Case Study

Case Study

Supporting the Overwhelmed Child: Sometimes It Just Takes Time

By Howard Honigsfeld

March/April 2016

If you regularly attend psychotherapy conferences, you can easily get the idea that doing therapy must demand a high level of sophisticated know-how—perhaps a firm grasp of the role of attachment theory in clinical work, or how to integrate mindfulness training into daily sessions, or which of the latest high-tech interventions best matches with a client’s specific presenting complaint. Though all these skills can undoubtedly help us become more creative and knowledgeable practitioners, I sometimes think we’re in danger of forgetting that some of the most important work we do isn’t based on any complicated methodology, but relies on the homelier values of compassion, patience, and common sense. The cornerstone of what we do is the ability to be present for people, making them feel seen, heard, and supported, whatever comes up.

In no area of therapy is this truer than school counseling, a field whose practitioners could be considered the equivalent to emergency first responders working on the front lines of a battlefield, dealing with sudden crises in the lives of little soldiers. As a school social worker in a South Bronx elementary school, the kids I see have a vast range of personal, social, economic, and medical issues, which can have disastrous consequences for their chances for success and well-being, even before they arrive at adolescence. Issues that come up routinely often include academic difficulties, PTSD, family violence, cognitive problems, an…

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