Through the Eyes of a Childhelp Counselor

How many years have you worked with Childhelp? What inspired you to work in your field?

I have worked for Childhelp 5 years and 7 months. I was inspired to work in the counseling field because when I was working as a work study student for the University Counseling Center at UTEP, Dr. Paulson, the Counseling Director, shared he was going to prepare me to become a counselor. He taught me how to work with college students and when I was a sophomore I was already counseling students who wanted to drop out of college. I worked in the Counseling Center until I graduated and then went on to get my Masters Degree in Counseling.

What does a typical day look like for you at Childhelp?
A typical day at Childhelp looks like 4-5 counseling appointments, Immediate Intervention (Crisis) appointments, writing progress notes and reviewing Charts. Other days I prepare and review material for Parent Groups and upcoming appointments.

What role do you play in the process of treatment for the child and/or seeking a conviction of the perpetrator?
If at any time a disclosure of abuse or neglect is made by someone I counsel, I notify the Phoenix Police Department detective involved. I also work closely with the Victim Advocate from the County Attorney’s Office and assist families as they get ready to write their Impact Statement or get ready to go to Court.

What led you to work for Childhelp and what inspires you to continue in such emotionally taxing work?
It all started when one day while visiting with my daughter who was living in Phoenix, she was talking to a friend of hers about her parents and found out that I was a therapist who in turn told her boss who was a psychologist from Texas. Being from Texas, I spoke with him and he asked me to call and speak to Dr. Tapia who worked at Childhelp and strongly recommended I go see the Advocacy Center. So I called Dr. Tapia introduced myself, she invited me to come and visit and I met with the Mental Health Team. After the visit she offered me a job! My Wife and I drove back to El Paso, Texas and made the decision to accept the therapist position. The rest is history and have been working here as a therapist.

I feel I can work in such an emotionally taxing environment because I feel I help families during their traumatic journey. I also ask God in the mornings to help me work with the kids and family members and at the end of the day I ask God to be released from the emotional trauma so that I can go home peacefully to be with my family.

What is one of the most touching or difficult to hear stories you have heard from a child in the advocacy center?
There was one case where I worked with two out of three male siblings that were sexually abused along with five other male boys by a church music leader. This church leader would get all these kids involved in choir and then tell them and their parents that he was going to give them private singing lessons in his studio basement at home. After years of abuse he finally got caught. The church leaders and parents were shocked! While working with the family they went to court and had to testify and the jury found him guilty. He was sentenced to 500 years in Prison—Yes 500 years! The boy’s mother I was working with wrote a book about abuse and their journey and how to prevent abuse in the church. The siblings are doing well in college and high school, excelling in academics and sports.

What impact does the advocacy center have on the children it sees?
The Advocacy Center is one of a kind and is very helpful for kids and family members. I feel it has a positive impact and they are very grateful for it. My families are always saying “Thank You” for every one that is part of the Advocacy Center.

Written by Mike Salazar, Childhelp Advocacy Center Counselor

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