We recently sat down with Dr. Yvonne Styles, our Chief of Staff and Senior Director of Counseling Services, to talk about the impact the APCH Counseling Center is making in our community:
Q: What’s the overall mission of the counseling program at A Place Called Home?
Yvonne: The young people we see have stressors in their lives. For many, these stressors come from their family, or the lack of family. They need someone to support them and to help them work through and solve problems. Some also need help healing from a trauma they’ve experienced.
Working with our kids, we’ve found if the family has issues that aren’t addressed, true healing and change doesn’t take place. Rather, the family dynamic needs to change.
So we address the behavioral issues within each family, including the inter-generational dysfunction within families. Because we’re here in the community, we’ve had a powerful impact on the way people view counseling.
Q: How do you approach your work and build trust with the kids?
Yvonne: I connect with people just as they are and where they are. I believe people can solve their own problems if they’re given the space to reflect and have a supportive and empathic presence. That’s how I believe you cultivate true and meaningful change in people’s lives. We have an open-door policy with our kids. They can come into the counseling space and feel welcomed and just hang out. We always have interesting gadgets and games for the kids to play with. Many times, when kids spend time with us, that’s when they open up and we learn about their daily lives.
Q: What do your kids think about counseling and therapy?
Yvonne: They’re open and excited about it. We make sure they know a counselor is a friend. That’s the best way to treat them. I believe every child has a sense of what feels right. And, I trust them when they tell me something doesn’t feel right.
We give them language to articulate themselves. We want to empower our kids to speak their truths. And, we believe them when they do.
Q: How does having counseling available change the paradigm for your kids and others throughout your area of South Central Los Angeles?
Yvonne: To know there are people who will help you find solutions for your problems or your needs, that’s empowering. Having resources available keeps people from feeling isolated.
It’s an amazing experience to know you will be treated with respect and dignity, instead of stigmatized because you’re poor or you’re an immigrant. It’s unique right now. It’s so difficult for people to get help. That’s why we offer our services for free.
Q: Can you share some of the impact counseling services is making?
Yvonne: Of course, in general terms. We have a child who experienced a lot of trauma in her young life. For a year after we met, she never spoke a word. She showed up for her sessions, and sometimes she just sat with me and cried. Then one day, as if the sun came out, she began to speak. That started our treatment relationship.
Over a few years at APCH, she went from being an introverted child with a lot of shame because her parents rejected her, to feeling so empowered she was able finish high school, and then she even went to college. Today, she’s a social worker who is thriving! She lives with me every day, in my heart. She’s a reminder why our work is so important.
It’s amazing to watch teens blossom — teens who were once so insecure they couldn’t look you in the eye and who then go off to college with confidence and a joy for life. We shape the future by how we treat our children. In many ways, we’re like an anchor in the storm.
Counseling services are essential to the work we do with youth and families facing great adversity. Find out how we’re reaching kids — on the inside and the outside — by clicking here. And please check out the ways to get involved!