Pathways Counseling: A Day in the Life
PATHWAYS COUNSELING: A DAY IN THE LIFE
Leah Owens | ED. S, MA, LPC, NCC, Registered Play Therapist
Nine years ago, as I began the journey of becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor, I had no idea I would eventually land on the campus of Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes (ABCH) as a Pathways Professional counselor for the children in our care.
WHO WE ARE
We are more than a team of house parents, foster parents, social workers, administration, and therapists—we are family. When I tell people what I do, I always add that there is not another place like Pathways Professional Counseling or the ministry of ABCH, and no place I’d rather be than on our Decatur campus. It is a privilege to be able to work with and care for these precious children who, we at Pathways refer to as, “kids from hard places.”
Most of my clients have a history of some type of trauma. Our campus strives to be trauma-informed, and that means understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of trauma as well as providing physical, psychological, and emotional safety to the children in our care. For me that means educating and supporting house parents, foster parents, and social workers in how to care for kids from hard places, as well as to provide counseling for the children.
DAY-TO-DAY WORK: AN INSIDE LOOK
Let’s take a look at a typical day, if there is such a thing, and how Campus Care is unique. No two days are ever the same, and no matter what you plan for, it often gets altered. My day will include individual sessions, group sessions, and/or family sessions.
As a campus counselor, the range of my involvement in our kids’ lives has been wide. I have gone to school Christmas concerts, ball games, and—at their excited request—watched them do cannon balls in the pool or shoot basketball. On the heavier end of that spectrum, I have attended a funeral for a parent of a child in care, taken a child to the cemetery to visit the grave of a parent for the first time, and been with a child to offer comfort when they find their parent’s rights have been terminated.
For the adults I work with, I might get a call from a cottage that a child is upset and needs help calming down. I might meet with a social worker or house parent to discuss treatment plans for a child. I might be a sounding board for house parents or foster parents who are struggling with a child, or who may just be weary from the demands of the work.
Some days after school, the kids are lined up at my door wanting a snack, juice, gum, and sometimes a hug. Now, understand these kids are provided these things and more at their cottages, but just as things taste better at grandma’s house, snacks are somehow better from my stash. For some reason my Band-Aids work better too. What a blessing and so much fun it is, that I get to help provide the nurture these kids desperately want and need!
I love what I do, and I love these kids, but some days it is just tough, and this Play Therapist is physically and emotionally exhausted. There are days if you peeked into one of our Play Therapy sessions, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see me wearing a tiara, funny glasses, and handcuffs all at the same time. You might hear giggles and laughter in my office/play room, but there are also tears.
At the end of my day, I may never see a child again because they have gone to another foster placement, and we were not able to complete therapy. On those days, I wonder if I helped them at all. I’m not going to lie, it is easy to get discouraged. These kids’ stories will break your heart.
But then, God gently reminds me it is not about me; it is about what He called me to do. You see, this is more than a job, it’s a call. While all the therapeutic techniques and skills are needed and useful, He wants me to love them as He loves them. He wants them to know they are fearfully and wonderfully made, and He has a special plan for them. He wants them to know they are precious.
Our President and CEO, Rod Marshall, once said that the most important thing we can do is to let the children entrusted to us know they are lovable when they leave our care. Even if I don’t get to see the therapeutic process to completion, I trust they will know they are loveable, they are loved, and they are precious.
Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me. —Mark 9:37 NIV