Is This Our Most Innovative Program?

Posted: November 22, 2021

Healing’s Ripple Effect


YA! Counseling Services Director Nicky MacCallum
YA! Counselor Angelina Gutierrez

All Youth ALIVE! programs are about healing and innovation. And our Counseling Services may be our most innovative program of all. These have been particularly busy times for the therapists in Youth ALIVE!’s counseling services. Youth ALIVE!’s bi-lingual, bi-cultural therapists serve those impacted by violence, regardless of their ability to pay. But after two years of COVID-related disruption and bitter national divide, no one has been left untouched and whole, emotionally. Our therapists tell us they see a general mental health crisis in the community.

And now we’re into the holiday season, a tough time for all kinds of reasons, including that many of us have recently experienced loss and/or the anniversaries of loss. Given these observations, we thought it was a good time to feature in our newsletter Youth ALIVE!’s innovative approach to mental health therapy for victims of violence in Oakland.Clients from all of our programs are eligible for counseling.

YA! Counselor Karla Rodriguez

We have tried to design a counseling program that avoids and addresses the inequities of traditional mental health care, the barriers people of color have historically encountered in seeking help. Counseling Director Nicky MacCallum, and therapists John Torres, Angelina Gutierrez and Karla Rodriguez serve people in Oakland hurt by violence.

Here are some tips from our counselors for staying
mentally healthy when the holidays bring stress or conflict.

Counselor and YA! Deputy Director John Torres

People come to us having just experienced a life changing event. A counselor meets often only days or even hours after violence has occurred. Their trauma is ongoing. They are beginning the long, difficult, unpredictable journey through trauma toward healing.

“We work with people who have so much going against them already, financial struggles, loss, grief, even substance us challenges, also the effects of historic trauma,” says Angelina. Many of our clients are monolingual.

Our counselors support clients in building up and fortifying their own strengths. Do they have a close-knit family? People who love and support them? A stable school or employment situation? Our counselors recognize each client as the expert on their own experience and ultimately their own healing, and only talk about the violence when a client wishes to.

“The message is that this is a moment in life,” says Karla, “that this event does not define you.”

Our counselors educate our clients about trauma, to show them that trauma is at the root of their struggle. And then they listen, give victims time, as clients guide the direction of their own therapy. In a city and community with many close-knit groups and families, just as an act of violence has a ripple effect, helping one victim heal their trauma can have its own collective benefit, its own ripple effect.

Youth ALIVE’s counseling recognizes violence and trauma as public health issues. Violence breeds trauma and fear; and trauma and fear breed violence. But healing is possible. Addressing our community’s trauma and adversity is critical to breaking the cycle of violence and forging a path to healing that can impact future generations.

In 2020, our counselors provided 924 hours of counseling. This year the number will be higher. We are committed to a healthier, more peaceful and thriving Oakland that values the strength and wisdom of our community and its ability to heal. Investing in the health, healing, and future of Oakland has never been more critical.