Jewish Family Service of Saint Paul

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Making an Impact

Posted on by Molly Kitching
In the Making an Impact series, clients and services are featured to expand awareness of the wide array of help available at JFS and to ensure donors understand exactly what their dollars do: the lives they touch, and the difference they make throughout the community. Client names have been changed to protect their confidentiality.
This story comes from JFS Counseling Supervisor Dr. Mitchell Wittenberg. When Elizabeth brought her 11-year-old daughter Anna for counseling, Anna was oppositional, irresponsible, angry, anxious, and under-performing at school. In addition, Anna was markedly overweight, which seemed to negatively impact her peer relationships. Notable were the family’s financial problems, the relative absence of Anna’s father in her life, and Elizabeth’s serious and persistent mental health difficulties which added to the stress experienced by her daughter.
While Anna was initially quite resistant to counseling, once she experienced support and empathy, and saw that she was not being blamed for her difficulties, she developed an excellent therapeutic rapport and looked forward to her sessions as a way of discussing her feelings and needs, and how things between her and her mother could be improved.
Therapy sessions focused on helping Anna develop greater feelings of security, confidence, and responsibility at home and school, while

reducing her oppositionalism. Over time, she grew less anxious, more motivated at school, took on various job responsibilities at home, started a weight loss program where she had lost 50 pounds, and got involved in several extracurricular activities at school including several athletic teams and student council. Anna was also better able to cope with her disappointments in her father and developed deeper and more meaningful peer relationships. In addition, Elizabeth and Anna were taught how to communicate with one another more effectively, while developing more diverse conflict-resolution skills.

Elizabeth and Anna grew to be quite close emotionally, and the tensions and conflicts that marked their relationship upon intake were dramatically altered. Anna left therapy proud of her accomplishments, and armed with the knowledge that she could face, deal with, and overcome a host of life’s obstacles that stood in the way of her success and emotional stability. Elizabeth came away with a better understanding of her daughter’s needs, and how to support her further growth and development.
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