Allen became a sixth-grade student entering into a new environment at the beginning for the 2019/20 school year and quickly found some difficulty with peers and curriculum. These difficulties escalated into more defiant behaviors including suspensions and the necessity for greater intervention. In addition to the school concerns Allen was facing, his family also had become involved with the Department of Health and Human Services for concerns about neglect taking place.
Allen was referred for services towards the middle of the school year and it was difficult to get family engagement for services. As it turned out Allen had been dealing with his mother’s mental health concerns for quite some time and initially struggled to open up about his experiences and was very protective of his family. Allen was a very likeable young man making it easy to build rapport but he made it clear that some discussions were off limits. As we began making progress with Allen on how his choices at school impacted his outcomes, it was determined that he would be removed from the home and placed with his grandmother. This created even greater mistrust in the “system” making it difficult for us to break through.
Allen continued to show up for therapy but maintained his steadfast reluctance to discuss his family system and how it was affecting him emotionally. In March we ran into another barrier when the COVID-19 hit making it impossible for us have face-to-face meetings. Through the efforts of this therapist, his caseworker, and his grandmother we were able to arrange for services to continue using the Zoom application on Allen’s Chromebook. Though he was reluctant at first, it seemed that this medium was actually helpful for encouraging conversation.
Allen was consistent throughout the process with meeting on Zoom and even began to open up about how he has been affected by the negative experiences he had previously had at home. We were able to discuss his feelings of being discouraged and resentful for how they shaped up, something he had never been able to do in the past. Even though there is still a lot of work left remaining, through Allen’s commitment to “showing up” and his willingness to “trust the process” we have seen positive growth taking place. Allen is becoming more assertive and even allows for vulnerability, something that will be necessary for accepting the struggles he’s encountered. If not for these advances and our ability to maintain the work we had been doing, Allen may not have ever been able to address his trauma.
Going forward our plan will be to help Allen further address his experiences which will allow him to heal and grow. Work will need to be done to help strengthen his relationship with his mother which will allow for the both of them to move forward in the most functional of ways. Allen’s willingness to engage has been pivotal in moving us closer to this end. We also hope to resume school goals in the fall and the therapeutic relationship we have formed will be even stronger through these efforts.