“When routines get disrupted at home, kids don’t have the emotional vocabulary to communicate how that added stress affects them. That’s when we see them acting out,” said Justin Hacking, LCPC, who is the Clinical Supervisor at Idaho Youth Ranch.
For the Smith family (name changed), that was certainly the case.
Idaho Youth Ranch has been working with four of the family’s children, three of whom are adopted. The family reached out to Idaho Youth Ranch for family therapy after their daughter was sent out of state for residential treatment because she was struggling to cope with trauma she’d experienced prior to her adoption.
“I’ve been working with the family to really focus on coping skills. One of the children has autism and struggles to understand why his sister behaves the way she does, and he then acts out,” said Lovena Magalsky, LAMFT, an Idaho Youth Ranch therapist.
When the COVID-19 crisis began, the family did not know what they were going to do. With the kids all cooped up together for days and weeks on end, Lovena and Mrs. Smith feared the family’s progress would be set back by the added stress and constant proximity.
“We were able to schedule the family for their first TeleMental Health Session,” said Lovena, “and we decided to just have the two brothers.”
After checking in with the boys and asking how they had been using the skills Lovena had taught them, she learned the boys were struggling with the close quarters.
“The family usually goes to seminary every week, and they weren’t even able to do that. With all the kids in the house, the potential for conflict was really starting to escalate.”
Lovena decided the best thing she could do was get the two brothers to work together toward the same goal. She gave the boys a digital scavenger hunt, asking them to find things from around the room and show them to her.
The boys worked together and started communicating and having fun, giving Lovena the opportunity to help them remember the important skills they had learned to improve communication, have empathy for one another, and respect each other’s boundaries.
“What’s great about the TeleMental Health sessions is that we will be able to bring the sister into the conversation as well, so that the family can continue to develop their communication and coping skills. They are making so much progress that my hope is that the family will be well enough to discharge soon.”
Adding TeleMental Health services has allowed Idaho Youth Ranch therapists like Lovena to find ways of working directly with families like the Smiths who are overcoming trauma and growing stronger together, giving them hope and healing that will last long past the impact of COVID-19.