psychiatric evaluations to determine why Jessica and Sheyane had trouble concentrating in school. A therapist also held weekly sessions with the twins’ grandmother to work on parenting skills.
After several months of therapy, the twins were less aggressive toward their grandmother and more willing to follow house rules. Another promising sign: the girls began to sleep better and experience less anxiety, fear of being alone, and flashbacks—four common symptoms of trauma.
Recently, the clinic added another therapeutic support. The twins are learning how their mother’s addiction affects them all, and how they can improve communication with each other. Now, the clinic is working to arrange visits to re-enforce communication skills in the home.